Joanna Lester-George

Kayal Island Retreat - truly a little piece of paradise

KOKOindia the Travel Company | June 30th, 2018 |

Kayal resort shoot 248 preview

KOKOindia is on tour - a family monsoon odyssey across Kerala.

We are lucky enough to be spending a couple of days at Kayal - a chic little retreat tucked away in the glittering backwaters and located on a private island.

It is a world away from the touristy main stretch of lake we visited by 'traditional houseboat' recently - and precisely the reason why KOKOindia chooses to check out hotels and experiences personally on behalf of our guests.

We arrived 'local style' in a big wooden canoe - by far the best and, according to my ten year old son the coolest, way to travel. It is also the only mode of transport to and from Kayal, which makes it all the more special - even though we are barely half an hour from Cochin.

Drifting gently through clusters of water hyacinths, and occasionally passing a fisherman casting for Karimeen or crab, we are surrounded entirely by islets of palm trees and huge skies.

On these little trips, we always spot a friendly wave from a canoe or a pretty house on the shores of the lake. Only four hundred people live on the island, which is mainly comprised of a fishing community stretching back untold generations.

Homegrown Keralan and internationally city-savvy Maneesha is the owner and designer of Kayal, and she breathes tremendous warmth, as well as travel expertise, into her successful project.

Delicious, organic food thoughtfully created, a truly wonderful team of staff and the serene support of Maneesha's mother, Santha, who helps oversee the comfort of the guests, all add to the 'I never wanna leave' factor of this unique retreat concept.

Today happened to be a particularly glorious sunny day, and so early this morning myself and fellow guest Prakash (renowned Executive Head Chef at luxury south Keralan resort Niraamaya), enjoyed a little local adventure together.

We were taken by delightful Kayal manager, Saiju, to see the local fish auction and then onto the Challana harbour where the actual catch comes in. I don't think I've ever seen so much colour in all my twenty years of travelling in India - and the fish bargaining was as frenetic and unfathomable as the Indian Stock Exchange.

We even got to see where our very own hotel canoe was made - a homestyle workshop on the backwaters where Mr Anthony, the fourth generation of master craftsmen, hand carves each nine metre long boat from local Punna wood and then skilfully stitches it together with coir formed from the husks of coconuts.

We returned home happy and hungry to this dreamily peaceful spot for a traditional Keralan breakfast of fresh local fruit, puttu and egg roast curry. And of course, to that fabulous South Indian coffee for which Kerala is so famous - essential to all early morning adventures.

I have never contemplated where I might retire to one day (there is far too much still to see and do), but this little piece of paradise has definitely got me thinking ....