The Resort Hoka is a nice hotel to stay. If simplicity is the essence of beauty, then the Resort Hoka proves it! It offers no superficial frills. The place is special because of its unpretentiousness and warm ambience. The smiles are real.
The Resort Hoka is a 12 room boutique hotel ideal for those looking for a homely and personalized atmosphere. The rooms, each one a little different, are very clean, bright, & comfortably furnished. Most rooms have a nice sit-out.more»
A laid-back island off the west coast of India, Diu has some of the most picturesque beaches in the country. It is an island retreat gently rocked by the wind and the wave from the Arabian Sea. It offers you undisturbed peace and an unusual holiday. The relaxed, no-rush attitude of the islanders - who thrive on the simple good life, fish and alcohol - is the best welcome for city folks.more»
DIU...An island of breeze and beauty. Diu is picturesque. View more pictures of DIU and Resort Hoka.more»
WARM WISHES & A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013.
A few words about the year gone by: Well, what can I say but that..wow…time flies…
2012: This year was rather special; We had two guests visiting us after a long time: Suchi Ravalia who had visited the Hoka during her college days with a friend; now revisited with her husband & 5 year old son. Suchi was the same exuberant person we remember & appears to have imparted this quality to her delightful & expressive son. The other guest was Satyajit Ray. He & his Air Force pilot mates had visited us as young bachelors way back 13 years ago. It was a special feeling to have him return, now a senior IAF officer, and with his lovely wife & two most adorable daughters, 4 & 8 years old. They along with Suchi’s son charmed many a guest & staff . And it was a marvel, how in their little ways, they seamlessly brought a smile on faces & hearts of all at the Hoka! Among my more cherished memories.
2012: “Seventh time.. ?” I asked. I was unabashedly cross examining a guest! And yes this was Sai’s septennial visit to the Hoka. Sai Nagesh, a dear guest from Bombay as usual kept us motivated with his encouraging perception of the ‘Hoka way’ of doing things!
Ram Sundararaman messaged from Udaipur to inform us that he was ‘jealous’ of those who made it… :-0. Well yes we did miss Ram, Geetika & their son Srijan..them being fun regular new year guests since long.
2012: The Hoka also saw a bit of much required major repair & renovation! Its been 15 years since the Hoka started & so it was about time. This took us about 10 weeks. And I have to say that we had the most gratifying support from almost all our guests who very graciously forgave us for the construction disturbance caused. And so now after quite a while we have 16 functioning rooms as before.
2012: The year end. Yes whilst there was a happy time & music & bonhomie at the Hoka, our new year’s celebrations were a little subdued. The heart a little heavy and a desire to support the feelings & emotions that had engulfed us all by what had happened to a very young woman in Delhi. She was in the back of our minds always. Despite the sadness, one felt hope in seeing; many among the country’s youth & older strongly addressing a very important social issue. We do hope that year 2013 will see this process remains. A process that helps us, one day soon, to evolve to being among the best in the world in the way our girls, women stand equal to men. And why not?
2012: Feedback & Social media: The Hoka team remained buoyant (very much ) and motivated by a good dose of supportive, appreciative & useful feedback from guests. Quite a few of this finding their way onto social media such as our facebook group, tripadvisor reviews & other internet space. Yes Hoka will now have to watch out for the ever growing [and a little ‘overpowering’] influence of social media space !!
Finally back to the present:
2013: Something tells that this year is going to be special & nicely so! ‘
2013: To keep a smile in our minds & hearts through it all’ …is our resolution for this year. Well what’s yours? ?
Lots of love & best of everything for the future.
The Hoka Island Villa
Anyone visiting Diu would usually never fail to miss the dense Hoka tree cover at Kevdi and Nagoa.
There was a fire last month at the Kevdi Hoka grove. And we would have lost an invaluable Hoka forest if not for the amazingly quick and tenacious action by the Diu fire department, also aided by fire tenders from adjoinig town of Una.
The palm trees become sort of tinder boxes when their palms leaves dry and one little spark can set a whole jungle aflame.
The Resort Hoka is now ‘The Hoka Island Villa’. It’s official and final now. Kind of long and quite a mouthful some would say! But it is done and it’s got a story to it.
I know that more than a few of us are going to miss the old name, A lot of us, including myself, I expect, would continue to call it ‘The Hoka’ as we did before. Incidentally the new abbreviation spells ‘Thiv’, which when said out loud, rhymes with ‘Div’, the local & original name of Diu. But this wasn’t planned it just happened!
