Organic farm living only 50 Kms from Mumbai

Arwa1Retirement is somehow supposed to be a scary thought, something to plan for years. We have seen our parents evolve post retirement and become avid travellers, at least from what they used to be! They even love going on hikes despite the age and failing health. Suppose we had it in our genes to start blogging and pick travel as our genre. It is true it wasn’t the plan, but from what its worth, let’s make retirement exciting !

Living a city life becomes imposing to so many, after spending years even! A somewhat similar concern drove the owners of Arwa Farms to think seriously about the land they owned in Dahanu. Situated amidst rice fields and sparse village huts, the sprawling landmass was waiting to be cultivated. Veteran photographer and journalist Fawzan Hussain decided to dig back into his family ancestory and bring back the profession of the great-grandfathers back to life. Yes, farming. Because not only does it provide you with chemical free, organically grown fruits, vegetables and cereals; it allows them to learn on the land everyday and produce fruits and vegetables to sustain life at the farm.

Cycle Area

We were invited to visit the property and understand how a completely organic farm works. Fawzan showed us the organic dung fertilizer that they make at the farm itself to be used on the produce. The range of items he cultivates at Arwa is simply fascinating. From papayas, mangoes, custard apples and sapota, cereals and paddy also finds space.

BenchFawzan

Whats more! The farm can accommodate 14 guests at a time, making it an ideal destination for a calm family weekend getaway or even for groups of friends. Plastic is completely banned on the premises and Fawzan ensures the guests get the right vibe of being organic in the smallest details. The bathrooms have organic soaps and shampoo, kitchen sports clay pots and pans, plates and glasses sourced from the heart of Mumbai city, Dharavi.

Lobby Area

Spending a night under a skyful of stars sitting at the terrace having hot pakodas with him gave us an opportunity to experience the real farm life. The comfy beds and especially the one with the garden view was the boy’s absolute favourite for a night time stargazing. We are so thankful to the amazing staff at the kitchen who made delicious food, made from the fresh farm produce. An equally appetizing breakfast coupled with organic green tea refreshed us before the drive back home.

Zia Yoga 2

If you are interested in learning how to farm, do visit this place. Fawzan also organises workshops and to introduce kids to the idea of farming and crop cutting seasonally. A seasonal visit may also allow you to grab a bagful of ripe mangoes to take back home! We brought back some organic stevia for our diabetic parents because whats better than an organic replacement of sugar, right?

You can book Arwa Farms on AirBnB  or Booking.com

Heritage travel and ecotourism comes together at Phaltan

Uncharted places that are not on the map as a designated tourist destination often show the potential of a unique experience. That is exactly what Jakson Inns has achieved for the almost forgotten Phaltan, located 110 kms from Pune.

A highway ride is common for Mumbaikars, usual destinations being Pune, Kaas Pathar, Lonavala, Goa, Ratnagiri coastal lines and more. On a roadtrip to nowhere in particular, Jakson Inns just happened to us for a stopover initially. Phaltan is one of those places where you may stop for a night before continuing your journey, but it gives you a neat, functional and enjoyable itinerary. Variety of experiences curated together by the hotel entices you to stay back.

What started as a journey in search of an offbeat experience, turned out to be a complete weekend getaway at a highway side hotel. May sound odd, but you need to read this article in full to know how The Moonchasers found a weekend, worthy of sharing with you as a recommendation.

Phaltan Blog1

Satara district marks a historically and economically significant side of Maharashtra, also known for its forts, waterfalls and religious festivals. Lands that host major industrial facilities also caters to 60% of the states sugar production, thanks to sugarcane farming all around the plateaus. Only about a four hour drive from Mumbai, Phaltan is an amalgamation of sustainable energy with agriculture and history. From solar farms and windmills powering an entire industrial belt and a 3 star hotel, Jakson Hospitality brings a piece of ecotourism on its very premises spanning 6 acres.

Jakson

The property is a proud LEED Platinum Rated Building, harnessing its energy from natural resources. The hotel has 69 deluxe rooms, 4 suites, a contemporary bar, a vibrant multicuisine restaurant and a luxury spa. It also has a gorgeous pool and basketball court, and bicycles (We made good use of it for a midnight track race) suited for families. A full service gym is also open for guests.

