Villa on View.
Your weekly up-close view of those wow factor extras that make our villas outstanding. After all, attention to detail always makes a difference.
When holidaying on the south coast, don’t miss the chance to visit at least one of the protected wetlands or other animal habitats. Day trips are fun for the whole family and easy to arrange ahead. Road trips around the country require a bit more planning. Why not start now? Here are a few of the most popular animal attractions in Sri Lanka.
Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary
Established in 1938, this is one of the oldest protected wildlife parks in Sri Lanka and is celebrated as one of the best eco-birdwatching destinations in the entire world.
THINGS TO DO Birdwatching, photography, kid-friendly rock climbing, early morning or afternoon paddle boat cruise
WILDLIFE Over 150 bird species including Indian Reef Heron, Sri Lankan black-capped purple Kingfisher, Glossy Ibis, Jungle Fowl, Black Bittern, Slatybreasted Crake, Watercock, 20 mammal species, 40 types of fish, 40 exotic reptiles
BEST TIME TO VISIT Kalametiya is home to several local bird species, and more migrant birds come to roost and nest each year between November and March
LOCATION 20 km from Tangalle city, the sanctuary is near the village of Hungama on the south coast of Sri Lanka
GETTING THERE Via train or private transportation, the exit for the sanctuary is clearly marked on the A2 near the 214 and 218 km posts
Minneriya National Park
The site of The Gathering, a world-famous elephant spectacle, Minneriya is a protected 8,890-hectare reserve within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle. Critical to the biodiversity in this habitat are its natural wetlands, water tanks and irrigation systems.
THINGS TO DO Jeep tours; Wildlife photography
WILDLIFE Approximately 200 wild (Asian) elephants, various migratory and aquatic bird species, wetland mammals
BEST TIME TO VISIT The dry season, usually late August to October is when groups of elephants congregate here
LOCATION Less than 10 km from Habarana on the Colombo Polonnaruwa road
GETTING THERE Entrance requires a permit from the Ambagaswewa wild life conservation office, so guided tours are the way to go
Bundala National Park
Made up of brackish lagoons,
Along Sri Lanka’s beautiful southern coastline, famed for its underwater marine life and wetland reserves, what surfers most admire at Sri Lanka’s family beaches are the world-class waves. No surfer can resist palm fringed shores and the opportunity to surf in calm blue waters with sea turtles. Read on for my insider tips about surfing in southern Sri Lanka, whether it’s for a dedicated surf trip or just a day trip from Galle.
I flew into Colombo, jumped straight into a taxi with my board and zero prior knowledge about the paradise that awaited me. I did what any surfer would: I headed south to the sea! Okay, I wasn’t quite that aimless. Luckily, a dear friend was there to meet me and show me the ropes. My expectations of this surfers’ paradise were blown out of the water, exceeded dramatically.
Take Me To Paradise
Let’s start with the village of Midigama, where nights are spent dreaming of the next wave. This surfer Heaven is outside of Weligama Bay, just 40 minutes from Galle by car or taxi, or the more local options, a bus or tuk-tuk. If you’re planning on bringing your own surfboard to Sri Lanka the options are slightly more limited as they’re not allowed on the buses. But most tuk-tuk’s have a roof rack and proper straps and will usually be a cheaper (and more exciting) ride than a taxi.
You’ll pass by many small villages, each with their own hidden surf gems, but Midigama has the magic. In less than two kilometers you can find five breaks that cater to surfers from beginner to advanced. Whether you want to grab a longboard and surf a ‘mellow’ right over deep soft reef or are a bit more experienced and want to get barrelled at Ram’s – it’s all within walking distance.
Midigama Surfing Spots
Lazy Right at Midigama Beach is exactly what it sounds like – probably the most mellow, soft, right hand wave in the South Coast area. This break can pick up some bigger swell that makes it fun for more advanced surfers, too. On average it’s the safest reef break you’ll find in South Sri Lanka, great for beginner and intermediate surfers to improve confidence and surfing skills.
Lazy Left is a bit more challenging as it’s shallower near the take off and a bit quicker but also can hang outside to catch the few fun ones that get missed.
The first time I visited Sri Lanka there was a war on. Twenty-plus years, 40-plus visits and a beach house later, how things have changed! In 1997, tourists were restricted to the southwest corner of the island – from Bentota through Galle round to Yala National Park. Now the whole of this aptly named “island of serendipity”, is open for business, and what a delight it is to explore.
“Journeys are long although the distances are short,” was the mantra of my loyal driver, Lucky, back then. And he wasn’t wrong.
