The Soul of Sustainable Building
By : | July 29, 2019

Forest Hills, spread over 120 acres of pristine mountains, lakes and valleys in the village of Tala in the beautiful Raigad district of Maharashtra, celebrates sustainability amidst luxurious living. Conceived to revere the environment, Forest Hills is about getting back to where you belong – within the womb of nature and is designed using natural materials.

Do your Surya Namaskar at the Gateway of India if you please, but get a headstart to make the most to Forest Hills Tala.   As you marvel at the rising sun, the ferry to Mandwa jetty, across the islands of Mumbai, helps you leave behind the city scape and its chaos.  Barely a furlong away, you notice your lungs soaking in the clean air. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the squawking of the seagulls will take over as they circle over you and help you achieved the switched-off mode, all geared for the cruise to the resort.

For those who prefer to drive to the property, a five-lane highway under construction will cut back travel time considerably as does the Dighi Port shaping up to ease the burden on road traffic.  There is a provision for a helipad in progress.  Either way, nothing prepares you for the scale that the Tala property luxuriates in. The property is a serene getaway for those who want to snatch undiluted family time or for corporates that encourage employee bonding time.

Forest Hills allows second home aspirants a quintessential chance to experience first-hand the facilities built-in consonance with nature.  As you drive uphill, a braided grass-top roof welcomes you to its open panoramic expanse —the reception area is a humbling encounter with the magnanimity of nature. The rustic tables and benches fashioned out of wood from the property offers a glimpse of what is to come.  This is Sunset point with a bird-eye breathtaking view of the entire valley.

Eco-friendly foundation

Rustic, yet with luxurious enough for comfortable living, visionary Viresh Chhabra has put to the chalkboard the mandate of maintaining nature’s balance.  Forest Hills Tala is a reflection of this ethos, right down to the minute detailing. “Every step taken bears on fostering the eco-cycle – from shrimp farming (shrimp heads are used for making compost), or the pigs reared on organic waste and the eggs that are farmed at source from the petting zoo area, we attempt to conserve the links of the ecological cycle,” says Chhabra.

It is heartwarming to see how the retreat and second home has been built to carefully circumvent a tree growing right in the midst of a villa.  All around is the evidence that Chhabra has painstakingly sourced natural elements to max Forest Hills’ commitment to sustainable living. His passion for interior design and his exposure to global finesse is well-known, but clearly, this is a property that believes in establishing lush eco-systems.

Tree Hugger

Architecture Brio was zeroed in to design the Glass House, one of the villas, and find a way to fortify construction elements to save a tree. Every leaf that falls is intended for the composting pits that supply the vermicompost for the farming. The Retreat conscientiously embraces the Tala community, providing employment to the locals and reaching out to schools, even as it enables mutually beneficial coexistence.  Forest Hills is meant for like-minded people who are looking for a healthy lifestyle with due respect to their surroundings.

Envisioned to be an experience that isn’t confined to weekends or availability, Forest Hills is intended to be a lifestyle choice centered around meaningful coexistence, of connecting within, reflecting and being mindful of the environment at large.

Recharge at Forest Hills, Tala

The villas are located at four levels, subtly worked into the gradient of the slope of the hillock.  Creature comforts and creative designing characterise them; yet, it is the stunning views that never fail to amaze. Whether you choose the trademark tree ‘Hugger and Hopper’ (as the name suggests, it is your very own dream treehouse with well laid out amenities), the Hermitage equipped with a plunge pool, juxtaposed with its thatched roof and ornate with murals of its floral-themed moniker, or the reinvention of containers in the finest aesthetics, each unit ensures spectacular sunrise and sunset moments and a green view for the city sore eye. With nature brought to your doorstep.

You can take your pick from waking up early for walks in such a beautiful country or opt for shut-eye under the thatched roof of the Balinese villas. Or, opt for an unobtrusive view from the ultimate offering, The Glass House, a wooden and glass combine.  Its simplistic, clean design belies the intentional elements in its concept, bringing to mind a thoughtful late architect Geoffrey Bawa styling.  This is as luxuriously close to the scenic beauty of the valley as you possibly can get, with nothing between you and nature, your private getaway in exclusion with the scenic beauty.

Dwelling on your e-quotient are the Caves which have a curvaceous womblike structure. As in the Glass House, it is designed by Architecture Brio. The Caves entirely uses nature’s bounty of resources of stone, mud and laterite from the property. Likewise, experience the ultimate connect with earthy living in the Mud Hut, made entirely of biodegradable materials.