The web address will remain as before; www.resorthoka.com/. The decision to retain the original web name was taken by Ram, a regular guest & a friend, and now ‘Chief’ of the Hoka IT division, de jure & de facto. He put his foot down on this… but that’s another story for later.
The hotel is named after the Hoka tree (Genus: Hyphaene species: H. Thebaica). This African branching palm, with various theories about how it found its way to Diu and flourished, is now endemic to the Island . Way back in 1992, trying to figure out a name for our hotel, Sangeeta Singh, a dear friend from Delhi, helped by posing this question: “is there any plant or animal that’s special to that area…??”. And so, the name ‘Hoka’ was chosen. I am sure that Sangeeta doesn’t remember her connection to the name, as then the ‘Hoka’ was just a distant dream of mine!
People come into our hotel asking for a ‘Hook-kaah’. That chilled out smoking device. And they are a little confused, amused or sometimes disappointed when on asking for one; find us pointing at the trees around or being handed a hard red and fibrous Hoka fruit. ‘Hoka’ incidentally also means ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’ in the local village parlance. People say “Hoka thaeee-ga-ya”, meaning, in Gujarati, she or he has gone mad! Also for quite some time people thought it was a family name and I was introduced as Mr. Hoka on a few occasions. Well that’s fine, because we have definitely done some crazy stuff at the Hoka and taken some perfectly mad financial decisions; but it definitely is the tree we are named after.
And then the word ‘Resort’ was affixed to ‘Hoka’ as the whole idea of the venture was to make a place which was peaceful, relaxed, and friendly, warm, personal and interesting. An English lady wrote years ago in a note to us “ Four days at the Hoka was like being at the Betty Ford clinic”. We checked out later what Betty’s place was about and were glad. We were also a whole lot cheaper. Those years the price was Rs. 400 per night. But her note, among other warm notes from other guests, encouraged us to stay the course during tough times.
Finally, the reason the ‘The’ was added to the name as well, was quite honestly, because it seemed the ‘in’ thing to do those days. Yes people thought that that gave your name class, more substance and a certain style! But mainly, to me it also made the name a little longer, a mouthful and a bit of a tongue twister. A hallmark of all our names. Our restaurant has recently been re-named ‘Cat’s Eye View’. No the idea wasn’t to be different but to have fun and enjoy the names! And if that makes us different, that’s cool too.
However to come back to the name change… as time passed and business grew, a need was felt to remove the word ‘Resort’ from the name. And the primary reason was that though our guests were mostly happy, however not surprisingly quite a few expressed reservations or disappointment over the fact that the ‘Resort Hoka’ was not the large property that they imagined it to be. And considering that they had a point, since the hotel industry norm tends to connote the term ‘resort’ with a large property, duly offering various service and recreational facilities and since we, in the initial years did not offer even television and hot water was by the bucket and since it was difficult to explain to the world that “NO NO, even a small and simple place can be a ‘resort’…” and since it was far easier and cheaper to change the name than.. .. to increase the size of the property, to buy another acre or two of prime (read ‘unaffordable ]..commercial land, and since we never wanted ‘The’ Hoka to be a typical large hotel, wherein it would lose its personal touch and since we did not want our new customers to feel as if they had been shortchanged on account of a ‘misleading’ name and …and so we decided to drop the word ‘Resort’.
We were, (and still are) looking to take our guests on a boat ride and not on a cruise. So it is apt that we call our boat a boat and not a ‘Cruise liner’! There is a different fun, tranquility and pleasure in sailing a boat as compare to that of sailing on a ship. “A boat ride allows us to explore the intimate nooks and crannies of the coast, to traverse the shallows, and to drop our anchor whenever the fancy takes us – outside the deep and busy waters of the shipping lanes”. These are Edward Simpson’s words beautifully conveying our thoughts and the Hoka idea.
The other reason has been the inflexion point in the change in our surroundings. New buildings around necessitated the construction of a high compound wall around our property. This led to a major shift in our design concept for the Hoka. Whereas before it was an attempt to maintain a harmony with the natural surroundings, it now became an overriding endeavour to retain the ‘warm’ and ‘little oasis’ quality that the Hoka was & meant to us, our regular guests and those new clientele who were on the lookout for such spaces. To me, The Hoka quite often nowadays, feels like an island within an island. Trying to keep its character and stay above the rising waters of seemingly mindless change around.
