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A NEW TYPE OF SUMMER HOLIDAYS… TIME TO STAY IN SRI LANKA AND HAVE SOME ADVENTURES….

As June approaches each year the child in me arises and I am filled with excitement about the summer holidays.  For me more than ever since becoming an Expat these holidays have become so important, a chance to go home, see old friends and family, to explore other countries, to re stock on all my favorite foods and toiletries and truthfully just to escape Expat living for a couple of months.  Every August I get back onto the plane to Colombo so grateful for my expat life feeling recharged and ready to go.

This summer due to Covid-19 this luxury was taken away from all of us and in the last month I have been in denial that I’m not going to have an escape, I’m not going to see my family or friends and I’m not going to stuff my face with all the foods I miss. I think we might all resonate with these feelings and no one can deny it, is tough.  However, this weekend as I spoke to my UK friends I was reminded that we are so lucky to live on this paradise isle and there is so much on offer, one moment we can be on a tropical beach and the next cozying up to a fire in the tea plantations.  So it is time for me and all of you to get over our grief of what we are missing out on and take advantage of the amazing deals that are on offer right now all over Sri Lanka!

T&T TIP  CHECK IF THEY ARE SERVING ALCOHOL, IF NOT MAKE SURE YOU PACK UP YOUR OWN GOODIE BAG, PLUS I ALWAYS TAKE OUR OWN SNACK BAG, ESPECIALLY WITH KIDS, PEANUT BUTTER, COOKIES, NUTS AND CRISPS, DRIED FRUIT.  SAVES YOU ON LONG JOURNEYS AND IF KIDS DECIDE THEY DON’T LIKE FOOD!

1. W15 HANTHANA ESTATE, KANDY

As I stepped off the train at Kandy Station with my friend, we were greeted by an awesome turquoise convertible jeep which scooped us up to W15 Kandy, which is happily a very short drive away, but transports you to another world.  I was not prepared for the views on arrival – they are simply awe inspiring, everywhere I looked beauty was revealed.

This gorgeous boutique hotel facing the hills amongst tea plantations is your ultimate luxury escape.  No expense has been spared so that you feel totally spoiled.  The rooms have a grandeur and elegance that you want when on holiday but equally feel super cozy.  Every detail has been thought of including a first aid kit (it is the little details that make it stand apart).

We stayed in the main bungalow, there are also the stable rooms which overlook the Hanthana mountain ranges, a view you will never bore of.  The in house naturalist Sanath was incredible and even managed to get me on a mountain bike, no small feat, but these are not just any mountain bikes of course, they are electric which makes everything so much easier and fun.  The following day we got up at crack of dawn and started our hike up the Hanthana mountain ranges so we could watch the sun rise, as we climbed up Sanath was showing and teaching us so about the flora and fauna.  The sense of freedom and the exhilaration of the wind truly blew the lockdown cobwebs away.

The food is scrumptious from BBQ’s to high tea, all our food desires were answered.  A highlight for me was going around the vegetable garden, learning about new herbs and vegetables and being able to pick what we were going to eat that evening.  We loved everything about this new boutique hideaway, if you are looking for serious luxury and new adventures, this is the place for you.  Book soon as they have some great deals

2. NINE SKIES, ELLA

Teardrop hotels and I are best friends so it was a no brainer that I would escape up to Nine Skies in Ella with my family as soon as curfew was lifted.  Now the highway is in place it took 3 ½ hours from door to door, joyous.  The Nine Skies bungalow was built in the 1930’s, it holds a charm and a welcome that always makes me feel so at home and instantly relaxed.  This time we took The Hali-Ela and Nine Arches rooms which are brilliant as they can be closed off from rest of bungalow and you have your own veranda and garden.  The kids had their own room with twin beds and I got to enjoy the luxury of space and a heavenly view out to the immaculate gardens.  Equally Ella’s Rock suite is perfect for families as two interconnecting rooms and its own little veranda.

From Nine Skies you can do the most amazing walks through the tea plantations, to the famous Nine Arches bridge, and through magical forests with little Hindu shrines.  The hotel offers picnics, so you really can escape for a whole day in the fresh air.  If you are fearful of getting lost panic not because they supply you with a GPS that you can take with you marking all the different trails.

The highlight for me was doing a cooking class outside overlooking the tea plantations and listening to the incredible choir of bird song.  I had asked Chef Danushka to help me master the egg hopper and dhal with a seeni sambal, he was a particularly good teacher and I shall be knocking them out for my next socially distanced dinner part!  Nine Skies offers an enormous amount of space for parents to relax in and kids to run around, playing hide and seek, whittling a stick and just enjoy some long needed freedom.  They have a vegetable garden and the menu tries to be as carbon neutral a possible while offering up delicious meals.  Their chocolate chip cookies are to die for.

