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SRI LANKA: Must-visit Luxury Hotels in the South

Sri Lanka has held a prominent place on my roster of desired destinations for quite some time. Whenever I've broached the topic in conversation, numerous individuals with whom I've engaged have been effusive in their praise of this tropical haven. Adorned with a culturally opulent tapestry, a delectable cuisine that tantalises the taste buds, a profusion of tropical flora culminating in breathtaking vistas, and naturally, the warmth and affability exhibited by the local populace, collectively render Sri Lanka a locale of immense allure.


I had the privilege of receiving an invitation from the esteemed Resplendent Ceylon group, a creation of the renowned Fernando family, who are also the producers and visionaries behind the highly acclaimed 'Dilmah Ceylon Tea'. A deeper exploration into this hotel chain reveals their meticulous selection of hotels and resorts that authentically encapsulate the essence of Sri Lanka. From the tranquil Ceylon Tea Trails nestled within the verdant tea highlands to the captivating Wild Coast Tented Lodge situated in the heart of Yala National Park, each property offers an immersive Sri Lankan encounter.


During this occasion, I had the pleasure of visiting the remarkable Wild Coast Tented Lodge, along with two of their newly introduced villa-style establishments from the Reverie Collection: Kayaam House and Ahu Bay.


Wild Coast Tented Lodge
Wild Coast Tented Lodge

1. Wild Coast Tented Lodge - Yala National Park

If there's one surefire way to begin a vacation, it's by venturing to a tranquil haven, a place far removed from the bustling pace of a city like London. A pleasant four-hour drive from Colombo Airport led to a highly rewarding outcome – the discovery of Wild Coast, a luxurious tented retreat that proudly belongs to the esteemed Relais & Châteaux alliance.




First Impressions & Setting

Wild Coast stands as the ultimate destination to evoke the spirit of a Safari adventure. The bamboo-structured domed pavilions boast a singular aesthetic, flawlessly mirroring the boulder-strewn coastline that envelops Yala National Park. Upon our arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Rohan, our gracious host, who artfully crafted a tailor-made itinerary for the duration of our stay. His aim was to ensure an immersive and enriching Wild Coast experience.


Rooms

First and foremost, I must say that I've rarely come across a room with such a uniquely captivating design. The Cocoon suites have been thoughtfully crafted to transport you into the heart of an expedition. These suites are adorned with vintage-style furnishings that genuinely give you the feeling of embarking on an adventure. The use of rich burgundy leathers, an array of wildlife books, high canvas ceilings, and the warm glow of copper-toned metals all work together to create an experience that's truly exceptional.


Experiences

Among the myriad of remarkable activities, we were treated to an exceptional Game Drive and a Nature Safari walk, thoughtfully guided by the expertise of Suranga, our seasoned ranger. His extensive insights into Sri Lanka's wildlife added an unparalleled dimension to our journey.


Furthermore, we were privileged to partake in an outdoor cooking class, a delightful opportunity to craft traditional dishes infused with locally sourced spices. Amidst the trip's highlights, one moment truly shone: an unexpected afternoon tea amidst our Safari drive. Encircled by the lush vegetation, this was an afternoon tea experience that transcended all others, etching an indelible memory in our hearts.


Kayaam House
Kayaam House

2. Kayaam House - Tangalle

In today's world of abundant accommodation choices, deciding between the secluded privacy of a villa and the lavish indulgence of a luxury hotel can be a challenging task. Enter Resplendent Ceylon's Kayaam House, a jewel in their prestigious Reverie collection. This thoughtfully curated selection aims to provide guests with an experience that seamlessly blends the intimate seclusion of a villa stay with the impeccable service associated with a 5-star hotel.



First Impressions & Setting

Nestled gracefully along the shores of Tangalle Bay on the Southern Coast of Rekawa, stands an exquisite ivory abode - a haven discreetly ensconced, shielded from the well-trodden path and embraced by swaying palm fronds. Inside, a fusion of Jaffna's time-honoured architecture and tastefully arranged Dutch antiquities. The place exudes an airy luminosity, its lofty ceilings commanding attention, while Koi ponds and strokes of oceanic blue artistry infuse dashes of vibrant hues.


Kayaam House was conceived to encapsulate the essence of a personal sanctum - a haven of tranquillity. Its ambience, serene yet snug, mirrors the ethos of our gracious host, Dasun. He artfully cultivated an environment that implored us to treat this space as our own, extending his warm and hospitable aura from dawn to dusk. His attentive inquiries about our day's ventures fostered a sense of belonging, enveloping us in an atmosphere that felt as comforting as it was inviting.


