When Janet Haughton Quarshie came on holiday to Coconut Lagoon with her family, they found it a relaxing and educative experience. “We had fantastic time exploring and understanding the culture in this traditional-style resort,” says the mother of two boys aged six and eight. “We are always trying to educate them about the environment; telling them about non-reusable energy and the need to conserve because their future depends on it. It was great to be able to show them this in such a beautiful setting. It is unusual for a hotel to put such an effort into the environment; the good thing is, it shows.”
In Kerala, for reasons ranging from legislation to migration and lack of a labour force, paddy fields and marshes are vanishing rapidly with unscientific land reclamation and usage. People do not seem to realise that the conservation of the paddy fields, marshes and other water bodies is very necessary for the retention of water, food safety and also for the birds and millions of other creatures and hence, for our own survival.
CGH has pursued eco preservation with a passion—worm farms, solar panels, recycling and rainwater harvesting are mandatory features in almost all the properties—an the results have been rewarding. One clear cause and effect situation is the butterfly garden, where the effort is rewarded with beauty or in the dragonfly population, which can thrive only in a clean aquatic environment where they lay eggs. “Many larvae plants are wildflowers with medicinal value,” says Manoj P, the naturalist at Coconut Lagoon. “They have to be planted with care; sometimes butterflies require partial and sometimes bright sunlight. We now have ‘esteemed visitors’ like the Southern birdwing, the largest Indian butterfly.” Though Coconut Lagoon was the first CGH property to have a butterfly garden, it is probably better known for its damsel- and dragonfly population. “Aquatic pollution is a killer; in fact, a healthy dragonfly population is a good gauge
for water quality,” says Manoj. Of the 139 species of dragonflies in Kerala, Coconut Lagoon has recorded the presence of 60 different kinds. The good thing about pioneering a trend like the butterfly garden is that others, including homes, follow suit. “We were probably the first private company in India to undertake a project like this,” says Manoj. “A lot of people have followed suit; some asking us for tips. It can’t be a bad thing, because butterfly gardens are biodiversity hotspots… CGH Earth is, after all, trying to encourage conservation.” Coconut Lagoon’s organic paddy fields and adjoining fallow lands has seen an explosion of bird population; enough to merit a couple of bird watching perches. “The fact that we could see about 30 different species of birds in an hour’s time has been quite exciting by bird watching standards. So far they have recorded 43 different species of birds with the populations of around 100 in most major species in an hour,” says C Anil Kumar, the general manager of Coconut Lagoon.
When Bangaram, the first property, opened its doors with conditions that were definitely not an advertisement for luxury—no TV, no air-conditioning, no hot water and nothing that would disturb the pristine beauty of the island—CGH was laying the “ground rules” for the sort of business it would run… for itself and for guests. “We are uncompromising about promoting responsible tourism; there are no two ways about it,” says managing director Jose Dominic. “We are not about luxury holidays; we want to provide engaging experiences that benefit not only the traveler, but also the local community, with minimal disturbance of the local environment.”
So, what does a CGH holiday offer? A beautiful, relaxing destination with an unspoilt feel of the local environment? There’s more….
Travel blogger Nick Fear, in his post from Marari Beach, points to a “strange” aspect of a break here, “I took an environment tour, to see the sustainability projects, including the sewage treatment works. In case anyone was thinking that I had a strange holiday what with mentioning cow dung and biogas in a previous post and now sewage, I should say these visits probably took less than 60 minutes in a two week holiday. It’s interesting and it’s important.”