Thirty years ago, swathes of paddy wrapped this part of Kottaikadu on ECR. And in their midst was Arun Vasu, scouring the State in search of untouched places where he could camp and windsurf.
“I used to park here, pitch a tent or sleep in my Gypsy. It was a pleasure to come here. So I thought, we must do something here,” says Arun, adding that he then bought a piece of land in the area in 2008. (Arun also runs Surf Turf in Kovalam, popular for both its classes and laid back restaurant and is the chief managing director of the TT Group.)
Cut to 2021: the 50-acre stretch is now a plush boutique resort called The Alampara, offering surfing, kayaking, wakeboarding and standup paddling facilities. The once barren land — formerly used as a prawn hatchery, in ruins with gaping pits — is now luxuriously green, with 500-odd trees lending shade, their leaves swaying gleefully in a wind that rarely ceases.
The property boasts four luxury tents — the larger ones measuring 700 square feet can accommodate four people and the smaller ones at 600 square feet can hold three — a tented restaurant, a private lake and even a backwater lagoon with a kilometre-long sand bar across it.
“The sand bar is like a private island with a simple deck and a thatched structure where people can spend a day. The only way to get there is on a boat,” explains Arun, CEO of The Alampara. Turtles come here to nest in the nights from January to April. The property also hosts 60 varieties of bird in season, he adds.
Given its proximity to the majestic Alamparai fort, people can kayak to the monument or paddle up to the scenic salt pans nearby. Surf Turf is in charge of the water sports. “We are engaging three villages around, so guests can go fish with the locals, be it laying nets or throwing a line,” says Arun.
And after all that activity, guests can take their fresh catch — prawns, fish, crab — to the chef who will cook it for them. “One of the highlights is that the women from villages, sit in the water, pick the clams, and break them,” says Arun.
The team is connecting with surrounding villages to source local produce from the area. “We have a chef’s garden where he grows spices and greens,” says Arun, who along with his team is educating the surrounding villages on waste segregation and setting up a recycling plant for plastic waste.
Local talent is being roped in to create employment opportunities. “There is a focus on sustainability with plans in place to switch entirely to solar and wind power,” says Arun, adding that the idea here is coming back to Nature, where one can unwind from their hectic life and gadgets. Where the beep of the phone and maddening echo of video calls are replaced with the chirping of crickets and twittering of birds.
The Alampara will open on December 27. It lies just before Marakkanam, 35 kilometres from Puducherry.