Outlook Traveller

A Wild World’s Secret Oasis

A luxurious boutique lodge located at the edge of the Gir National Park, spins an enchanting tale celebratin­g the wild

- Words : Shreya Cheema

FOR A CITY PERSON, ANY CHANCE TO VENTURE into the wild is an invitation into the unknown. A world with its own rules and rhythms–where the frailties of everyday existence fall apart.

I realised this as soon as the car veered off the smooth metalled roads and suddenly pulled itself onto the uneven path, running through the dense teak forest fringing the Gir National Park.

I rolled down my windows, desperate to take in as much as I could, even though it had only been a few minutes since I entered the unknown and despite having another night in its embrace.

Suddenly, the silence of the three-hour journey was broken by a piercing call–a fitting welcome to my luxurious sanctuary at Aramness, just a few miles away from Asiatic lions’ only home. Veiled by night, Aramness’s deep-red facade was yet to reveal itself; however, the two massive lion brass figurines, placed proudly at each end of the tall and wide restored antique door opening up to the haveli, instantly conveyed Aramness’s oath to honour Gir and Gujarat, with elan.

While “aram” translates to comfort or rest in Hindi, the second half, “ness,” is a local term used by the Maldharis (a tribal community native to Gir) to refer to a cluster of houses. And ness it is, with 18 double-storey kothis–three among them include two rooms, parted by an expansive living room–spread over 12 acres, modelled after the villages of Gujarat.

The Many Treasures

I was guided by my private butler–present round-the-clock for any assistance–to my room. And behind another antique door lay my elegant and spacious abode.

Even though all I had dreamt about in the last hour of the car ride was a cosy hotel bed, the huge hand-carved wooden framed mirror hung on the walls of the pathway and inspired by a peacock’s fanned feathers caught my attention with its aged beauty.

The stunning statement decor piece added the perfect drama to the

classic elegant shades of ivory and beige interiors. However, the sweeping white wall at one side of the room, adorning Kutch’s lippan art from floor to ceiling, elevated it to the next level. And here’s a secret–it makes for a gorgeous background to all the photos you catch yourself clicking when the glorious sunlight of western India filters in through the large wall-to-wall windows.

Although it may be tough to look past the intricatel­y crafted mirror and the beautiful mirror-laden wall, traces of Gujarat’s rich textile and art traditions are scattered throughout the kothi, hidden in the little details–whether it is the thin strap of Kutch mirror work running across the floor-to-ceiling thick linen curtains or the jhula weighted by thick brass chains.

Throughout my two-day stay at Aramness, I found myself curiously engaged in a game of treasure hunt as I explored its impressive collection of restored antiques spread everywhere.

However, even with all its opulent decor, it didn’t fall short of delivering the simple comforts and a feeling every guest secretly seeks while checking in: the feeling of home away from home.

And although the staff–with 70 per cent belonging to the neighbouri­ng village of Sasan– will fulfil every request, there’s hardly any need to resort to it as the kothi stocks everything that caters to the usual urban needs and more.

If you find yourself fancying a cup of fresh brew; the in-room coffee/tea bar has that covered. Regular sachets of earl grey, green tea, and coffee are replaced with packs of fine ground coffee for the French-press and jars filled with loose black and green tea leaves and, my favourite, their signature blend of orange peel, marigold and holy basil.

This unique touch even comes through in their dining options. Each day, guests are presented with curated meals for lunch and dinner. While the F&B team prides itself on mastering internatio­nal cuisines, their traditiona­l Gujarati preparatio­ns complete the Aramness experience.

What’s more? After a satisfying meal, when you crave your silent company, the open-air private pool in each kothi or the infinity pool overlookin­g the forest, is the perfect place to be.

Nature as Muse

Imagined and founded by Jimmy Patel, a passionate conservati­onist and photograph­er with several successful years in real estate, it is unsurprisi­ng to find nature at the core of everything in Aramness–even in the mindfully crafted design elements incorporat­ed in its intuitive and beautiful architectu­re. But it was most boldly expressed through the beautiful webbed facade of the haveli–a design intelligen­tly inspired by the zig-zag patterns of a dried teak leaf.

A closer look discloses how nature, especially Gir’s, resides in every corner. From the library’s enviable collection of rare first-editions of many wildlife books to the moulted snake skins on display in the playroom to the neatly documented checklist of birds and animals to dos and don’ts flashcards illustrate­d by wildlife illustrato­r Rohan Chakravart­y, in every room, Aramness helps guests forge a gentle and informed connection with the wild.

Imagined and founded by conservati­onist Jimmy Patel, nature is at the core of everything at Aramness

Even the early morning game drive into the Gir National Park, guided by in-house naturalist Karthik Krishna, is an unparallel­ed experience. Krishna's childlike enthusiasm every time he spots a bird or an animal, even after having spent months training in Kanha and Satpura, is charming. And if the three-hour-long safari doesn’t sate the enthusiast in you, Krishna is more than happy to take you on a walk through the forest while narrating rich anecdotes and unlocking his repository of unique facts.

Even better, he also teaches you how to spot pug marks, interpret the different animal calls that echo throughout the day, and tends to the endless questions of young ones, keen to teach them early on about the importance of engaging responsibl­y with wildlife.

∙ ∙∙

Waking up to the music of birds chirping and the gush of swaying trees, there wasn’t a reason to keep me from slipping into a state of calm– not even my constantly buzzing phone. How could it possibly distract me when an Oriental magpie robin flew to the verdant backyard every morning to give me company?

Surrounded by Gir’s majestic wild scapes, there was never a moment where I felt pulled in by the mundanitie­s of the life I had left behind at the sudden turn into the forest. And even though I came braced with curiosity, all I had when returning to it was a silent understand­ing of it–a sense of belonging only instilled when you find yourself at a place like Aramness.

Getting there:

The easiest way to reach Aramness is to fly to Rajkot (154 km), Diu (110 km) or Porbandar (139 km) and hail a private cab to Sasan Gir. The nearest railway station is in Somnath (45 km).

 ?? ?? The Asiatic lions of Gir National Park
The Asiatic lions of Gir National Park
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? The infinity pool beckons at the resort The standard kothi at Aramness
The infinity pool beckons at the resort The standard kothi at Aramness
 ?? ?? Each kothi features an open-air private pool
Each kothi features an open-air private pool
 ?? ?? The menu features global cuisines besides traditiona­l Gujarati fare
The menu features global cuisines besides traditiona­l Gujarati fare

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India