One thing I’ve been hearing from you guys is that you want to hear more travel stories and know more pet-friendly trips you can take. Well, ask and you shall receive! I made my second trip to Ratnagiri, Maharashtra in 2 months and found a spot for all you nature enthusiasts. *happy dance*
A couple of weeks ago, I stayed at the Fern Samali in Dapoli. The Fern is a brand known for its endeavors to be in unison with nature – be it in a bustling metro like Mumbai or off the beaten path in Dapoli. And Ratnagiri district is known for being so tropical – with its sandy beaches, forested ghats and balmy weather. As a vacation spot, it can be quite outlying and relatively unknown as a tourist destination.
From Mumbai, The Fern Samali is around 220 kms and you’d have to drive to Panvel and carry on straight until you take a right turn to enter Khopoli. Cross Imagica and head further on until the road divides into two. Turn left to get on to NH66 and follow the road past Kolad, Mangaon, Mandangad and Palgad. Finally, take a right at Sondheghar and after driving 35 kms or so, you’ll have arrived.
However, I made my way there from Mahabaleshwar, which was a breathtakingly beautiful drive for the most part and I’ll share the travelogue with you shortly. We drove through the flowering ghats on route 72 and turned left at Poladpur to get on NH 66. Once you take a right turn from Khed, its around 30 kms to Dapoli and another 6 to read the entrance of Fern Samali.
What I found pretty cool about the Fern Samali is that it dates back to an era when that spot was a British Military Camp. Being on a height, one can see the sea from certain vantage points (one of which is marked with a horse statue.) The resort has 16 luxurious cottages and 22 well furnished rooms.
You get a taste of the lush greenery from the moment you begin heading up the 2 km long driveway to the lobby. Parked outside are a row of cycles which I later learnt you could take and pedal down to the mango plantation the hotel takes care of. The lobby is bright and simple – stairs leading down to a small seating area and a small desk with a receptionist. Got to love these quaint, small-town hotels!
Quite thoughtfully, the hotel has a rack of brochures comprising of things to do in the area. If you’re a long time reader of That Goan Girl, you’d know I love collecting brochures and flipping through them on rainy days! Anyway, I didn’t linger here for long – couldn’t wait to see my room! So I sipped up the welcome drink and headed off, while encountering some lifelike statues of a leopard and deer on the way!
Doesn’t this abundance of greenery look refreshing? The botanical names of most plants were mentioned on little boards as an activity for kids to find and cross off these names on a list for a gift.
Quriky, colourful, fun – what’s not to love! These rooms had character alright – a patterned headboard, cool lamps, colourful pictures hanging on the walls and bright tiles as cupboard handles! The room was spacious and I kid you not, that bed was the softest I’ve ever slept on – it was like sleeping on the clouds! We just lay on it and were out like a light.
All the rooms are named after flowers, and the category I was in was called Aster. One of the characteristics of these rooms was picture-perfect balconies behind sliding glass doors. It was absolutely blissful to sit here on the swing in the morning and look out at the greenery. The hotel has set up little bird feeding stations between two balconies so that you can wake up to the sound of chirping birds. Cool concept, right? Oh, and don’t miss those eclectic tiles
Another smart move to further the eco-friendly nature that the Fern Resorts live by is that the air conditioner automatically switches off through sensors the moment the patio doors open, in an attempt to cut electricity wastage.
The bathroom was pretty small in comparison to the roomy bedroom and could have been bigger. I had an opportunity to check out the rest of the rooms and really loved the one in the Saffron Suite! What was interesting was that the Lilac cottages had open sky bathrooms with real-life gardens having a lotus pond and no glass door separating it. I’d be pretty scared if I was showering and happened to see a lizard or a frog, lol!
Coming back to my room, in terms of amenities, there was a large TV, cupboard, work desk, tea-and-coffee making facilities and toiletries. A little more attention could have been paid here – we had milk sachets, but no sugar – shampoo, but no conditioner.
Overall, I loved the room and it is super comfortable for a long weekend or for the business traveller. Look how huge this sofa was! I loved curling up on it 🙂
The food at the Fern Samali was lip-smacking! I checked in at around 3pm and hadn’t had lunch so we ordered some noodles and a club sandwich! They arrived pretty quick, which was good since we were ravenous!
Ratnagiri, being a coastal place, I couldn’t leave without trying the seafood and that’s what I sampled for dinner. The butter garlic prawns were juicy and tempting! I tried something different called the Vangyanch Bharit or stuffed brinjal and absolutely loved this saucy new way of eating boring brinjal. I wasn’t a fan of the tandoori sabz, though – the chunks of veggies were roasted with spices in the tandoor but the spices tasted overpowering and hard-hitting on the tastebuds and throat. Murg Malwani or chicken cooked in traditional Malwani spices paired with butter naan really hit the spot and for dessert, I had a cute dessert cup layered with gajar ka halwa and two other sweets that I fail to remember.
The next morning, I went out sightseeing and since it was so hot, I headed back to the room to cool down before heading for breakfast. The breakfast buffet was to close at 10 am, and just as I was about to leave for the restaurant at 9:45 or so, I receive a call from the restaurant saying that I could order my breakfast now and come over in 10-15 minutes when it’s ready. Again, the thoughtfulness was noticed here and the small gesture was appreciated. And the breakfast was absolutely yum!! Perfectly made tea with hot and crispy medhu wadas, aloo paratha and cheese omlette.
Taking a walk around the huge property sure is a work-out and I couldn’t help but notice how much pets would love sniffing curiously around the grassy patches.
Honestly, the amenities were a mix between ‘great’ and ‘definite work needed.’ I personally liked the spacious breezy restaurant which can accommodate around 80 people, but in the evening when we dropped by for a coffee, the light did attract all sorts of bugs – a part and parcel of being amidst nature, but definitely wouldn’t like them doing a backstroke in my coffee.
From the restaurant, you can see the amphitheater where folk dances and skits are sometimes organized. A corporate group would definitely love this space for talks and seminars amidst nature. Additionally, there are two meeting venues and a banquet available too.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t use the pool since it wasn’t clean on both days and since the weather was so hot, a swim would have been perfect! The also have a spa, Zion, offering a range of massages and therapies and the option to consult with an in-house doctor for guests who are concerned about issues that may interfere with indulging in a treatment. It would have been nice if this was a bit more polished and elegant in terms of the walls and linen. It seemed quite dated, which takes away from the ‘extravagant’ feel that a spa brings.
In terms of activities, there is a set up to play court sports like volleyball and badminton. For group sports, if teams are falling short of people, the staff joins in which is quite nice! Table tennis, carom and air hockey set ups are available in the indoor games room along with a kids play area right next to it. The hotel curiously also has several colourful birds and turkeys chirping in roomy cages. Lastly, a gift shop to take back items to make those who didn’t travel with you, jealous. *wink wink*
Well that wraps up my review. Nature lovers and contentious travelers, take a trip here and let me know what you think. Although I was in Dapoli for just a day, I did manage to squeeze in a couple of tourist spots and I’ll tell you about them in my next post. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions, shoot!