A Conscious Choice
Earlier this month, our team ventured out to the beautiful scenic terrains of Wayanad as part of our triannual office trip. Now, what best way to explore the wild than to go camping? We chose Wild Vibes, Wayanad for our endeavor as we realized that we shared common interests when it came to sustainability and conscious living. We were curious to know more about the concept of ‘Glamping’, an amalgam of glamour and camping for the uninitiated. The word suggests camping activities with better amenities and services and the destination delivers just that! The team handling Wild Vibes call themselves naturalists and it is evident in the way they run the place.
Launched four years ago, the getaway is located at a site very sparsely occupied by natives and mostly dense forest. The property spread over leased land of almost 80 acres has a very negligent footprint. As you approach via a long winding mud road connecting the property to the main road, surrounded by tall deciduous trees, coffee and cardamom plantations, one cannot fathom there would be a place so vibrant at a place so remote. The commute there gives away no signs of human interventions or manipulations to the terrain except for occasional signboards.
‘Instead of making resorts worth many crores by changing the whole topography of the land, make the designs more blend into nature and its topography. Use more sustainable materials, which we can reuse, reshape, and recycle.’
- Crew, Wild Vibes
Once you enter the property it is evident to your eyes on how the owners have made peace with the nature around them while developing this site. You can see that there are log houses and A-frame cottages at varying heights and elevations throughout the property. The topography of the site is maintained as such and all the constructions are planned to suit the undulated terrain of the site. The only challenge the owners faced while planning a project like this was finding a location that was untouched by man and right in the lap of nature. Four years down the lane they have held up their end of promise of not disheveling the place while you can see multi-storeyed constructions springing up on the other side of the valley across the stream.
The serenity and calmness one experiences is unmatched with that at any starred property. The silence or rather the melody of the chirping birds and the buzzing cicadas is just magical to city souls like us. If you focus hard enough you can hear the rippling stream running downhill. A stream hike is one of the highlights of camping at wild vibes, a tedious trek for the inexperienced, the destination is worth every hurdle. A dip in the cold forest water leaves you asking you for more only to be followed by a slightly easier trek to watch the beautiful foggy sunset the next morning.
Apart from a small permanent structure built out front for the office and allied facilities, all structures are temporary ones that can be dismantled and rebuilt anywhere. The types of camping options include A-frame cottages, log houses, cabins, hobbit houses etc. All of these structures are built on stilts with minimum ground coverage as possible. The log houses and hobbit houses are placed on the edge of the cliff overlooking the stream downhill. The view here is as sweet and delightful as the cinnamon-cardamom tea they serve here, delicious and unlimited!
There are no electric fans or heaters of any sort in any of these houses cutting down majorly on electricity consumption and wastage thereof. Lights are provided where necessary but in a very subtle manner so as to not disturb the environment. The toilets work on motion sensor lights which is a wonderfully thought out solution as it eliminates electricity wastage as well as makes it more convenient to use the toilets after sunset. There are no loud noises, very faint music played only during dinner times and somehow the guests are also gently coaxed into following the lead of the crew, no words spoken.
There are common areas for lounging scattered across for bonfires and jamming sessions. These are all constructed using local wood and thatch for roofing. A small makeshift stage and a log house cafeteria lies at the center of the property canopied by tall trees and matching décor pieces, an antelope made of twigs and a walkway with a twig and vine canopy over it. The cafeteria sports a unique facade treatment on it courtesy the used multi colored egg craters! Creativity sure does peak when you breath the freshest of air and wake up to the sweet smell of the cardamom blooms.
The motto of Wild Vibes is ‘Let’s co-exist’ and as proponents of building communities to encourage reconnecting with nature, they do a good job of fulfilling their motto. There are no brick walls or electric fences to ward off animals or natives from accessing the area, co-existing can never come out of segregation and compartmentalization. Even though there isn't much spotting of wild animals in this area, if you are lucky enough you can catch a glimpse of the Indian Giant Squirrel feasting on a fruit outside your window or a wild deer grazing on the grass in front of your cabin.
Once inside the property, you will see no litter lying around carelessly as there are ample waste collection points at regular intervals and there is a conscious effort from the crew as well guests in maintaining a certain atmosphere. Any plastic wastes are then dried and handed over to the Panchayat for further treatment. As for food, they have a biogas plant in the pipeline to process the food wastes. For now, any excess food is fed to the animals around or passed on to the plantation workers nearby hence cutting down on any massive food wastage. They also do a bit of farming which yields produce for their daily use when it's just the crew and no guests.
‘It is unfortunate that we are inching away from it each passing day. We intend to spread a silent message to our guests, those who have the eyes to appreciate minimal living and nature will get it.’
The crew tells us their sole purpose with this endeavor was to get people connected back to nature where our true roots lie. It is a process, a give and take between a lot of involved parties, the guests, our crew, community members, the local communities, the tribal settlements around all play an active role in generating this conversation. They are also happy to share that more and more people are now interested to know and explore what this mode of living entails.
In a world where even 5 mins of slow internet network leaves you in shambles, to spend days with no network whatsoever and the expanse of nature to reflect upon should be an experience in itself. People today are more informed thanks to social media, and a bit more ready to try out new things. They appreciate exclusivity and sustainability equally, as a crowd that mostly includes youngsters, the community at Wild Vibes is driven by a collective sense of responsibility and passion for nature and sustainable living.
"As an architect, this makes me wonder about the purpose of it all. Why is it that we as a society work so hard to destroy the laps of comfort that we have only to spend more energy and money on creating satisfactory living environments? We hope to see a day when the developers of cities, institutions, and housing communities make a conscious choice to retain the best of what nature has to offer. We are certain architects like us can come up with creative solutions to building quality infrastructure with world-class facilities with this thought in mind."
- Amrutha Kishor, founder of Elemental