Apart from providing a wholesome Malvani cuisine, the staff ensures you get a taste of the local culture. We were taken to a beautiful windmill farm to watch sunset over the plateaus sipping on an exquisite Sauvignon on the first day.  The giant machines start screeching and creaking to pick up speed with the evening breeze, adding a bit of charm to the whole setting. We also made a new friend at the table top!

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A barbecue night followed on the hotel grounds, prepared by the chefs on the spot. They went an extra mile to prepare a giant Khakhra for us (Baked thin crackers made of mat bean and wheat flour). Sumptuous food calls for a good end to an amazing day and we had a very comfortable room, again carefully and professionally serviced to get a good night’s sleep.

KhakhraJK Foyer

Breakfast awaited us by the poolside on the second day. After gorging on mango shakes and masala omelettes, our destination was Thosegad Waterfalls. Maharashtra comes alive with the monsoon and this waterfall too shows its true beauty ripe with the rain water. However we had a fun time walking up to the lake and made a mental note of coming back here again in a couple of months as the rains intensify.

Stories of emperors, conquerors and rulers fascinate the reader. But what happens when you get to walk into the homes once inhabited by the characters from the pages of history books! An experience curated only by Jakson Inns that needs a special permission, made the highlight of the trip.

Phaltan is known in history for being home to Sai Bai, Shivaji’s first wife as she hailed from this once prosperous taluka. Manmohan Rajwada, was named after Mudhoji Manmohan, who ruled the Phaltan State between 1860 to 1916. It was once the maternal home of Sambhaji Maharaj, son of the founder of the Maratha Empire.

An architectural delight, the Rajwada palace compound consists of the main residential building, an ancient Ram Mandir, spacious courtyards and long halls called chowks. The interiors reflect rich heritage design with intricate hand-carved wood work in the columns and arches. The rich colour palette in the paintings and tapestries across the palace exude a royal yet contemporary selection of art. All rooms open out onto a central courtyard, or a chowk, demonstrating a common feature of period Indian architecture, allowing air circulation for hot summers. It was an obvious delight for J for his love of symmetry and marvellous architecture. On the other hand, I was marvelling at it’s spaciousness and rich historic elegance which oozes out with every step you take within the premises. Every turn opens up to a corridor full of footprints of the Royal family of Phaltan.

All of this, coupled with a Maharashtrian chulha made lunch and a pomegranate plucking session where you can taste the sweetest fruits right on the field, we feel Jakson Inns has successfully merged the business of hospitality to boost the local economy as well. To understand the actual potential of rural tourism, eco tourism and farmland visits, it is a great way to spend a weekend here instead of just stopping over. The richness of experience makes itself a desirable destination. Where else can you get a private sunset sipping wine with your loved one, walk about vast pomegranate fields and sugarcane farms, go into the very rooms where once queens lived and feel the wind in your hair ?

This place is an inspiration for travellers seeking to do something new, know something more about a place and have a great time. In fact, MTDC has Phaltan listed as a heritage and eco-tourism destination.  Taste the perfect contemporary bohemian lifestyle with a touch of history at Phaltan. At the same time, enjoy sustainable hospitality with a comfortable stay for your next weekend getaway from Mumbai or Pune.

Note: The Rajwada stands as a private palace and is not a tourist spot, nor does it allow anyone to get inside other than guests of Jakson Inns.

Here is a video showing you all about Phaltan:

Adventure trails in Durshet – a weekend exploring the lush Western Ghats

monsoon sky naturetrails durshet photography dmoonchazers

Beautiful day at Durshet Forest Lodge

Monsoon is the time to be happy. In a dry state like Maharashtra, arrival of monsoons not only brings relief to the people, but also pulls off a curtain from the landscape, covering it with lush, rich greenery. Being city animals when all you want to do is appreciate nature, its vastness and its majestic expanse, what does one do?

