The Diwali weekend saw us heading South Goa, specifically towards Patnem - Palolem. We love those beaches of white sands and at this time of the year, expecting less tourists.
We had booked a hut in Secret Garden Resort on the net. I was excited about this holiday!
After reaching Palolem, and crossing the Mosque, take a right turn and 100m. from the turn, there is the resort. It was easy to find.
Secret Garden Resort is equidistant from both Palolem beach and Patnem beach, about 5 -10 min. walk.
It is a sprawling resort on a 2500 sqm. of land; all of it sloping. Mr. Nazir, the proprietor cum everything else he can do with his hands, said when he took this land on lease 6 years back, was thick over grown jungle. He was lost where to start and how to proceed. There is a street light just inside the property, and ss he was pondering about the location of the main entrance to the property, it struck him, why not have the gate right under the street light; it will light up the entrance through the night and takes care of the lighting issue! That is an example of Mr.Nazir's way of thinking and functioning. He tried to make it eco friendly, from the use of recycled / reused wood, boards, doors, windows, etc. in the construction of Secret garden.
It still has a jungle look, (especially soon after the monsoon), though carefully cultivated trees (several fruit bearing ones like guava, papaya etc.), bushes (bamboo etc.), and shrubs (all kinds of crotons and elephant ears etc.). He also grows vegetables on the terraces. They are more or less self sufficient during the tourist season.
Originally from Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir, while working for a travel agency in New Delhi, Mr. Nazir visited Goa, 20 yrs. ago with a friend. He was so enamored by the serenity of South Goa, that he decided to settle down here. He opened a beach shack on Palolem beach, serving Kashmiri food. By the way, he is a top class chef himself. He says, within a year, his beach shack was listed in Lonely Planet; customers would line up for his food.
When Palolem got crowded, he moved to Patnem beach, opened a shack / restaurant with the name Secret garden. After running successfully for 2 yrs. the landlord wanted to sell the property. So he had to vacate again. This time, he decided to stay put in one place, and develop his business. That is Secret garden resort came to be.
From the main entrance, first he made the central pathway. There are gentle steps to climb up or down; plants lining either side, trees forming a canopy.
There are a total of 12 cottages / huts, named after flowers, like Rose, Sun flower etc. befitting the resort! To maintain privacy, there is a gap between the huts.Each hut has a front verandah; some cane furniture to relax in. Inside the hut, the furniture is functional, eg: a clothes stand, a wall mirror, a side table, and a small shelving unit. the attached toilet is minimal but adequate. There are wash basin, western style WC, a shower etc. A mosquito net and mosquito repellents like coil or plug in varieties will also be provided. though a ceiling fan is provided, one does not need it, as it got cold in the night since the property is on a hilly land and huge trees all round...
Monsoons have just ended, so the blue tarpaulin sheets have yet to come off. Talk about being in the lap of nature, one wakes up to all kinds of bird sounds, and come out of your hut, you will see a host of butterflies flitting about. What sights and sounds!
I saw the largest elephant ear leaves here. papaya trees in bloom!Except the months of monsoon, ie June to Sept, Secret Garden is open from October to the end of May. Since the property comes inside the CRZ limit, ie. 349m. from Colomb Bay, it has to be dismantled during monsoon.
While Mr. Nazir manages the guests, the huts, kitchen, Monica takes care of their 3 yr. old son, home and online bookings etc. It is an interesting story how they met. She was from UK, touring North India, where his friend directed her to stay at secret Garden if she is in Goa. She meets likes him, goes back to UK, and returns for good.
We would love to be back to taste Mr. Nazir's food, as the kitchen was not operational yet.
Here is a happy couple, working hard, doing what they love to, living close to water, land, vegetation ...
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