Rooms

It's worth noting that this retreat comprises just 9 rooms. These rooms, in keeping with the residence's theme, embrace a harmonious blend of minimalism and botanical influences. Our personal haven was the Palm Suite – a serene space where we could luxuriate with a drink on the private balcony's Jacuzzi. The suite is fully equipped with modern amenities and boasts ample natural light that fills the room with a welcoming glow.


Experiences

In short, the experience here depends on how you shape it. During our time at Kayaam House, we used it as a space to recharge. With Dasun's assistance in organising excursions alongside the excellent dedicated driver Sudesh, our days were filled with explorations. When we returned to the house, we unwound by the pool with a book, enjoying chilled coconut water or soothing tea.


Due to the more intimate dimensions of the space, we found it easier to acquaint ourselves with the Kayaam House staff. It was as if we were embraced as part of a larger family, and we took pleasure in engaging in conversations with them. The most remarkable aspect was the consistently present and accommodating joyousness of their hospitality.


And my personal highlight? No traditional food menu. Yes, you read that correctly. At Kayaam House, the chef outlines his intended offerings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. While we thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with his recommendations, guests also retain the option to tailor their meals entirely according to their preferences. Not in the mood for lamb chops and craving a quesadilla instead? Consider it done. We were truly grateful for the chance to converse with Chef Namal following every meal. (By the way, he crafted some of the most exquisite dishes that wonderfully fulfilled our appetites.)


Top Tip: I'd highly recommend to book a sunrise kayak session. We went with Kayak Journey Rekawa which was just 10 minutes drive. The excursion included a kayak around the mangroves and a trip to turtle beach.

Ahu Bay
Ahu Bay

3. Ahu Bay - Ahungalla

Continuing in the vein of the esteemed Reverie collection, the enchanting echoes of Kayaam House extend to embrace Ahu Bay. Merely 40 kilometres to the north of Galle and a breezy sub-2-hour drive from Colombo Airport, awaits a tranquil beachside retreat nestled right on the shoreline – an idyllic haven of relaxation.


First Impressions & Setting


The moment we set foot within the premises, our gracious host, Nilanga, extended a warm welcome. Ascending the pristine white steps, one can't help but take in the ethereal architecture that strikes a balance between grounded authenticity and contemporary elegance. The wooden floorboards, coupled with the glossy blue tiles adorned with turtle motifs, compose a visual narrative that emulates the harmonious interplay of sand and sea. Your gaze is swiftly captivated by a panoramic expanse, spanning 180 degrees, revealing the ocean in all its shimmering glory. Waves gracefully meet the steadfast boulders, while swaying palm trees provide an artful frame to this captivating tableau.


The spectacle unfolds even further as you venture to their infinity pool – a vantage point of unobstructed splendour. Here, inviting white bean bags beckon, encouraging you to recline and watch the sunset, with a cocktail in hand.


Rooms

We stayed at the Bayview Pool Suite, designed with families in mind. This suite features a distinct children's room adorned with cosy bunk beds, a partially outdoor courtyard, a living room, a master bedroom complete with an ensuite bathroom, and a private plunge pool. Enhanced by direct beach access, you're afforded the delightful choice of unwinding by your personal pool or immersing yourself in the embrace of the ocean's waters.


Experiences

During our stay at Ahu Bay, which marked the closing chapter of our Sri Lankan journey, our days were primarily spent basking in the lush tropical vistas – a refreshing contrast to the rather dreary weather we left behind at home. Amid these tranquil moments, Nilanga, our gracious host, thoughtfully arranged spa sessions for my partner and me, culminating in an exceptional massage experience. Opting for the classic deep tissue massage, I relished the invigorating stretches and purposeful pressure that expertly released accumulated tension.


Since we travelled in the 'low season,' when hotels were less crowded, we were pleasantly surprised by the team arranging a private sunset dinner on our first night. The table was beautifully decorated with flowers and candles, and we enjoyed a delicious 5-course meal as the sun went down.


For dining, I enthusiastically recommend trying their mouth-watering Ahu Bay signature dishes, thoughtfully curated to showcase the vibrant palette of Sri Lankan flavours. It's worth mentioning that the portions are notably generous, and the culinary offerings are truly delectable.



Book your next stay with Resplendent Ceylon - Sri Lanka by visiting:

This stay was gently offered by the Resplendent Ceylon group. All views and opinions here are as usual my own.

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