Six Sri Lankan Retreats Focus on Sustainability and Community
June 19, 2023
Main photo courtesy Gal Oya Lodge
Riley’s Beth Hoke reports back from a recent exploration of six unique Sri Lankan resorts making headway with their innovative sustainability programs.
Experience resilient, resplendent Sri Lanka with a stay at these luxury properties that redefine the concept of responsible tourism. Part of The Pearl Portfolio, these six retreats offer unique experiences to discerning travelers that showcase their commitment to environmental stewardship and community empowerment.
For the properties in this prestigious collective, sustainability is not just a marketing ploy to attract eco-conscious guests; it is a genuine ethos ingrained in every aspect of their operations. From sourcing locally grown produce to providing employment opportunities and supporting local schools, these independently owned businesses actively contribute to the well-being and prosperity of the communities around them.
The retreats invite you to celebrate Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage by immersing yourself in its vibrant traditions, savoring farm-to-table cuisine, and engaging with the local community through authentic interactions that create lasting memories.
Sri Lankan Retreats Offer Eco-friendly Options
Rosyth Estate House, Kegalle
Nestled among the foothills of Kegalle lies , a 64-acre private retreat that is the passion project of London-based Farzana and Neil Dobbs. Since 1978, Rosyth has been in Farzana’s family and the restoration of the estate showcases her impeccable sense of style.
Each of the property’s ten rooms and suites is uniquely designed to be a soothing sanctuary. The interiors feature natural elements and neutral tones that complement the curated prints and objets d’art. Contemporary exteriors infused with colonial charm pay tribute to the property’s past while modern amenities make the present perfect.
Guests can choose from classic and deluxe accommodations with nature-inspired names. Mango and Clove are classic rooms that are part of the main house. Cardamom and Palm are also in the main house and form a family-sized suite with a shared bathroom.
Cinnamon is an extension to the main house with a separate entrance and its own small terrace, making it a deluxe room that offers additional privacy. The other two deluxe rooms, Coconut and Lime, are part of a duplex located near the garden terrace. The rooms are connected via an internal staircase and can be booked together or as individual units.
The Tea and Pepper Suites are also in a separate multi-level building. Each suite can be booked on its own or as part of the combined Plantation Suite. A separate bedroom and sitting area set the suites apart from the classic and deluxe rooms. The accommodations also include outdoor living spaces, upgraded amenities, and sweeping views of the lush landscape that surrounds the property.
The pièce de résistance is the Rock Villa which sits on a magnificent outcropping of rock overlooking a verdant valley. Its two spacious, interconnected suites, Banyan and Rock, can be booked separately or together. Guests of the villa are granted exclusive access to the Sky Terrace for sunbathing by day or stargazing by night.
Banyan is a junior suite with a private entrance. Wall-to-wall windows across the back of the bedroom open up to a raised terrace where you can enjoy a complimentary cup of tea or coffee while you watch monkeys scamper across the rock below or swing through the trees just off the clearing.
The Rock Suite, larger of the two suites in the villa, has a living room and kitchenette that can be shared by the occupants of the Banyan Suite when the units are booked together. The panoramic windows in both the living room and bedroom open up to a terrace that runs the length of the one-bedroom suite. Lounge chairs sit on the side of an infinity pool that juts out over the rock for an uninterrupted view of the valley. Other unique features of the Rock Suite include a mezzanine level with a dedicated workspace, a freestanding soaking tub, and an outdoor shower in a private courtyard.
For those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation, Rosyth Estate House offers a range of wellness activities. Borrow a bike to explore the area, take a guided nature walk on the estate grounds, unwind with a complimentary yoga session, take a dip in the pool, or indulge in a spa treatment using organic ingredients.
Culinary connoisseurs will appreciate the traditional Sri Lankan dishes made from fresh ingredients grown right on the property or sourced from local producers. Guests who wish to recreate the dishes can schedule a traditional cooking class with the estate’s chef and take home a cookbook filled with recipes for a range of soups, sambals, and curries.
Afternoon tea at the estate is especially meaningful after an informative tour of the newly built tea factory, where hand-plucked leaves are processed onsite. Try your hand at plucking, rolling, and drying the leaves yourself followed by an artisanal tea tasting.
The Rosyth Estate stands out not only for its luxurious accommodations and personalized service but also for its steadfast commitment to sustainability. At the core of this commitment are a set of nine principles that guide the actions and activities of the hospitality team. These principles encompass a range of practices, from adhering to local preservation policies to promoting responsible consumption among guests.
Beyond its eco-conscious endeavors, the Rosyth Estate values community connections. The estate actively supports the community by providing meals for a nearby school, offering employment opportunities, and participating in profit-sharing initiatives.