And today, about 14 years later, the building asks for repair & renovation and there is scope for refining the spaces within the hotel and the rooms; however, despite these changes, we hope that ‘The Hoka’ has managed to and will continue to preserve its core qualities. And these are the qualities, of being genuine, simple and honest, which though the hardest to achieve and keep, but to us the essence of a good place to stay. …and the essence of a good Life itself.
‘THE HOKA ISLAND VILLA’,
On the 24th of this month we drove down from Udaipur to Diu, and the journey, in the monsoon rains turned out scenic, gentle and lovely. Now as I write this blog I wish that I could embellish it with some pictures. And not for the first time do I regret not having a camera.
The route from Udaipur to Diu is via Ahmedabad and takes you through sections of the Aravalli mountain ranges. The Aravallis are interesting in diversity of their formation and geology, and they remain a unique case study for Geologists. The highway and road sides are wonderfully littered with pieces of shining Mica and a myriad of different colour marble stones . You could stop and pick up some interesting stones on the way.
Being the monsoons the mountain rivulets and streams were flowing, the Ghatis and the hills lush green were immersed in fine mist like clouds. It made us feel like stopping the car, stepping out and walking out into the inviting meadows and hillsides. However I was a little unsure about the road conditions and wanted to reach Diu before dark. The weather forecast was heavy rain in the Saurashtra region, and it made sense to be careful whilst driving in bad weather. Especially with Parul, my travel mate (the panic queen), being the chief commentator on driving quality and so on!
Having left Udaipur around six early morning; two hours later, hungry and still a little sleep deprived we pulled into the Rajasthan tourism motel in Ratanpur at the Rajasthan-Gujarat border. There is a check post at this point and one could see the road traffic officials and their junior staff being openly handed out money by truck drivers as they drove their trucks past the lathi wielding personnel. The scenario left us with a bad taste, and yet at the same time was comical in the way corruption was on open display for all. It was so brazen and blatant that it was unnerving.
The two cups of tea, omellete and aloo paratha were fresh and good. The Ratanpur Rajasthan tourism motel is located in a most scenic location, surrounded by hills and next to a river bed. It makes for an excellent stopover for those driving from Diu to Udaipur or onwards. Ratanpur is about 110 km from Ahmedabad. They also have a very basic Bar for thirsty folks. Their six rooms, some of which are air-conditioned are okay and moderately priced.
The breakfast got us back on our feet and we sped on towards Ahmedabad. Parul, from Germany, opined that this highway section from Ratanpur border to Ahmedabad must be among the best in country. This is very true, as apart from the excellent road surface, this well aligned four lane highway runs through a sparsely populated area, which makes driving safer and less stressful.
It took us about 4 hours from Udaipur to Ahmedabad. We bypassed the big city by taking the Gandhinagar Highway which connects to NH-8B.
Though raining steadily and heavily in patches, we, after weighing options, decided to take the forest road via Tulsishyam and through the lion sanctuary. This turned out to be a good decision as the jungle was in monsoon bloom, and all water bodies and village streams full and flowing. Parul, who had been sleeping since we entered Ahmedabad environs, now woke up, looked out of the car window and said “WOW”. She spotted a Sambar, lots Chital deer, a peacock and peahen. Unfortunately she was not granted her fervent wish of spotting lions.
We reached Diu at 6:00 pm. We had driven almost non-stop for last 12 hours. After the hot shower, the cold beer felt very good and well deserved. It was good to be back in Diu.
For the car buffs: I was driving my Mahindra Xylo. It’s done about 18,000 km and until now has proven to be good value for money. It is a spacious and comfortable car and good for those like me doing long distances. Its engine delivers ample power and torque over a good RPM range, thereby making driving a pleasure. It also has a high ground clearance for bad roads. Sadly the interiors and other fittings could have been far better, and the Xylo is smitten with the usual Indian car problems of delinquent nuts and screws and rivets coming lose. It isn’t a car for high speeds as it tends to roll (also when a high speed truck speeds past you!) and steering feels over-servo at speeds over hundred kmph. Though, I could easily touch 150 kmph whilst getting a thrill overtaking everyone on the highway.
Click to view slideshow.
Covering 1883 sq. kms, the Gir forest and ecosystem in Gujarat, is commonly described as the last home of the Asiatic lion, panthera leo persica.
An area of 1421 sq. km is designated ‘Protected area’ (PA). Of this 259 sq. km is the well known Gir National park area, the Lion sanctuary area is 1153 sq. km and finally another 470 sq. km constitutes a buffer zone of protected and unclassed forest.
