Ecotourism meets rural art & culture at Gujarat’s Woods at Sasan

Ecotourism meets rural art & culture at Gujarat’s Woods at Sasan

Eco-tourism meets rural art & culture at Gujarat’s Woods at Sasan gir forest sustainable tourism 30 Stades

On the Sasan-Talala highway in Gujarat’s Gir, an 8-acre mango orchard with nearly 300 trees is home to many species of insects, birds and wildlife. With the trees and forest around, the air is claimed to have 33 percent less carbon-di-oxide than the average.

The soil is untouched by chemicals and the organic vegetables grown there form part of the meals served to guests at The Woods at Sasan, a wellness retreat built without cutting down a single tree at the orchard.

Also Read: Sundarini: the organic milk revolution by women of Sundarbans

Based on the biophilic concept, the structures are designed to connect occupants with the natural environment.

Woods at Sasan is a 38-key property that makes the most of the rays of the rising sun and reduces exposure to the afternoon heat. No two rooms at the resort are the same.

“I have been an avid traveller and fond of properties that make people one with nature. However, most luxury resorts and hotel chains across India have the same facilities with minor tweaks. And this is when I decided to establish this luxury retreat,” says Maulik Bhagat, Managing Director of The Woods at Sasan.

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In the lap of nature

He chose Sasan as it has all the elements for sustainable ecotourism- it is replete with flora and fauna, and is home to Asiatic Lions and indigenous tribes. 

Based on the biophilic concept, no two rooms are the same.
Based on the biophilic concept, no two rooms are the same. Pic: The Woods at Sasan

The sole purpose behind this property is to draw inspiration from nature, culture and rural art. It also aims at connecting people with nature and themselves, says Bhagat, who is an IT engineer

An in-house agriculture expert at the property offers guidance about sustainable methods of organic farming, keeping the groundwater table healthy and making organic manure etc.

Also Read: Jayant Barve: Maharashtra’s organic farmer who became manure millionaire

During monsoons, the natural terrain of the property allows the rainwater to seep through the lush green vegetation, keeping the groundwater level intact.

Rainwater harvesting ensures ample availability of water even during summers. The area is replete with thick vegetation cover that keeps the soil moist.

The organic garden of vegetables and local herbs is based on the farm-to-fork concept, with the produce being used in the kitchen. And the biodegradable food waste from the kitchen is segregated to make compost.

A 3-D lotus using Saurashtra's nail and thread art is displayed on the ceiling
A 3-D lotus using Saurashtra’s nail and thread art is displayed on the ceiling. The wood on the property has been sourced from the Alang Ship Breaking Yard. Pic: The Woods at Sasan

“A visitor will not find uniformity in terms of the location of the rooms as they have been constructed based on the topography of the land. Each room nestled amid greenery has windows opening to a cover of bamboo, mango and chikoo trees,” says Ayush Saraf, Head- Learning and Development, The Woods at Sasan.

Also Read: Village in Jharkhand’s Maoist hub transforms into eco-tourism spot reviving lost arts

Ecotourism and arts 

The wood used on the property has been sourced from the Alang Ship Breaking Yard while the local Bella stones dot the entire property.

Each room has macramé panels. The team collaborated with an Ahmedabad-based NGO Happy Faces, which empowers rural women by promoting their art. These NGO members have made the macramé panel in each room.

Lime plaster — a mixture of sand, lime, and water — used in each room is eco-friendly, leaving behind no carbon footprint.

Alongside, it acts as a moisture regulator – it absorbs excess moisture and releases it in the air when the level goes down. 

Alongside, the resort’s team promotes local art, culture and even familiarises guests with local tribes like Maldharis, who inhabit the Gir forests.

“One of the underlying motives was also to save the art forms by giving them a modern touch,” says Saraf.

Guests can try their hand at the pottery wheel, where a local potter helps them give shape to wet clay. Saurashtra’s nail and thread art also find a place at The Woods. A 3-D lotus is displayed on the ceiling using this art.

Also Read: Uttarakhand: Himalayan homestay empowers women through ecotourism

Bead work by artisans from Rajkot decorates the walls.
Bead work by artisans from Rajkot decorates the walls. Pic: The Woods at Sasan

Swadesh – the in-house restaurant – serves authentic Gujarati food. While restaurants have a common tradition of serving finger bowls to wash hands, there is a specific reason why guests at Swadesh are made to take a 15-second walk to the basin. 

As one bends down to wash hands and takes a look in the mirror, one can see an entire wall adorned with local tattoo designs of Saurashtra – the Sun, scorpion, local motifs and symbols.  

Near the reception, one can find a panel of beads work done by the local women from Rajkot. Terracotta tiles display the elements of Gir forests as one walks towards the swimming pool.

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During evenings, popular Siddi dance is organised under the stars for visitors. Siddis or Siddhis are Buntu people of East African origin who came to India as merchants, slaves or sailors in the 16th century and are now settled in Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Their energetic dance movements along fire have become an integral part of Gir’s culture. 

Authentic Gujarati cuisine at the kitchen - Swadesh.
Authentic Gujarati cuisine at the kitchen – Swadesh. Pic: Facebook/@TheWoodsatSasan

The Woods organised its first Ayurveda retreat ‘In Search of Som’ last December. Hosted by a third-generation Ayurvedic practitioner Nidhi Pandya, the retreat enabled the guests to delve into the untraveled places of their own mind, body and heart.

Now the resort plans to introduce wildlife and adventure retreats, night trek camps, birding experiences etc. When that happens, there will be even more reasons for tourists to stay at The Woods at Sasan.

(Vedant Sharma is a Gujarat-based freelance writer)

(The author was in The Woods at Sasan from December 10 to 14, 2020 on an invitation by the resort)

Also Read: Sundarbans residents turn homes into homestays as tourists look for authentic Bengal experience

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