3. MAHOORA, WILPATTU

A great friend of mine recommended this place and it did not disappoint.  If you long for the outdoor and a sense of adventure, then this is the place for you this summer.  Mahoora is a luxury tented safari camp which I challenge you not to love.  On arrival you sit around on directors’ chairs, overlooking a pond admiring the kingfishers enjoying tea and biscuits before being shown to your tent. Truthfully, I had no expectation, I sometimes set my standards too high and then are filled with disappointment but this time I was thrilled.  It was two tents joined together, the first one had a small sitting area and  a bed for the kids and the second tent was set up for cozy night with hubby and me, there is a “en- suite” bathroom, it is small so be prepared to get up close and personal!  The bed was ridiculously comfortable, and I had one of the best night sleeps I have had in an exceptionally long time.

The next morning, we got up early and set of on an all-day safari in Wilpattu National Park.  Be prepared for a lot of administration, temperature checks, paperwork, mask wearing etc., however once you are in the park it is well worth the wait.  We had the best safari experience and it most certainly had something to with Sameera, who is the head naturalist at the camp and boy is he incredible.  My children were captivated by him.  We saw a plethora of animals including star tortoises, freshwater turtles, elephants and yippee a long awaited leopard!  The whole experience did not feel at all rushed, we moved at a more leisurely pace than my Yala experiences.  There were very fewer jeeps and when we saw them there was an etiquette which lacks in Yala, they seem far more respectful of the animals too.

That evening as we sat around the campfire, the kids toasting marshmallows our naturalist Sameera came to get us and took us on a mini night safari as he had spotted a pair of owls and then as luck might have it we stumbled upon a loris, wow wee!!  The following day was glorious we did a walking safari.  The children merrily walked along picking wildflowers while we tracked elephant footprints, marveled at the butterflies and the agricultural land which seemed to grow everything from cashew nuts to sesame.  The walk was all set around one of the many natural lakes within this area.  It really was a very enchanting walk and we headed back to Colombo with huge smiles on our faces, planning our next trip back.

4. SISINDU C, HABARADUWA

If you are craving a little bit of peace and quiet on the south coast, I cannot recommend Sisindu C more highly.  We bolted down there a few weekends ago and were greeted by Santa and his team to a total hideaway.  Sisindu C is on the Habaraduwu beach about 5 minutes south of Thalpe.  It is a beautiful wide stretching beach ideal for long walks and sandcastle making.  The villa itself is the perfect beach house, total indoor, outdoor living, it is small but perfectly formed, the living room and kitchen are all in one space overlooking a lovely pool and garden, then upstairs are two very well portioned rooms, both identical so no squabbling on which room to have.  The bathrooms are supplied with Spa Ceylon products and they even supply mosquito repellent.  We spent a leisurely weekend eating amazing food cooked by our chef, we feasted on Thai chicken salads, corn fritters with avocado salsa and amazing breakfasts with delicious coconut infused American pancakes, yummy.  This was a weekend of total escapism with my family, we had incredibly happy moments playing in the pool, relaxing in the evening with cards and knowing we were being so well looked after without feeling overlooked.  Hurry quickly to book before this little secret gem is booked up.

5. APA VILLAS, THALPE

This was our first escape after lockdown and it felt incredible, we arrived at sunset with 3 other families to a perfect family friendly villa /hotel set up.  The villa has large garden filled with hammocks for lazing around in, a gorgeous decking overlooking the sea and access to a great beach.  The 7 suites divided into 3 villas are well set up for families with two rooms and 2 bathrooms, they have TV’s with DVDs players which is always useful when you want some peace and quiet!  The food was good, we had a seafood feast one night and my husband claims it was the best crab curry he has ever had.  Our kids were so occupied all weekend with collecting hermit crabs and making home, the staff were incredibly accommodating supplying them with containers while I enjoyed some long overdue me time with a book in hand.  Apa villas is so well located in Thaple, I think it is a great place to base yourselves in this summer and they are doing ridiculously good rates.

6. W15, WELIGAMA

To be completely transparent my husband is a shareholder in W15 Weligama but regardless of that, I could not recommend it more highly for a great holiday escape, HONESTLY!  Weligama over the years has become a great beach spot not just for surfers, offering lots of places to eat and activities for all ages.  W15 has 10 beautiful rooms, many with the added bonus of a sofa bed, they all overlook Weligama Bay.  I prefer the upper middle rooms; I find them cozier but that is a personal preference.  It is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where I can truly relax knowing that the kids are super safe fliting between pool and beach with maybe a couple of stops in between on the grass to play Jenga and football.  They often have guest DJ’s playing but fear not they have recently installed double glazing in the rooms.  The food I think is excellent, they have a wood burning oven for pizza and some of the best prawns I have ever had, I also love the modha with dhal.  It is a great spot to watch the surfers and have a really good cocktail with a vibrant atmosphere, yes I’m a little biased but I think it is a great beach bar. Maybe one of the best!

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