My Cinnamon Air seaplane flight from Colombo – a 40-minute-journey, as opposed to a three-hour drive – lands at Mawella Lagoon Airport, near Dickwella, on the south-west coast. I’m met by smart staff, who load my luggage into a van for the 10-minute drive to the resort. Once there, I’m welcomed at the modern lobby area by four women beating drums and singing. I’m escorted to my room by a staff member who completes check-in there. He photographs my passport page.
The hotel is built on a former coconut plantation on a rocky stretch of coast about five minutes by road from Tangalle. Although the beach is technically public, this is the only hotel behind it, so it feels private. The sea at the pretty beach unfortunately has rough waves and is deep, making it too dangerous to use; guests may swim at the main pool or walk along the beach to the next bay. The hotel has 120 rooms in five three-storey sea-facing blocks (all with balconies), and 32 villas. Despite its size, the resort feels pleasantly quiet.
The rooms are all very similar. Mine is a top-floor corner deluxe ocean-view room, which is 49 square metres with an 11-square-metre balcony. I like the large bathroom, with full-sized, roll-top Toto bath, rainbath shower, electric blind and grey tiling. The bedroom is luxuriously functional, mostly in beige with dark brown rattan touches to the furniture, carpet and ceiling fan.
The sound of the waves crashing against the shore, the soft, fresh air and the rustle of trees set the scene for my stay. This isn’t, at least at the moment, a resort for big, noisy groups or loud music. The hotel is family-friendly without being raucous, and it’s currently host to a wide range of guests, mostly from Europe and Asia. As one of the newest, most upmarket resorts in the area, its main competitor is the Amanwella, just around the corner. The hotel offers a daily programme of rituals including a bull pulling a cart, a troupe announcing the sunset, and a conch blower, presumably to give those who don’t venture out of the resort the sense that they have experienced something of the local culture.
The hotel is in a soft-launch phase when I visit, and service is willing but sometimes hesitant. A few key members of staff stand out for their confidence and effort.
The Italian restaurant, Il Mare, is my favourite, both for its clifftop location and food. I try a chef’s special of three different types of pasta, involving mushroom spaghetti, Gorgonzola gnocchi and seafood fettuccine, which is delicious. Pasta dishes cost from 1,900 Sri Lankan rupees (Dh48). The buffet breakfast in the all-day-dining restaurant, Journeys, is good, with a fresh fruit cart including coconuts, fresh buffalo curd and a variety of fresh juices and smoothies. The best Sri Lankan food I have ever tasted comes from a Spice Spoons cooking class (11,777 rupees [Dh296], including a tour of local markets).
The location and the cooking-class lunch.
Not being able to swim from the beach.
A good hotel in a gorgeous location.