News ≫ Introducing Sri Lanka’s first sustainable luxury resort

Introducing Sri Lanka’s first sustainable luxury resort

Mar 10, 2016
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Set among towering cinnamon trees, Tri Lanka is a setting designed to rejuvenate body, mind and soul. The ‘tri’ in Tri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s first sustainable luxury resort, was chosen for its mystical properties. Meaning ‘three’ in both eastern and western languages, it alludes not only to the three doshas — or mind-body types, as defined by the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda but also to the magnificent old banyan, cashew and cinnamon trees flourishing on the property and the ‘tree’ yoga pose that co-owner Lara Baumann Drummond incorporates into her sessions in Tri’s airy yoga shala.

The boutique resort, which opened last December in the heart 
of cinnamon-producing country, occupies an island peninsular of lushly forested land on Koggala Lake — about 15 minutes from Koggala beach and 20 minutes from the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort.

British-born language graduate and photographer Rob Drummond, who has lived in Sri Lanka since 2000, bought the neglected cinnamon plantation several years ago, intending it as a personal retreat. He replanted the cinnamon trees and spent weekends there, living in perfect tranquillity in a mud hut. In 2011, he met his future wife, Lara, at a charity cycle ride in Kandy. The daughter of German diplomats, she was raised in India and Japan, and is an internationally renowned yoga teacher, whose clients include Russell Brand and Gerard Butler. She created her own practice, Quantum Yoga, a dynamic form based on Ayurvedic principles, and has published books, DVDs and documentaries.

The idea of turning the cinnamon plantation into a boutique 
eco-resort and wellness centre took shape then. Rob wanted his guests to enjoy the property’s natural beauty in the same way he 
had, so a plan was hatched to build around the trees. “We were taking our cues from nature rather than superimposing design,” Lara says.

The couple enlisted Raefer Wallis of AOO Architects, who created China’s first carbon-neutral hotel, URBN Shanghai, and whose credo is “landscape first, people after”.

Lara and Rob conceived the design based on the Golden Ratio — a geometric proportion beloved of Renaissance artists, philosophers and mathematicians. The villas are set among the trees, spiralling around the island and culminating in an imposing, cylindrical water tower, surrounded by a moat and covered in cinnamon branches. Within the tower are two smaller rooms and a deck with captivating views of the scintillating sunsets Sri Lanka is famous for.

Tri Lanka’s buildings are constructed almost entirely of local recycled timbers, predominantly jak wood, with self-seeding grasses and succulents sprouting on each villa roof. Creepers unravel from the edges of buildings, creating more shade. Clumps of lemongrass and bamboo fill the vistas. Local granite and green slate is used throughout the suites, with red gravel paths echoing the Sri Lankan vernacular created by architect Geoffrey Bawa in the 1950s.

All the suites have differing lake views, with indoor-outdoor spaces. The larger suites have terraces with plunge pools; the hot water is solar powered; and the rooms are designed to capture the breezes. “It’s very much about minimising your sense of enclosure,” Rob says. Guests arrive via the lake on a custom-made sailboat, or dhoni, and are welcomed in an open living-dining area that overlooks the lake and a 21-metre long cantilevered horizon pool. The main building contains an upstairs bar and dining room, lounge, daybeds and a cooler downstairs dining room filled with the Drummonds’ collection of art.

On the other side of the property, a pavilion houses the yoga shala, which overlooks a grove of giant bamboo, the library, two spa suites and a steam room. Taking yoga classes in the breezy shala to the sounds of chanting from a nearby Buddhist monastery is a joy. The classes are tailored to the participant, based on Ayurvedic assessment of their dominant dosha. Lara’s workouts are challenging, but she’s patient, warm and non-judgemental.

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