Lying off the southern tip of India is the teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean. Our incentive group enjoyed an incredible 5-night stay on this tropical island, followed by a few magical days in the Maldives (but more on that in my next post).
We stayed at Cape Weligama Resort, a magnificent Relais & Chateaux property located on the south side of the island. The resort is owned and managed by the Dilmah Tea family so high tea is served every afternoon and (as you can imagine) is a very grand affair!
Cape Weligama has a dramatic clifftop setting overlooking the Indian Ocean. Curved around the point of the headland is a 60 metre crescent-shaped pool. This spectacular moon pool is where our group spent all their free time, sipping cold beers and cocktails.
Warm sea breezes drift up off the ocean, whilst they waded in the pool soaking up the views. Such a special setting with amazing photos guaranteed!
The property is made up of freestanding luxury Villas and Suites. The Suites we stayed in are ENORMOUS – by far the largest bedrooms and bathrooms I’ve ever experienced in my 27 years of incentive travel! Each suite also has its own massive terrace with private lounge and dining areas.
Inside each suite you’ll find spacious walk-in wardrobes, Sonos wireless audio with a large music library (or play your own music if you prefer), a complimentary library of movies on demand on the large screen, custom-developed Ophir toiletries and a steam room. The large bathrooms have twin vanities and a lovely stone bathtub.
The only form of transport inside the resort is electric golf buggies, which adds to the quiet, calm and peaceful setting. There is a selection of restaurants on the property – all boasting spectacular sea views and sublime Sri Lankan cuisine!
We arranged for our group to have a Curry Masterclass with the resort’s charismatic head chef, Chef Vinol. We made lamb, chicken, vegetarian and seafood curries. They all tasted completely different even though we used the same spices in each – it was just the mix and timing of when we added the spices that made the difference!
We also arranged a visit to a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation & Hatchery Centre. It was interesting finding out about all the different sea turtles that return to the warm Sri Lankan waters each year. We also learnt how the local communities are doing their best to rescue and rehabilitate injured turtles before releasing them back into the ocean to complete their treacherous annual journeys.
While there, we were given the incredible opportunity of releasing some of the baby turtles. To give the little turtles a fighting chance of survival, the Centre nurtures the hatchlings until they are 6 weeks old before releasing them back into the sea. This was a real treat for our group with each person taking great pride in their little hatchling managing to swim beyond the breakers!
Another highlight was the historic Fort Galle, which is an absolute jewel. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historic city is a delight to explore on foot. Fort Galle is an endlessly exotic old trading port blessed with imposing Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches, grand mansions and museums.
Wandering its rambling lanes, one passes stylish cafes, quirky boutiques and impeccably restored hotels owned by local and foreign artists, writers, photographers and designers. It’s a fascinating insight into a world gone by. We stopped at the local fish market and fruit market. Both are bustling, chaotic, hot and sweaty. A real overload of the senses!
We arranged for our group to do a cycle tour to nearby village passing picturesque rice paddies, tea plantations, cinnamon groves and black pepper plantations. Hooting overloaded buses, tuk-tuks and mopeds shared the roads as we peddled through small villages, greeted by friendly locals and very excited children who laughed at our cycling antics.
Whilst passing a rice paddy, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a wedding ceremony. The entire village was there celebrating with fire crackers, hooting and dancing. A festive procession of colorful fabrics and loud music – with the groom pushing his new wife in a wheelbarrow from her parents’ home to his family’s home. This fantastic tradition encourages the crowd to grow, and ends with a huge party for everyone at the in-laws house!
At each lake we passed there were families outside flying kites (a very popular activity!) or sweeping their front porches. Sri Lanka may be a poor country, but it is also exceedingly clean and people appear proud of what they have.
Everybody we met made us feel incredibly welcome! Hospitality comes naturally to the gentle people of Sri Lanka, who genuinely want to share their island and the fascinating cultures and traditions that guide their lives.
This was my second visit to Sri Lanka, and I definitely enjoyed it more this time around as I got to see and experience more with fellow South Africans. We all left Sri Lanka feeling thoroughly indulged, well fed and enlightened … there’s something quite magical about this place!
– Written by Angela Field
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