With its commitment to environmental stewardship, community engagement, and curated experiences, this retreat offers an unparalleled opportunity for the conscientious traveler seeking both authenticity and indulgence. A stay at Rosyth Estate House is not just a getaway; it’s a meaningful journey that fosters a connection with nature, local communities, and oneself.
To learn more about Rosyth Estate House, visit www.rosyth.lk.
Gal Oya Lodge, Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya Lodge is an eco-friendly retreat located on the grounds of Gal Oya National Park in southeastern Sri Lanka. The founders’ backgrounds in architecture, hospitality, and wildlife tourism contributed to the creation of this unique property with a focus on conservation, customer service, and community engagement.
Guests are greeted with a cold drink and a warm smile before being led along one of the paths that stretch away from the main building toward nine bespoke bungalows or the spacious family villa. Tucked into clearings along the jungle’s edge, the buildings blend seamlessly into their surroundings.
Conventional concepts of interior and exterior space have been reinterpreted to create accommodations that bring guests closer to nature. Each thatched-roof bungalow has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out into private verandas. Surrounded by a canopy of trees, the verandas give guests a front-row seat to the ever-changing show of birds, reptiles, and mammals that make the park their home.
Inside the bungalows, bedrooms with king-sized, four-poster beds are connected to spacious living rooms and al fresco bathrooms. The villa’s two bedrooms are also connected by a central living room and each bedroom has its own terrace with tree-top views.
A large open-air community space features comfortable seating, a well-stocked, semi-circular bar on the lower level, and a dining room on the upper level. Just steps away, lounge chairs beckon invitingly from their place by the pool.
The lodge offers a wide range of seasonal activities. Watch elephants bathe on the water’s edge on a boat safari at Gal Oya Lake, join the knowledgeable resident naturalist on a nature walk, take a Jeep ride into a remote section of the park, meet members of the local Vedda tribe, bike to a local temple, take a cooking class, or trek to the top of Monkey Mountain.
A special feature of this unique property is the Jim Edwards Wildlife Research Centre. Funded by the International Trust for Nature Conservation, the center uses remote cameras to support ongoing wildlife land use and population studies. Guests are invited to visit the center with the resident naturalist or general manager to learn more about the rich biodiversity of the area or join the researchers in setting up and checking the cameras.
Gal Oya’s commitment to the environment extends far beyond basic conservation practices. In addition to participating in collaborative research, the lodge actively engages in reforestation efforts, prioritizes local suppliers for products and materials, promotes the cultural heritage of the local indigenous community, and provides a protected habitat for the park’s wildlife population. Their unwavering dedication to sustainability fosters the long-term viability of tourism in the region while enriching the lives of their guests and the local community.
To learn more about Gal Oya Lodge, visit www.galoyalodge.com.
Stafford Bungalow, Ragala
Located on a working tea plantation in the picturesque hill country of Sri Lanka, Stafford Bungalow is an historic property that has been beautifully restored by the current owners, who have maintained its colonial feel while incorporating modern-day conveniences.
The original building includes a traditional living room and library, the Master Suite, the Family Suite, and two deluxe rooms. Each of the rooms and suites opens out onto a private terrace. The recently built Owner’s Cottage has two premium rooms connected by a sitting room and expansive outdoor space. The en-suite bathrooms are supplied with an enviable range of amenities from magnifying mirrors to rainfall shower heads.
In addition to the accommodations, guests will enjoy the contemporary dining room, a hot tub and infinity pool with its own pavilion, and a detached game room with satellite television, bar, and fireplace.
Stone pathways lead from the gated entrance along manicured lawns edged by colorful flower beds. Breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening drinks are served on the lawn under the shade of umbrellas overlooking the lower slopes of the estate.
The estate’s private chef creates Michelin-quality menus using fresh ingredients from the on-site organic garden and local suppliers. The menus feature a fusion of flavors and can be modified to accommodate guests’ dietary preferences and restrictions. A curated soundtrack pays softly in the background during meals while attentive servers bring out dish after dish infused with the rich aromas and flavors of contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine.
Guests are invited to explore the area by bike or on foot. The property has well-maintained bikes suited to the hill country terrain. For those who would rather explore on foot, there are well-defined trails through the tea plantation or a guided tour led by the Tea Superintendent can be arranged.
Strike up a friendly game of croquet or practice your putting on an immaculately groomed lawn surrounded by towering hedges. Or book one of the “Explorer” itineraries with pre-planned activities selected to showcase the rich heritage and natural wonders of Sri Lanka. A particularly meaningful activity is a visit to a local school for which Stafford Bungalow has provided material and financial support to give students access to the latest technology.
Their support for the local community is just one of the many things that makes Stafford Bungalow an inspiring model for how a luxury retreat can be a catalyst for positive change. The estate is dedicated to uplifting the local economy and empowering local villages through various initiatives. By sourcing supplies locally and employing a majority of its staff from the surrounding area, Stafford Bungalow ensures that its success is shared with its Hill Country neighbors.
