When one hears the words ‘Wild Coast,” one conjures up visions of a desolate landscape where the beaches are dotted with the skeletal remains of boats and the wind howls mercilessly.
That vision is not only misplaced, but it couldn’t be further from reality as I discovered recently on a trip to the southern shores of Sri Lanka to visit Resplendent Ceylon’s latest addition to its portfolio, The Wild Coast Tented Lodge.
To say this is luxury living in the wild doesn’t do it justice.
This is sophisticated living in one of the most innovative, prestige resorts I have ever had the privilege of visiting.
I have to admit I gasped when the ‘phone rang and a very good friend invited me to accompany him for a weekend break. I couldn’t refuse as I had heard on the grapevine that something special was being created near the village of Kirinda on the Southern coast.
The prospect of a 4.5 hour drive from Colombo appeared daunting, but the Southern Expressway got us halfway there in just 90 minutes. The remaining 3 hours were spent meandering slowly along the coast road until we branched off at Kirinda and drove through unspoiled country towards our destination.
To be honest, you wouldn’t know you’d arrived as the eco-impact of the Tented Lodge is minimal. It’s not until you see the tops of the lodges glistening in the sunlight that you know you are there.
And the effect is stunning.
Rising like large boulders out of the forest, the resort has been meticulously planned to resemble a series of leopards paw prints (For which Yala is justifiably famous) whilst the 28 Lodges are generously spread so there is little danger of encroaching on others privacy.
Although there’s a range of 3 different types of Lodges designed either for dual or family occupancy, we were fortunate to be housed in a Cocoon Suite with the luxury of a King sized four poster bed.
The first thing that impressed me was the lightness of the accommodation. Not having been camping before (although one can’t strictly call this camping!), I was unprepared for the sheer scale of the room – nor the abundant facilities. I’m informed its 54 sq. metres but I just knew that it was VERY large.
And with all the usual facilities too including hot and cold water and a wonderful ceiling fan.
The majority of the furniture is handcrafted from bamboo and leather which adds to the total eco-feel of the room and resort.
So, here we were, ensconced in this amazing Cocoon with nothing but bird sounds and the thud of the ocean to remind us where we were.
I was reminded of those sepia photographs of the Victorians on their excursions into the wilderness. Vast tents, camp chairs, silver tea sets, outdoor showers and a half a ton of luggage.
Thankfully, there’s sufficient space to store the luggage, the camp chairs are there and it might not be a silver tea set but it’s definitely some of the best tea in the world served on the outdoor deck.
As I had no intention of staying in the Cocoon as I’m the explorer type (it shows), I decided to have a look around this unique resort.
It’s situated on the coast and I do mean ON the coast. There’s no long journey to the beach, 100 Metres at most.
From our Cocoon it was but a short walk to the main restaurant, bar and pool area which overlooks the ocean and then, there it was. The beach.
Remember those beaches you used to explore as a child? Full of rock pools housing small crustaceans, shiny stones and shells?
This is the place to relive your childhood because as well as the soft, clean sand there’ a myriad of pools and rocks to explore. There’s nothing quite like knowing that you’re alone on the beach is there? No crowds, no dogs no blaring music. Just you, the world and your thoughts.
And the beach seems to go on for at least 1km or more towards the East. Plenty of space to work up an appetite for lunch!
It’s strange but standing on the beach and looking out to sea you suddenly realise there’s nothing between you and Antarctica. Just empty ocean, whales and the odd Albatross. That’s relaxation for you.
Once you’ve cleared the low lying sand dunes the beach is flat and there are stretches where you can lie in the warm Indian Ocean without fear of being swamped by a wave. Sheer bliss.
Whilst the sunscreen is an absolute necessity, the thought of returning to your Cocoon with patches of sand stuck to your legs and back is too irresistible temptation to miss. I’m afraid I gave in to temptation.
And whilst we’re on the subject of temptation, the next stop was the bar and restaurant.
The Bamboo Pavilion.
Actually, its two pavilions carefully joined together and built around the natural landscape so you’ll find pretty sizable boulders next to your table!
The bar area was THE place though.
It’s almost on the beach; in fact, there are tables and chairs outside where you can sit to enjoy the cool breeze as well as marvel at the unbelievable night sky, unencumbered as it is by light pollution. But more of that later.
The bar stocks every conceivable beverage you can imagine and then some. I was in the mood for something refreshing so chose a “mint cooler” consisting of aerated spring water, a touch of natural tonic water, mint essence and a surfeit of ice.
Accompanying it was a delightful tray of snacks. Small pastry tartlets (my best description, I’m afraid) filled with mouth-watering delicacies including creamed tuna and watercress, chili chicken and my personal favourite, crab with mayonnaise.
And no, this wasn’t the afternoon tea. This was the post-lunch-pre-afternoon-tea snack. Just to keep one going.
I know the resort is on the coast; I know the coast is pretty wild but the experience inside the resort was anything but.
Refined elegance with gracious service.
And that was only in the first hour!
I still had the game drive, the bird watching, dinner (and breakfast)the pool and, most exciting of all, the prospect of the evening arrival of local ‘guests’ at the watering hole outside our Cocoon to anticipate.
As the sun reached higher into the sky I was left with the feeling that the grand hotels I have stayed in in the past are but poor reproductions of this natural experience. In such a hectic world we all crave places to re-energise ourselves.
There can’t be a better place to do just that.