Wild Photography Holidays - Photographic Adventure Travel: Kerala South India – Wellness, Food & Photography Retreat

Marigold

Kerala South India – Wellness, Food & Photography Retreat

Highlights include…

  • Photographic tuition
  • Lush backwaters from a boat
  • Delightful heritage hotel
  • Kathakali performance
  • Kathakali make-up
  • The Chinese fishing nets
  • Bustling Markets
  • Local ferry travel
  • Sunset Cruise
  • Fascinating street photography
  • Delicious Keralan cookery classes
  • Photography sessions
  • Yoga sessions
  • Ayurveda treatment/massage sessions
  • Relaxing pool

General Summary

This Kerala Retreat has been designed to make a space for you to kick back, relax in a beautiful environment to focus on exactly what enables you to return home feeling revived and inspired. Our Hotel in Cochin is a ‘Beautiful Secret’! close to all our best locations but hidden away in a quiet peaceful lane in Fort Cochin. The Secret Garden is a lovely, tranquil hotel, and just eight rooms, all with a very chic but homely feel. The rooms are located around a really lovely pool and are furnished with impeccable taste by Thora the Icelandic owner. The elegant style is a fusion between very traditional Kerala and the best of the west, such as good linen, lights and showers that work, free Wi-Fi, reliable drinking water, homemade bread, superb coffee, bikes to use whenever and great local staff who really understand the needs of guests whether it be a pick up from the airport at 3.00 in the morning or a nice cup of tea in the middle of the day. The staff has access to loads of useful local information and the fruit juices are to die for. For guests who wish to wind down and relax two-hour morning yoga session in the garden with Yoga master Raji is just the perfect start to the day. Our days will be fairly flexible, guests can choose to take part in sunrise and late afternoon photographic excursions, learn hands on how to cook some amazing Keralan dishes, experience the miracle of Ayurvedic wellness and massage, or simply chill with a good book by the lovely pool. Whatever programme you choose for the day, we will all meet together for lunch and in the evenings where we might indulge in one of Martin’s legendary G&Ts before enjoying a delicious evening meal cooked by the Secret Garden’s Keralan chef.

Activities on Offer

For full details please download the trip description PDF

Photography

Kerala and the area around Fort Cochin has long been a favourite of ours for photography. Our locations include winding streets crammed with ancient Portuguese houses, synagogues, palaces and forts all spread over a charming cluster of Islands and peninsulas. We photograph a variety of Chinese fishing nets, the luscious backwaters from a boat and enjoy a private performance of Kathakali and the intricate make up. We will take rickshaws through the narrow bustling streets making close contact with the local people that work and live here including spice markets, the laundry, fishermen and street vendors all making for some immersive, outstanding and varied photographic opportunities. The environment of the Secret Garden is perfect for working on your images in a relaxed and creative way.

Ayurvedic Wellness

Because of its abundant supply of spices and medicinal plants Kerala is the traditional home of Ayurveda, an ancient, natural healing science that has been practiced in India for over 5000 years. It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health rather than fighting disease. Individual sessions are often geared toward specific health problems or just beautifully relaxing massages with traditional oils. We are partnered with Agastya Ayurveda Kalari Massage centre, a unique wellness centre for authentic Keralan Ayurvedic treatments. Three one hour long sessions will be included in the price of this retreat with an option for more to be taken as an optional extra.

Keralan Cookery Classes

Keralan Cuisine is diverse and very distinct from the rest of India. Long ago the intoxicating aroma of spices lured traders to Kerala. Greek, Roman, Chinese, Portuguese, Arab and Dutch traders made their way to the port towns of this lush area resulting in a spectacular range of culinary influences. Ranging from brilliant Mappila (Muslim) Biryanis, Sadyas (feasts) served in Hindu households, and the delicious non-vegetarian dishes including the delicious seafood that Fort Cochin is renowned for. Our cookery teacher Neema will guide you through a hands on experience including how to choose the best quality ingredients including spices, vegetables, meat, fish etc. At the end of the class we will sit down together and enjoy the results of our cooking endeavours.