Pink Parrot

Up-cycled cargo containers have been thematically transformed into luxurious villas spaciously laid out in areas of 1500-2000sq. ft. Be it the recycled bright fabric weave used in the charpoy, in the Pink Parrot villa with a signature terrace, or the Blue Butterfly’s fascinating design elements, also rendered by Krsna Mehta, you can partake of a glorious abundance of the sun, the stars and renew your ties with nature.

At level three is the Indigo Trail, framed by greenery. Its white exterior is contrasted with the new-age scheme of Indigo, which is associated with the mind transcending to a higher plane. The elegant interiors feature artworks and a gilded chandelier among its luxurious amenities.  Alongside is The Camel Cabin, a wooden 800 sq.ft. tent house with an outdoor bathroom backed by the hill for a wall. This is close to the Valley Cafe and the Infinity Pool, yet with privacy to enjoy the idyllic surroundings.

Green all the way

The dedicated measures to eliminate plastic from the property include providing safe RO purified water in every villa; integrating organic resources such as laterite culled from the property; the use of lime plaster, made from sand, water and lime, to do away with cement in construction, and rainwater harvesting to prevent drought – Forest Hills Tala’s green imprint is evident right down to the detailing of the decor and amenities such as bamboo toothbrushes.  The holistic outlook permeates the community both in terms of their local employment policy and adoption of initiatives to support education. Forest Hills Tala sources organic with fresh produce farmed for their requirements at the property.


What is remarkable is the bathtub, located in the open behind the cabins, carved out of the laterite from the backyard, in unison with the surrounding.  The attractive decor of the Woodpecker Villa has recycled woodchips, used imaginatively to create beautiful wall panels that are a work of art. The water used in the villas is recycled for organic farming, while animal dung is used to prepare the compost – a whopping 10 tonnes at a time!


The use of natural materials such as laterite regulates the temperature in the habitat in summer, actually bringing down the temperature with measures to get the water consumption down as well.  The concern over their green footprint enhances and redefines the luxurious experience.


The sunken areas from which the laterite has been carved out is fashioned into barbecue pits.  City folks, particularly children, are offered an insight into animal husbandry.  Activities are culled to give urban folks the firsthand experience of rituals such as season-specific transplanting of rice shoots in the fields.

Since each of the facilities is spaced out, you can opt for transport or do the healthy thing: walk to the Valley Café, which is a perfect backdrop for a recharging delicious meal or a swim at the picturesque pool.  The walk is recommended before breakfast. Forest Hills also has bicycles that you can use to get around.

So much to do

For those with an unbridled sense of adventure, are the tents that provide you well-appointed amenities, with the rustic pleasure of being one with nature.  To top this experience is a short trek down the property, leading you to Kuda Caves. Forest Hills has collaborated with the department of archaeology to preserve historical sites, such as the 2100 years old Kuda Caves, which share the mountain with the retreat. The Buddhist monastery takes you back to the start of the A.D. era and is unsullied by the world that has gone by.

Horse Riding

For those with a sense of adventure, the Campground, spread over 2.5 acres of land, is at the highest point of the property.  Forest Hills has MYSA, an annual music festival in November, with over 20 hours of live and electronic music.  It brings together Indie and international music lovers over bonfires, camping, and community living and art engagements to complete a mind-blowing experience.

There is the India Forest Festival for the free-spirited biking brotherhood to reconnect with the clear skies.

Better still to just stare

Yet, the highlight of the day has to be the vibrancy of Sunset Point. At the high-tea time, you can catch the panoramic sunset sweeping the entire valley.  Nothing else matters as you stare transfixed at the golden orb casting its spell across the horizon. The Wellness Centre helps you to slow down.  Rejuvenating spa treatments and Ecotherapy helps in making the cathartic shift to wellness. The question is, “Are you saying yes to journeying goodness and turning back on merely existing?”


Joanne Pereira, based in Mumbai, India, began as a writer for over three decades ago. She brings to the table her understanding of the hospitality industry having looked after Public Relations for leading Hotels like The Leela and Oberoi Hotels Mumbai. She also carries with her an insight into corporate functioning having been the Corporate Communications Manager for Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., one of India's leading automobile conglomerates. Joanne has over the last decade been writing in the luxury lifestyle space, destinations, travel and food.