People in Coorg carry hospitality in their genes, homestays help promote the unique Kodava culture. Spend time away from maddening crowds, you can choose to stay in a Coorg homestay which is surrounded by a picturesque coffee estate, verdant forest and water streams. What was special about the vacation you spent in your grandpa’s village house in the good old days? You lived a spacious yet charming tiled roof house with wooden furniture. You roamed around the countryside, playing in the water streams, trekking up the hillside, relishing the wild fruits and fooling around with frogs and crabs. Food made by your grandma in the traditional way was delicious and a number of fruits were available for dessert. Now compare that experience to a stay in a commercial hotel in a hill resort today!
Many of us wonder if it is possible to experience such a heartwarming homely stay in a hillstation in a commercial set up. Fortunately, the new concept of ‘Homestays’ try to recreate exactly the same experience that we all desire for. In a typical homestay, guests are either accommodated in the family home or in separate quarters nearby, and are provided with the same comfort as a regular hotel. While this concept is well established in the West in the form of ‘bed & breakfast’, it has taken roots in India over the last decade.
Particularly, homestays are more prevalent in hill resorts such as Ooty, Kodaikanal, Coorg, etc. due to the lack of regular hotels as well as tourist demand to stay in homely place in the hills. Nestled deep in the tropical rainforests of Western Ghats, is the tiny district of Coorg in Karnataka. Misty hills, lush green forest, acres of coffee and tea gardens, orange groves, undulating streets and breathtaking views make Coorg or Kodagu an unforgettable holiday destination.
It was their first time in a Coorg homestay for 34 year old Deepak Jayaram and Shubha Deepak, 32, and they loved the personal touch and the way their hosts made them feel special. They stayed in Ajantha Homestay located just outside Madikeri, the district headquarters of Coorg. Their host K. M. Karumbaiah is one of the homestay pioneers in Coorg, establishing Ajantha Homestay way back in 2003, at a time when Coorg was just warming up to the concept of homestays. Karumbaiah explains “Back then, I had a tourist info centre and I saw several tourists go back disappointed due to lack of rooms in hotels”. He says “the idea of a homestay came about when I stayed at a bed ‘n’ breakfast place in 2001, while visiting Edinburgh in Scotland.”
- Coffee wood furniture in verandah – Sandbanks
For Micky Kalappa of Sandbanks nestled in a coffee estate in Ammathi, it was always a pleasure to treat guests at his home in Coorg. “My father loved playing host to people from all around the world”, says a proud Kalappa who started his homestay way back in 1991. Talking about homestays, Micky Kalappa says they have become a trend among the urban elite. “People come to homestays to understand the Kodava culture, while people who stay at hotels just want fun and adventure”.
Many like minded Kodava families soon joined the growing tribe of homestay hosts and finally the Coorg Homestay Association was born and registered in 2006. The then Tourism Secretary of Karnataka, I.M. Vittal Murthy took special interest in helping out the families to get their demands fulfilled. A draft copy of homestays from the UK was studied and based on that model a policy was formulated in 2009. An inspecting agency was formed to monitor these homestays for basic necessities and registration. So today, there are 178 registered homestays in Coorg. Homestays are classified as non-commercial units and there are two types: the Premium Type – Silver and the Luxury Type – Gold.
The President of the Coorg Homestay Association K.M. Karumbaiah says that there is a constant increase of 10-20% of people checking into homestays every year. Based on the great Indian tradition of “Athithi devo bhava”, the association aims to promote homestay. “People in Coorg carry hospitality in their genes, we are just making a good use of it”, quips Karumbaiah. Further, homestays also help promote the unique Kodava culture. “We make it a point to see that our guests try out local cuisine, take them to Kodava weddings and ceremonies and tell them about the local culture and tradition”, adds Karumbaiah.
So the next time you need to spend time away from maddening crowds, you can choose to stay in a Coorg homestay which is surrounded by a picturesque coffee estate, verdant forest and gentle water stream. In fact, some of these homestays are located just next to a waterfall like Iruppu Falls!
|This is a post by our guest author Apoorva S. All the photographs in this post are by the author.|
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