The Gir ecosystem is home to 32 species of mammals, around 300 species of birds, 26 species of reptiles and many thousands of insect species. The carnivores are the Asiatic lion, leopard, jungle cat, hyena, and jackal. Herbivores are Nilgai, Chital, Sambar, Antelope, Chinkara, Wild Boar and some Black buck. In reptiles apart from a large species of snakes Gir has a high population of Marsh crocodiles.
In order to reduce the burden and disturbance of tourism in the park and sanctuary area and to educate visitors on the flora and fauna; an interpretation zone has been set up at Devalia in the Gir park area. This is a small information centre and a 412 hectare of chain linked fenced area, within which it is possible to view the forest and various animals within a much shorter time and distance.
The wild life population has increased due to successful conservation programs. However the benefits of this have been largely nullified by the loss of natural habitat of the wild animals. Thus lions and leopards straying into human inhabited areas are a fairly common occurrence now. Surprisingly in 1995 a pride of lions crossed over onto the island of Diu. The forest department, with difficulty trapped them and released them back in the forest. Again in 2003 a leopard strayed into Diu and played havoc with the livestock and farmers. It took the forest rangers almost three months before they could catch and return the leopard to the Gir forest.[see photo].
It is evident that the state has fallen short whilst ensuring protection to this last abode of the Asian lion and other flora and fauna of the ecosystem. A visit to the Gir forest and surroundings sadly shows the growing conflict between Man and the Wild. Uncontrolled temple activity within the sensitive zones of the forest poses serious problems for the forest department. Human settlement growth and industries within and along the periphery of the forest; are serious threats to the wildlife and their future. Last year, for the first time a gang of poachers, allegedly from Madhya Pradesh, were caught within the Gir sanctuary. It will take a lot more political will, hard decisions; along with better quality trained, equipped and facilitated forest services to ensure the future of the lion and Gir ecosystem.
April 24th 2010, and lasting about 4 days, there is a lion census to be held at the Gir lion sanctuary. And it is hoped that the lion count crosses 400. Up from 359 recorded, in the last census, in 2005.
March 2nd, 2010. I loaded my bags in the car and started from the Resort Hoka at 5:00 early morning. It was still dark with dawn break about an hour away. I was looking to reach Udaipur, nearly 700 kms, by early evening.
As always, the initial section of my route from Diu, took me along the narrow country roads that pass the villages of Khamba and Chalala of Amreli district. The drive here is through scenic, dry deciduous country side, which is also lion country. The roads skirt the Gir Lion sanctuary and are within the protected buffer zone of the Gir eco-system. And apparently, as the animals are not informed about human set boundaries; lion and other wild animal sightings are fairly common in this area!
Having driven this route for the last 13 years, I often rued the fact that I had never seen a lion like so many others. Well that shortcoming was soon to be set right. And how!
Dawn had just broken and in its first light, about 500 metres ahead and from the left side of the road, I see a very big lion crossing the road, followed soon by two more. I couldn’t believe my luck. The lions, in the morning light looked grayish in colour, huge and powerful in their stride.
Expecting that the lions, after crossing the road, would head straight on into the adjoining fields and hills, I increased speed, moving the car to the right side of the road and hoping to reach a safe yet reasonably close distance to take a photo. I didn’t realize that I was in for an experience.
The three lions after crossing the road had abruptly turned right and started walking in a shallow nallah along the road. The sort of nallahs that is typical to most roads in India. I failed to see them heading in my direction now; this because of some large cacti and bushes, but mostly because my eyes were focused on a farther point. So as I drove up and stopped the car, making to get out and take a photograph, I was completely bewildered and stunned to find a very large sized lioness just close to and over my right shoulder. The lioness, ten or fifteen feet away swiftly turned to face me completely even as we stared into each others eyes! Was she startled, in that she did not move forward? I guess I will always wonder.
I froze, the camera dropped from my hand onto the car floor. I was still in the car and had the presence of mind to move away, without even closing the door and losing valuable moments of time. The whole encounter took barely a few seconds, and whilst there was no panic I had felt encompassed in fear.
Would the lioness have attacked, had I frozen and not moved away? The other two were females or maybe almost fully grown cubs. They looked young and very healthy. I had startled the pride with my large red car coming to a sudden halt next to them. Instead of not taking my eyes off the lions, I had been busy trying to coordinate driving and getting my camera into video mode. I should have driven up far more slowly and stopped at least 100 metres away or more.
Yes, I felt stupid. Due to my inexperience and foolhardiness, I had lost a very special opportunity to have observed the lions in the wild and in the most unexpected circumstances.
