Gujarat’s Gir Forest is known for its exotic plants and wildlife. Nature enthusiasts in and around the country visit the forest all through the year. Therefore, tourism has emerged as a major business here.
So it is not uncommon to see beautiful resorts being built close to the forest cover.
Local farmers are often employed during the construction of such resorts. And while this new employment opportunity has helped them, in most cases, the forest trees are destroyed to set up these resorts.
However, challenging the status quo is a farmer named Dhanji Bhai Patel, who has built a sustainable resort in Bhojde village of Gir Somnath district. Out of the total 9 acres of his land, Dhanji made use of only 3 acres for the construction. The remaining area is used for farming and to extend the forest cover.
Dhanji’s Aaranya Resort surrounded by geographical beauty is well-liked for its architectural charm. Here’s how it came into existence.
Building a ‘Recycled’ Resort
“I decided not to cut even a single tree to construct the resort. Since this was not an easy task, I sought help from Himanshu Patel, who is known for his eco-friendly architecture,” says Dhanji.
The construction took place between 2015 and 2017. Himanshu’s experience and talent created wonders in Dhanji’s land. He designed seven cottages in a traditional way. Most of the raw materials used were locally made.
Wooden frames were replaced by galvanised steel frames to save trees. Clay tiles were placed over the roof to aid in maintaining a cool temperature inside the cottages. The walls were made of stone and are not coated with cement to retain their rustic look.
“The cottages are designed in such a way to allow for plenty of air and sunlight. All of them are built some steps away from each other which helps in maintaining privacy. Each cottage is surrounded by plants as well as trees. There are two rooms inside a cottage which makes a total of 14 rooms. The total cost of construction is around Rs 75 lakhs,” Dhanji explains.
Even glass bottles were used as raw materials to make the walls thereby recycling them effectively. Black tiles are spread on the floors which absorb water. “We can maintain a decent water level inside the property which helps in gardening and other daily needs,” he adds.
There are more interesting arrangements in the resort. Used water goes into the nearby field where a wide variety of vegetables are grown. These organic vegetables are then used for preparing food for the guests and Dhanji’s family as well.
“We haven’t hired a chef here. All items are cooked by me and my family. Almost 90 per cent of the ingredients come straight from the farm,” says the farmer. Dhanji also says that the food is so popular that even guests of nearby resorts come to dine at Aaranya.
Even though Dhanji hasn’t spent any money on marketing his resort, Aaranya is one of the most popular places in the region. He gives credit to its design which makes the guests feel close to nature. People also come by hearing the story of Dhanji’s responsibility towards nature. “I believe all of them leave the place fully satisfied,” he says.
Dhanji opines that most people in Gir use less wood now to preserve trees. “But we still have a long way to go,” he concludes. This marvellous property is open 24 hours and welcomes visitors all through the year.
Contact 9724262021 for bookings and visit their website for more details.
Read this story in Hindi here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)