I spent the first few days of 2018 on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, otherwise known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It really is one of my favourite destinations for a number of reasons, the beautiful scenery, the wildlife, the food, and the wonderful hospitality of the Sri Lankan people.
After 7 years, my friend Mark has left Thailand and is currently living in the coastal town of Hikkaduwa on Sri Lanka’s south west coast, and I was lucky enough to stay in the house he has rented.
Dahana Holiday House
And what a house it was! Dahana Holiday House is something else. A gorgeous villa with an exquisite garden with green grass, vibrant flowers, many species of trees and plants, and daily visits from colourful birds and butterflies. There’s even a mongoose that roots around in the undergrowth every day which I, sadly, never got to see. And let’s not forget the fish pond with koi carp, statues, and interesting wall hangings inside. It’s not your average place to stay that’s for sure.
Dahana Holiday House is located in Seenigama, a small Sri Lankan village, around 2 kilometres from the main town of Hikkaduwa. It’s a sleepy neighbourhood where the locals go about their day to day business. As you walk along the small lane to the main Colombo-Galle road, men on bicycles cycle by, women in brightly coloured saris pass you by, with just a hint of curiosity in their eyes, and couples walking along hand in hand, sheltered from the sun by their umbrellas. Dare to say hello and you’ll get a wonderfully warm smile in return. Crossing over the main railway line makes for some fabulous photo opportunities, and if you’re there at the right time you can marvel at the train as it trundles past with its passengers hanging out of the doors.
The house is looked after by manager, Sanjaya Indrajith, and housekeeper, Lasitha Pathum, or just Pathum. Pathum is also a fantastic cook and he’ll rustle up just about anything you desire for breakfast from typical Sri Lankan fare to European food. His eggs, sausages and tomatoes served with toast is delicious and just what you need for the day ahead.
It’s not only Dahana Holiday House that will lift your spirits while staying here. There is also the, aptly named, Villa Spice Forest, a second villa, just as gorgeous and just as calm as the first. Pathum took me on a tour of the grounds and he explained that the resort uses herbs and spices from the garden to produce Ayurveda medicines for health purposes. These same herbs and spices are also used in the food that he cooks. You’ll love the platter of fruits, like pineapple and guava, that is served straight from the trees. All of the food produced is organic without any fertilisers being added, so if you’re looking to stay healthy while enjoying your holiday, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll be as amazed as I was, when Pathum gives you a handful of leaves to smell and you recognise the smells of cinnamon, allspice, vanilla and ginger, or he points out turmeric and aloe vera plants. It’s simply wonderful.
Meditation and Buddhism
Sanjaya told me that if visitors want to learn about Buddhism during their stay he will be only too happy to share the Buddhist philosophy and a little of the Sri Lankan history and culture. If mediation is on your mind, he can teach you why it’s important and how to use it properly. Believe me, the quiet and stillness of the garden is the perfect place for morning meditation or maybe a spot of yoga.
Both Sanjaya and Pathum speak English and are on hand to help with anything from organising trips to pickups and drop offs at the airport. My friend and I wanted to go on a river safari, so we talked to the guys and they suggested we visit the Madu River or Madu Ganga. They told us there was a lake 10 minutes from Hikkaduwa, but they suggested we travel the 8 kilometres to the Madu River because this was the better place to visit. We weren’t disappointed. Sanjaya and Pathum drove us there in their tuk-tuk and even came on the safari with us. The river is huge and has some 64 islands and is home to over 300 species of plants and over 248 species of animals. It is said to be one of the last remaining areas of untouched mangrove forests in Sri Lanka. As we travelled along the river we saw brightly coloured kingfishers, water monitors, snoozing in the mangroves, sea eagles, herons and cormorants. We got off the boat onto Cinnamon Island and we learned how cinnamon sticks are made. The guy who lives there stripped the bark of the tree, this alone smelled heavenly, then he carved strips off the bark with his knife and laid them on a rack to dry out. My friend and I were intrigued because you don’t often think about where things come from when you’re shopping in the supermarket. I’m a cinnamon lover, it’s so healthy for you, so we bought some cinnamon powder for tea and a small jar of cinnamon oil which is good for fighting viruses and helps to decrease inflammations, among other things.
Dahana Holiday House and Spice Forest is just 400m from the sea, in fact, when the waves are high, you can just about hear them crashing onto the beach on a still night. The town is not far away and there are tuk-tuks available if you want to spend the evening in any number of Hikkaduwa’s bars or restaurants. It’s also ideally located for onward travel as the train and bus stations are close by.
There’s plenty of stuff to see in Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa beach is a stunning stretch of golden sand perfect for relaxing or surfing in the huge waves. Seenigama Muhudu Vihara is a small temple located on a tiny island just offshore, just a 3 minute boat ride away. The Tsunami Honganji Vihara is a temple erected to commemorate those that lost their lives in the 2004 tsunami. A statue of the Buddha, with its hands facing the sea for protection, was donated by the Japanese for good luck. There is another tsunami museum further along the road with hundreds of photos which brings home just how devastating this natural disaster was. The woman who runs the museum will give you a little insight into what happened. It’s very sad and shocking, but it’s a beautiful memorial to visit.
Just a 15 minute walk from the house, in the small town of Peraliya, is the sea turtle hatchery. A fantastic place to learn of the conservation work they are doing to protect these beautiful sea creatures, and the programs in place for recovering turtles before they are released back into the sea. If you’re lucky enough to be around when the baby turtles are released into the sea for the first time, it’s an experience not to be missed.
During the high season between October and March Dahana Holiday House costs $55 per night and can sleep up to 6 people. For over 4 guests there is a charge of $10 per person, per night.
Villa Spice Forest has two parts, 2 rooms on the ground floor and 3 rooms upstairs. The cost for upstairs is $55 per night and can sleep up to 6 people. For over 4 guests there is a charge of $10 per person, per night. The ground floor also costs $55 per night and can sleep up to 4 people.
Low season between March and October the cost is $40 per night for both houses. Additional guests will be charged $10 per person per night.
If guests plan to stay more than 1 month they will receive a 30% discount.
$30 will be charged for cleaning for 2 week stay.
For bookings and prices for your chosen dates you can find Dahana Holiday House and Villa Spice Resort on www.booking.com and www.airbnb.com or contact Sanjaya at firstname.lastname@example.org/tel: +94 775787279.
Dahana Holiday House
See morrisophotography.co.uk for more photos of Sri Lanka