Seaside Serenity: Ahilya by the Sea integrates sustainability and mindful living with an easy relaxed Goan vibe
JAN 15, 2024 | By Shriti Das
At a distance, a dolphin is porpoising in the sea. Closer to the shore a few dogs play ‘catch’ with the waves. My line of vision is led by the infinity pool back onto the lawn at Ahilya by the Sea. And on my table, I cannot help but steal a glance at the bluish-green mussel catching the afternoon sun rays.
A seasonal catch rests on this interesting yellow-hued pineapple coconut curry on Yeshwant Holkar’s plate. He takes a spoonful, before dunking a poi in it. Yeshwant, the Holkar scion from Indore’s royal family, is kind to offer me the curry for a little tasting. And it’s delightful. We’re at Ahilya by the Sea, on a beautiful little sliver of sea-facing land in Nerul, at the North Goa Dolphin Bay. A member of Relais & Châteaux, the 10-key property is nestled within three villas. Currently managed by the Holkars under the Ahilya Experiences umbrella, the property was originally built by Leela Kannakadri Ellis (his sister’s mother-in-law) with her friend and designer Isla Maria ‘Loulou’ van Damme.
While I soak in the view, I cannot help but realise how quickly the last 24 hours flew by. And that’s the thing about Ahilya by the Sea — at a time when mindful living and quiet luxury have become pivotal in hospitality (and design), Ahilya by the Sea champions these principles with ease. Located at an unbelievably pristine location, it was in a dilapidated condition with three hut plinths on it.
“And it was really her vision that saw the potential of the space. It’s eclectic, it has these Indonesian Balinese to Sub-Saharan African touches alongside elements of Goa in the architecture and fuses it together naturally, without pretence,” explains Yeshwant. He continues “Eventually, she got busy with her life in America, and spent less time here. We loved the space, so my brother-in-law and myself decided to do something with. While we have added certain amenities, our constant effort is to leave it untouched.”
And it is indeed like a fairy tale frozen in time. It’s lofty, yet quiet and inconspicuous. Since we enter from the back of the structure, the grandeur of its architecture only comes to the fore when one traverses the spaces. Made in laterite stone, the architecture dates back to times when the walls were hewn by hand. While the frontage looks at the sea, the rear is flanked by a high wall, with the greenest, most lush landscapes shrouding the structures. “Aunty Leela has probably the greenest thumb. She touches a garden and it just explodes with life and beauty. And she then put together these beautiful gardens as seaside tropical paradise,” he laughs.
With stories and memories etched in perhaps every wall, I wonder what really drives him. “It’s a commitment to giving back to the environment and the community. Devi Ahilyabai Holkar, is somebody who has really set an example of making your life’s worth about the work and the benefit that it can bring to people, not about the benefit it can bring to you,” he signs off with a smile!