You take a trip off the beaten track! Just as we did last weekend with Nature Trails Resorts in Durshet, a lesser known gem located at only 95 kms from Mumbai, in the Raigad district. The idea was to get out and explore something not so far, and Sterling Holidays came to our rescue. With a motto of #joyofdiscovery , the legacy of the renowned hospitality major comes at play through its modern approach to travel. We were joined by a bunch of new faces on our journey, each of them vibrant and full of interesting anecdotes about the joy of exploring.

We set out on a rainy Saturday morning from Mumbai and reached the Durshet property in about two hours. Welcomed by the lush backyard and luxury tents, we were utterly happy that we chose the right place. Vóila!

After munching on hot Misal, we set out on a tour of the property that extends till the edge of the river Amba to the back. Being a seasonal stream, the river bed was only awaiting a little more downpour and it will be flowing, making for a great kayaking experience, in a resort near Mumbai! Who could imagine that?

It was also Father’s day the very same weekend and we met a bunch of children playing around and excited to go on an adventure trip later in the afternoon. We played cricket under drizzling skies and bonded with them before our rappeling session. The fun fact of visiting here is that we came across a large variety of travellers. Families seeking a weekend getaway, a summer camp for kids, corporate groups and friends looking for an active weekend in the jungle and people like us, who never lets go of an opportunity for a little adrenaline boost!

The real joy of exploring is in being out there, and we did exactly that after lunch. We hiked across the property’s 15 acre forest to find a rope bridge – called Burma bridge. After a wobbly walk across the structure, a sudden downpour got us drenched from head to toe. Honestly, the feeling of being in a jungle and getting completely soaked is one of the best we can recommend to you. Next up was ziplining, a short but cute stretch and J and I both had quite fun jumping off in our wet clothes. Failure however was awaiting me at the Tarzan Swing down below. I promise i tried very hard to reach the edge of the trough but it was a slip of half an inch! Result? I ended up in the pool of water below and climbed back up completely wet, again! #ExploreNatureTrails

The boys went rappeling after that and managed to beat the average record by completing the task in just above 90 seconds. What can I say, J is born with mountain instincts, I suppose!

Durshet has a curious history with the richness of being a battleground in the time of the Maratha Empire. The rivers, the meadowing valleys and strange rock plateaus added to the significance of these jungles as an impregnable land during wrfare. Such charming history led the founder of Nature Trails, Mr. Hari Divekar to look at this piece of land as the ideal location for his adventure camp 20 years back. A strong history of being an ecological conservationist, closely associated with Dr. Salim Ali and the Bombay Natural History Society led Hari to try and preserve the essence of the natural terrains of the ghats, ideal for training children in adventure activities and physical training.

So whats so special about Durshet Forest Lodge?

  1. It is spread over 35 acres of forest land
  2. It has both budget and premium options for stay
  3. It has amazing adventure activities for beginners and if you like to spend your time trying out new things like ziplining, rappeling, rope climbing and more
  4. The food is authentic Maharastrian and delicious!
  5. You wont feel once that you are only 95 Kms away from Mumbai. Its lush!

Nature Trails has four properties in Durshet, Kolad, Dabhosa and Sajan respectively, all in Maharashtra. With their 20 year old hospitality and adventure travel expertise, they are now a part of the famous Sterling Holidays. This adds to the portfolio of stay options and the recent addition of luxury tents, which are by the way beautiful, comes as a welcome offering for those who don’t mind paying a few extra bucks for greater comfort. Let us also tell you, the views from the brand new pool at the property is a +1! We recommend Nature Trails for families and groups of friends looking for a taste of adventure, have a chill weekend or even a day trip (yes they have that option) in the lap of nature.

You can participate in the #LookWhosChilling contest by #LookWhosTalking and win exciting prizes. Click here for more information!

Check out our latest video for a full experience at Nature Trails Durshet:

You can check here for booking: www.naturetrails.in

For more pictures from the trip, you can always go to @dmoonchazers

Tell us your recommendations of #weekendgetaways near Mumbai in the comments to help us explore better!

Next up on the blog: Kundalika River Rafting Camp

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