A Sustainably Luxurious Lakeside Hideaway
Half an hour along a bumpy track on Sri Lanka’s Lake Koggala sits Tri Lanka, an environmentally friendly, luxury sustainable well-kept secret
Article by Izzy Ashton
To me, there is no greater luxury than silence. That sounds strange I know but try and think back to the last time you heard, and really listened to, well, nothing. If you happen to work and live in a bustling city as I do, there’s always something going on. A car horn honking, a siren wailing, a plane roaring overhead or simply the music you choose to block out the commuters around you. Sometimes, to find silence, you have to go a bit further a field. And Tri Lanka, on Lake Koggala in south Sri Lanka, is one of the most beautifully silent places I’ve ever visited.
As we turned off the main road from Galle, we began to bump along a dirt track in the back of a tuk tuk, the driver expertly weaving around the enormous potholes that littered the road. We passed paddy fields, over-excited dogs and many a man slowly peddling his bicycle. We even passed the village cinema, a room that housed a pull down projector and several rows of plastic seats.
Pulling up to Tri Lanka, an environmentally friendly, luxury sustainable hotel, you are rendered momentarily speechless as before your eyes the building materialises as if from nowhere. The hotel’s owner, Rob Drummond, first came to Sri Lanka on holiday and later moved to Galle Fort. He visited the Lake and immediately fell in love with the giant banyan tree that takes centre stage on the hotel’s plot. And of course, when standing under said tree, the unmatched 360-degree view you have of Lake Koggala.
But it would be another seven years before any building work started as Drummond started to visualise the house of his dreams. For him, the most important aspect of the plot was that everywhere you stood, your view of the lake was unobstructed. And so the buildings and windows act as frames, perfectly snapshotting the view in front of you.
The house quickly became a hotel, a labour of love that is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the country. Except the odd engine of a boat or tuk tuk, there is virtually no man-made noise. And it’s blissful. On arrival, we were seated by the main pool and greeted with a cold towel and a glass of homemade iced tea, a touch, which we experienced every time we sat in the main bar.
From there we followed our bags to our suite, which had its own private pool, balcony and living room. The luxuriously huge bed sits centre stage and from it, you have an unparalleled view of the lake and leafy foliage that abounds on the estate, from mango trees to coconuts and jackfruits. There is also an abundance of wildlife, from the glittering blue kingfishers to the prehistoric water monitors and purple-faced leaf monkey.
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After a quick lunch of hoppers and delicious smoothies, we hopped on the hotel’s boat to be taken on a private tour of the lake and its eleven islands. From Bird Island to Temple, our boat cut a slow but steady chug through the water, coming to a halt at Cinnamon Island. A local family gave us a fascinating tour of their verdant garden where they were growing everything from lime to turmeric, ginger as well as a detailed history of the cinnamon spice. It was enough to give even the most urban of urbanites garden envy.
We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying our villa, swimming at sunset and whiling away hours in the heavenly bathtub. After covering our limbs in anti-mosquito spray, highly recommended when by the water, we ventured up to the restaurant, whose entire side is open to the elements. As the storm clouds rolled into view, the plastic walls were rolled down and the steady pattering of rain accompanied our delicious six course-tasting menu. The flavours were an incredible blend of traditional Sri Lankan herbs and spices with a Tri twist, from fennel butter to lemongrass fried lentil wadu and spicy sambol.
We awoke the next morning, clear eyed after sleeping deeply on the marshmallow-like mattress. After a quick skinny dip in our pool, we enjoyed an enormous breakfast, the highlight of which was the homemade granola and curd ice cream as well as the brown millet rice flour porridge with coconut milk. We savoured every warm, sweet mouthful determine to recreate it once we returned home.
The hotel itself has 11 suites over a six-acre plot, which makes it the perfect place to amble around. A cinnamon-stick covered water tower stands tall behind the banyan tree. Standing on its rooftop balcony, you get the most beautiful view at sunset. The buildings’ exteriors are all smooth stone and recycled sticks; the emphasis on sustainability is evident throughout both the hotel’s operations as well as its architecture.
Along with the suites and the main building, there is a glass walled library and yoga studio, beneath which sits the spa area, steam room and private treatment rooms. We decided to spoil ourselves with a full body massage, which felt fantastically indulgent but was a lovely way to spend our second afternoon. As the evening crawled in across the lake, we drank our Lion beers in comfortable silence, squeaky clean, a little bit sunburnt and quite content to simply drink in the view.
Our final dinner was a traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry feast. And what a feast it was. The food at Tri Lanka is interestingly delicious, combining flavours you’ve never tried before with familiar tastes and smells. The waiting staff are peaceful but efficient, attuned to your every need, while the little lizards danced along the walls.
We fell asleep on our final night propped up on pillows, too full to lie flat, exhausted from doing nothing and only sorry we couldn’t stay longer. Tri Lanka is an incredibly special hotel. I don’t think anything I could write would do it justice. But just know that you won’t experience silence like it. Nor will you see a sky that moves through so many colours in such a short space of time; pastel sherbet that blends into the inky blue of dusk, the fireflies that swing through the air, tricking the eye.
Tri Lanka is a hideaway, the likes of which I’d be happy to keep secret. It’s been built to perfectly fit into the landscape rather than the other way around while the architecture has been softened by the local vegetation, resulting in a brilliantly natural camouflage. So, do visit Tri but maybe don’t take your friends. It’s the kind of place you’ll want all to yourself, if only to remember what silence sounds like.