Sustainability is also a core focus at Stafford Bungalow. They have eliminated single-use plastic, engage in recycling and composting, encourage water conservation, and manage their energy consumption. They’ve even spearheaded a tree replanting program to reverse damage caused by deforestation.
Stafford Bungalow’s commitment to sustainability and community engagement sets a high standard for the hospitality industry. This is truly a must-visit destination for conscientious travelers seeking an unforgettable experience rooted in sustainability and community connection.
To learn more about Stafford Bungalow, visit www.staffordbungalow.com.
Sri Sharavi Beach Villas & Spa, Kamburugamuwa
When guests arrive through the gates of Sri Sharavi Beach Villas & Spa, it becomes immediately clear that they are entering a haven of refinement and relaxation. Sri Sharavi sets the tone for the impeccable service that awaits guests throughout their stay with a welcome drink and a cold cloth.
Accommodations include two standard double rooms in the spa building attached to the reception area and four exquisite villas, each with a double room, two suites, and a lounge. The lounge is perfect for friends and families who book the entire villa and want a communal space to enjoy time together, or for singles and couples who book only one of the rooms or suites and enjoy meeting new people during their travels. Each lounge has a sitting area, kitchenette, dining space, and outdoor terrace. The terraces are covered by the balconies of the ocean-facing Signature Suites and are cooled with overhead fans, providing a welcome respite from the heat.
Drawing inspiration from the precious stones for which they are named (Topaz, Peridot, Aquamarine, and Amethyst) the villas are decorated in distinct color schemes. The soft furnishings, artwork, coffee mugs, bathroom sinks, and even the water carafes bring jeweled tones into the rooms and common areas.
Just beyond the verandahs, a saltwater infinity pool stretches along the length of all four villas. Lounge chairs on the pool deck hold rolled beach towels garnished with fresh flowers, while umbrellas shade guests from the rays of the South Coast sun.
Guests can choose from an à la carte menu of international cuisine served at the Beach Hut restaurant or at their choice of indoor or outdoor dining spaces. For an after-dinner drink, order a specialty cocktail to sip by the pool, or select a bottle of wine to savor in the retreat’s remarkable wine cellar. Wine enthusiasts will be delighted by the variety and quality of this impressive 400-bottle collection.
While Sri Sharavi’s beachfront location is ideal for relaxing on the beach, the hotel also offers an array of options for guests who want to do more than sunbathe. Book a cooking class or spa treatment, relax with a beachside yoga class led by a certified instructor, ride one of the complimentary bicycles along a GPS-guided route, learn to surf, explore the colorful marine life while snorkeling or diving, go on a fishing trip or nature safari, visit the local turtle hatchery, or go whale watching on a shared or private boat. Sri
Sharavi also invites guests to immerse themselves in the rich culture and spirituality of the community with visits to nearby temples and participation in local customs.
This connection to the community extends to hiring local staff, supporting local businesses, and serving locally sourced food to their guests. Equally impressive is their commitment to sustainability, which can be seen in even the smallest details, including the use of organic toiletries, metal straws, and energy-saving appliances.
Guests are encouraged to reuse their towels and turn off the lights and air conditioning when not needed. On a larger scale, the resort runs on solar energy during the day, harnessing the power of the sun and only transitioning to non-renewable power sources in the evening.
Without these commitments, Sri Sharavi would just be one luxury hotel among many. Instead, they are a shining example of how stewardship doesn’t have to mean sacrifice. Guests will have a memorable stay at this inspiring retreat not in spite of, but because of, the retreat’s dedication to the community and the environment.
To learn more about Sri Sharavi, visit www.srisharavibeachvillas.com.
Kalukanda House, Weligama
Dee Gibson, the founder of Kalukanda House, is a big believer in conscious travel. Her personal ethos permeates every aspect of a stay at this luxury oasis, where guests are treated to experiences that nourish the heart, mind, and soul.
The villa can only be booked for exclusive use, so your privacy is guaranteed once the gates close behind you. Four en-suite bedrooms open to face the soaring ceiling of the spacious living room and attached veranda for outdoor dining. Each of the spaces features architectural and design details that commemorate the history of the property and celebrate the owner’s Sri Lankan heritage.
A stone path leads from the front terrace with its colonial colonnades around the pool and across the lawn to a multi-purpose pavilion. The pavilion is surrounded by lush vegetation that creates a hushed canopy, making it the perfect place for practicing yoga or sitting in quiet contemplation. Just beyond the pavilion is a sacred space dominated by an imposing rock face. This small sanctuary envelops you in nature as monkeys swing overhead and monitor lizards meander among the ferns.