To get to Colombo from the UNESCO-listed Fort at Galle (only 125km) you had to endure a 4 to 5-hour journey of hair-raising overtaking along an inadequate coast road. Traffic would grind to a halt on the approaches to Colombo, and crossing the capital to reach the airport was a war of attrition.
Now, a sparkling dual carriageway whisks you from the airport to downtown Colombo in 30 minutes and Galle can be reached in just over the hour. The delightful south-coast bays of Weligama, Dikwella, Matara and Mirissa (of whale-watching fame) are in easy reach. The Cultural Triangle, with its ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, and the historic centres of Dambulla and Sigiriya, are also much more accessible.
The hill stations of Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Horton Plains are still not easy to reach by road, although the train is a popular, more relaxing alternative. But once there, the stunning tea plantations and panoramic trekking country make for a magical setting. Sit back in a planter’s chair, sip a G&T and enjoy the colonial splendour.
Pasikudah, Trincomalee and the Jaffna Peninsula were pretty much off limits to all but the brave and/or foolhardy until 2009, so visiting the stunning beaches of the east coast was nearly impossible. Gravel tracks, frequent check points, mine sappers and curfews made travel long and arduous – our worst east-to-west-coast road trip took staggering 17 hours at the height of the conflict. Today, seeing 300 wild elephants watering at dusk in Minneriya National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list, as should the spice gardens around Kandy and the crystal clear waters of Nilaveli Beach running up to Pigeon Island.
Wilupattu National Park was closed during the war to prevent Tamil insurgents reaching Colombo and Bandaranaike International Airport.
Our island destinations boast a diverse and thriving restaurant, bar and beach club scene with a multitude of options for wining, dining and drinking in that tropical vibe – from a day bed! With so many new and exciting venues appearing almost weekly, it can be challenging for holidaymakers to choose where to go and when to book. Let your Elite Havens Concierge do the leg work for you. In addition to offering suggestions like where to hit the dance floor, special spots for romantic dinners or even somewhere to sip cocktails as the sun sets, we can secure restaurant reservations, book tickets to premier events and guarantee gold star treatment at some of the island’s most exclusive venues. Just let us know the time, place and number of guests and we’ll handle the rest.
Baba Beach Club – Natai Beach
Baba Beach Club is set on Natai Beach with 200 metres of blissful beach frontage. The decor draws inspiration from the iconic Sino-Portuguese architecture of Phuket Old Town, combined with the vivid colour palette of Shanghai Tang to create an innovative “Sino Portuguese Tang” vibe. Baba Beach Club has a huge pool with a swim-up bar and although the club is part of a villa resort it is open to everyone.
Top Tip: The quality of the sound system and the local and international DJ’s make this a go to venue for music lovers.
Café Del Mar – Kamala beach
When it comes to destination weddings, it doesn’t get much dreamier than Bali. Where else delivers a marriage of stunning setting, exotic décor, highly experienced event planners and spectacular destination-in-themselves villas? And all this without shattering the piggy bank?
As you relax into your vacation and settle into the laid-back island vibe, you’re subject to some special Bali magic. If you or a family member are celebrating an engagement, or are in the early stages of planning a wedding, it’s only natural to daydream of saying “I do” here on the Island of the Gods.
Just imagine –exchange vows on a cliff-top looking over the shimmering sea, with the sound of the surf crashing below. Declare your love on the beach, sand between your toes, as waves lap the shore and the setting sun flames the sky. Or seek the seclusion of a rural oasis and celebrate your union on the rim of a mountain ravine, surrounded by rice terraces.
Imagine the details – delicately woven palm-frond decorations and penjor flags framing the ceremonial space; three-tiered temple parasols and tropical blooms; flaming bamboo torches and candles amidst a garden of colossal foliage; the hypnotic sound of Gamelan music; a lattice of party lights strung like pearls illuminating the darkening sky. And within that enchanting setting, imagine a paparazzi whirl of cameras recording those first moments together as husband and wife.
Visualising the romance of the occasion comes easy in this culturally rich landscape. After all, since Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall tied their knot in Bali nearly three decades ago, many celebrities have followed suit. But what about the practicalities of a destination wedding, perhaps the other side of the world from your home?
The good news is that you get more bang for your buck in Bali; so you can save if you want or splurge. Happily, this applies whether you wish to stage a low-key wedding for close friends, or the most elaborate bells-and-whistles event for hundreds. If that’s not reason enough, think about the venue – perhaps a bride’s most important decision, after the dress of course. Here Bali comes up trumps, with a stellar cast of destination villa venues in jaw-dropping settings and an insane choice of accommodation for wedding guests.