Yoga

Yoga helps to improve health and happiness. It is also a fabulous way to keep bodies supple and strong. Yoga is the Sanskrit word for union. Each morning our Yoga master Raji will facilitate an optional pre breakfast Yoga session. The myriad benefits of yoga including lower blood pressure, increased strength and bone density and reduced anxiety should be enough to get anyone on the mat. However, many people hesitate to embrace this ancient form of fitness due to some pervasive myths. Yoga is too slow and boring; it’s practised in stuffy, incense-filled rooms, or in 90C heat; it’s just for girls and people who are into chanting and, most misguided of all, yoga is only for the flexible. The truth is that there is a class to suit you whatever your body type or temperament. Yoga develops strength and balance as well as flexibility – the latter is a consequence of practising yoga, not a prerequisite. No one has turned up to their first yoga class (unless they were a dancer or a gymnast) able to execute advanced yoga poses. Extra sessions later in the day can be arranged especially if guests prefer to do the early morning photographic shoot.

Fort Cochin Locations and Attractions

Chinese Fishing Nets

Also known as Cheenavala, these huge spider like cantilever contraptions are the iconic emblems of Cochin. A complete stretch of the seashore along the Vypeen and Fort Kochi coastline are dotted with these impressive nets, which are a legacy from Chinese traders from long ago. These fishing nets are in a great location to photograph the sunset. We will also visit some nets that are off the radar of most tourists.

Fort Cochin Fishermen

There are a huge variety of fishermen and fishing methods to observe and photograph including the bustling four o’clock fish auction alongside the Chinese fishing nets. Colourful fishing boats bring their catch directly to the shore where it is immediately auctioned: some great close up action!

Pardesi Synagogue and Jew Town

The small but enchantingly beautiful over 400 year old Jewish synagogue in Fort Cochin features a small exhibition of paintings describing the role the Jews played in Cochin and beautiful chandeliers and tiling. The synagogue is right in the middle of Jew town and the bustling, colourful old port area, one of the most atmospheric parts of Fort Cochin, many of the old spice warehouses are now shops catering to tourists selling spices, antiques, knick-knacks, colourful shawls and handicrafts although it’s still a nice place to wander and a great place to shop for souvenirs.

Kathakali

We will enjoy a private performance of Kerala’s famous stylised dance form. Dating back to the 17th century this is as enchanting and dramatic as it is unique. In Kathakali we encounter a “story play” genre of art, but one distinguished by the elaborately colourful make-up, costumes and face make-up that the traditionally male actor-dancers wear. The traditional themes of the Kathakali are folk mythologies, religious legends and spiritual ideas from the Hindu epics. We arrange this private performance in the grounds of the Secret Garden where we will witness and photograph the colourful, elaborate make up procedure, intricate costumes and an incredible re-enactment of one of the many classic folk stories. We will also see a demonstration and explanation of the different, subtle but fascinating movements and facial expressions.

Keralan Backwaters

The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea commonly known as the Malabar Coast. We will spend the day into sunset in small boats that are able to access the small inlets and villages providing us with a fascinating insight into Keralan life. The backwaters have a unique ecosystem: freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. Aquatic and bird life is rich including Otters, Turtles, Cormorants, Brahmini Kites, Kingfishers and Darters.

Joining arrangements and transfers

Participants generally arrive at different times of the day/night, as they will book their own flights opting for the best deals available. Participants should fly in and out of Cochin International airport to arrive by 18.00 on Day 1. You may wish to extend our retreat either before or afterwards, we are able to give you lots of ideas for this, just get in touch with Gary at the office.

What’s Included

  • All meals
  • Hotel 8 nights
  • Yoga (7 two hour sessions)
  • Ayurvedic treatment (3 one hour sessions)
  • Sunset cruise
  • Backwaters boat excursion
  • Keralan cookery classes (two included)
  • Photography tuition
  • English tour guide/co-coordinator
  • All entrance fees
  • Camera fees except for any video equipment
  • Transfers from/to the international airport of Cochin Day 1 and Day 9

What’s not included

  • International flights
  • Travel-/medical Insurance
  • Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, snacks between meals
  • Tips for local staff
  • Indian visa
  • Any spa treatments unless specified above

Accommodation

The Secret Garden is a lovely, tranquil hotel, just eight rooms all with a very chic but homely feel. The rooms are located around a really lovely pool and are furnished with impeccable taste. We stay in this hotel for 8 nights.

Complete Itinerary and Full Details

This page is only a brief summary. A complete itinerary and more details can be found in our trip description PDF
It is important that you read this full day-to-day description and further information for this holiday before making your booking.