If you’d like to sit outside but prefer not to sit by the pool, there is a small open-air patio past the corner of the house where lounge chairs are set up for sunbathing.
Kalukanda House is well-suited for retreats. The privacy, thoughtfully designed spaces and calming energy welcome guests who want to de-stress and deepen their self-awareness. All the planning is done for you when you book one of their curated retreats where physical, mental, and spiritual well-being sessions are guided by caring and experienced practitioners.
If you’ve come to Kalukanda House for a more traditional vacation, you’ll appreciate its proximity to the world-renowned beaches of Weligama where you can learn to surf, dive among the coral reefs, or go dolphin and whale watching. To learn more about Sri Lankan culture, the staff can arrange a demonstration from a local dance troupe, a visit to a nearby temple, or a trip to the historical Galle Fort.
It is the intention of the host that a stay at Kalukanda House will not only have a positive impact on its guests but also on the local community and the greater Sri Lankan community. To this end, she supports the mission of Their Future Today in partnership with the Kind Traveler program. Their Future Today is a grassroots organization dedicated to transforming the lives of Sri Lankan children by working to reduce poverty and end institutionalization.
Sustainability is also a priority at Kalukanda House. Farm-to-table meals are made to order in the ground-floor kitchen with ingredients sourced from local farmers and fishermen, and guests are encouraged to engage in reduce and reuse practices.
Kalukanda House exemplifies the potential for travel to create positive change by promoting sustainability, making cultural connections between guests and the community, and supporting charitable programs. By embracing the essence of conscious travel, Kalukanda House paves the way for more compassionate and sustainable tourism.
To learn more about Kalukanda House, visit www.kalukandahouse.com .
Sri Villas, Maha Induruwa
Sri Villas is a privately-owned beachfront property with uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. The beach, dotted with scenic overlooks, hidden caves, and the occasional turtle conservation center, stretches out for miles along the main thoroughfare between Colombo and Galle.
There are three villas on the property with a combination of rooms and suites to accommodate parties of any size, from solo travelers to large groups of friends and family. The villas are spacious and well-designed. The attention to detail is evident throughout, with colorful artwork, solid craftsmanship, and a harmonious blend of traditional and modern elements.
Indoor and outdoor dining spaces can be customized for romantic dinners for two or shared meals for your entire party. Communal living areas provide space for larger gatherings while sitting areas on private balconies and verandas allow for quiet moments and smaller get-togethers. The infinity pool that runs parallel to the ocean-facing side of the villas is also a popular outdoor gathering space for guests.
Skilled chefs share their love for Sri Lankan cuisine and international favorites by preparing mouthwatering meals with locally sourced ingredients. They can accommodate dietary preferences and restrictions with adequate notice.
Dedicated staff provide personalized services to guests of each villa to ensure that they have a memorable stay. Attentive, yet discreet, they are always available to assist with any request or inquiry. They can help to plan activities, book transportation, and make arrangements for special occasions.
Some of the activities available on the property and in the local area include beach volleyball, cricket, boogie boarding, surfing, scuba diving, yoga, water skiing, cycling, and hiking. For a unique peek into Sri Lanka’s architectural heritage, spend an afternoon at Lunuganga, home of the late Geoffrey Bawa. The Geoffrey Bawa Trust, set up by the renowned architect himself, provides guided tours of the house and gardens which showcase his commitment to ecology and the environment.
His late brother’s home at Brief Garden is also well worth a visit. One of the Great Gardens of the World, Bevis Bawa’s Brief Garden is a celebration of nature and our connection to it.
Guests who wish to reduce their carbon footprint while traveling will appreciate the efforts made by Sri Villas to eliminate single-use plastic, use renewable energy sources, and encourage water conservation.
The owners of Sri Villas have created a luxury retreat with breathtaking views, comfortable accommodations, and impeccable service. But more than that, they are strong advocates for sustainability and community engagement through eco-friendly practices, community support, and authentic cultural experiences.
To learn more about Sri Villas, visit https://srivillas.com.
These six Sri Lankan retreats exemplify the true essence of sustainability and community engagement. By seamlessly blending luxury with environmental consciousness and social responsibility, they provide a blueprint for the future of hospitality. Embark on a journey that not only pampers your senses but also leaves a positive, lasting impact on the environment and the lives of those who call Sri Lanka home.
Learn more about the Pearl Portfolio, a unique curated collection of charming boutique hotels and villas in beautiful Sri Lanka, at https://thepearlportfolio.com.
For top-rated private transportation services for your stay in Sri Lanka, Riley Recommends contacting Travel Gallery. Travel Gallery specializes in offering personalized services for discerning travelers. Learn more at https://travel-gallery.co.uk/.
Riley Contributor Beth Hoke is freelance travel and lifestyles writer.
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