It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but during this stumble upon, I had such a fright that I actually got a severe and painful cramp in the small of my back. And for a while, my heart beat so hard that it hurt in my throat. I drove a kilometer or two before I regained my composure. I then turned and headed slowly back to the place I had seen the lionesses. However they were gone and with the increasing light and traffic I didn’t expect them to be around. Or maybe they were just closely in the bush. The truth also was that I was too scared to get out of the car or drive slowly close to the nullah. I felt as if that they had seen me from real close and now would be very suspicious if I were to appear in front of them again.
But it will be among the sharper memories of my life looking into a Lionesses eyes. I can’t forget that look. It might seem strange but there was something quite human-like in the expression!
The Carrom board at the Resort Hoka verandah lounge cum restaurant area is surprisingly popular. I think we bought it for Rs. 800, nearly 4 years ago. It was my idea to put it in the staff room, in order to cut down the time wasted watching television! However, like many ‘good intentions’ plans, this one didn’t work. And the carom board was soon in some storage corner in the hotel.
I don’t remember when, but one day the carrom board found its way to the Resort Hoka front verandah. And its usage exceeded all expectations. Any plans of installing a pool table, in the proposed Hoka Indoor games area, were shelved indefinitely now. Carrom versus pool table; that’s like football versus tennis. So I soon imagined. One football, a ground and 22 persons kicking that one ball around! That’s football? Its immensely affordable too. Far simpler and value for money.
Last monsoon the carrom board got soaked in the rain at night. We had forgotten to put it inside. I thought that it’s a goner and its time to buy a new one. But the ply surface soon dried and the board was soon back in service. Now the trajectory of the striker is a bit ‘iff-ish’ and ‘offish’. But that lends its own colour to the carrom game proceedings. With regular doses of boric powder its still hanging in there.
During times when the Resort Hoka, has families with young infants or children, there is a standard mystery of the missing striker and carom coins ever so often. Children have an amazing capacity to find things to do with carom coins and strikers. They don’t believe in or simply do not agree with these ridiculous rules that adults have invented. For example why can’t one stand on the carom board and stomp one’s feet? Now that’s a lot of fun too. And why can’t you use your feet, instead of fingers, to knock the coins into the corner pockets? And why just the corner pockets, why not right into the various nooks and corners of the hotel. And so the mystery of the missing strikers and coins is intermittently solved or remains. During such times we need to buy a box of extra strikers and coins. It’s a small price to pay for the loads of entertainment the missing strikers have obviously provided to some of the Hoka guests.
Whilst its my desire to have some more games and also a reading room and mini library at the Resort Hoka. The carom story made me once again realize that there are solutions that are simple and this simplicity in itself is the main attraction, relaxing and fun ensuring for many of us.
On way back from Mangrol to Diu, 29.01.10, Edward and I, dropped in to have a dekho, at the Gujarat tourism, ‘Holiday camp’ at Chorwad, Gujarat. What we came across was, well, to put it mildly, quite a surprise. Shock would be closer.
However this is among the many stories that form the sad state of tourism and heritage buildings in Gujarat. There is a discernable lack of knowledge and interest. But apart from this the Gujarat tourism working & structure seems to need a complete overhaul. It, presently appears defunct and not upto the required task. That much is glaringly evident from a look at almost all their hotel properties and ventures.
I have visited Chorwad, a few times, between 1987-89. It was then, considered among the more premium of places to stay and a must on the Gujarat tourism itinerary.
The photos I have posted are of the erstwhile Nawab of Junagadh’s sea-side summer palace at Chorwad. And later taken over by the Gujarat tourism to run as a holiday resort about 30 years ago.
To many people, especially those from Gujarat, or those who have visited Chorwad before, these photos would be a sort of revelation, I think, as they were to me.
It was strange, almost eerie, the ruins, wind billowing in our ears, and otherwise silence. The usual dogs on the beach and some young couples (where did they come from?!) strolling on the beach.
The beach, though sandy, is dangerous, and there are rocks under the water, making it completely dangerous and non-swimmable. There have been tragic cases of drowning over the years.
Any case, for the time being, there is nothing there and if touring Gujarat, don’t take a detour, thinking you would find a nice place to see or stop over for the night or so. The Gujarat tourism website describes it as in ruins but “as an ideal excursion from Somnath”! This, it definitely is not.
On the way out, we drove past a car, with Haryana registration plates. There was a couple in it. We wondered if they were heading for a holiday at the ‘Chorwad Holiday camp’! A long way to drive to see a derelict set of buildings.
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