A tree hut experience. The Allure of Nature.
As I alight from my jeep, I hear the inimitable, plaintive call of the peacock. I see him wandering through this garden calling for his mate. The garden is a veritable jungle of trees comprising Gammalu, Palu, Burutha, Teak, Athdemata, Kumbuk and Khaya. This peacock is not alone. There are plenty more, wandering freely and undisturbed in this vast land.
I am at the Saraii Village, which is owned and managed by husband and wife duo, Prasanna and Charitha Hettiarachchi. Located in close proximity to one of Sri Lanka’s most abundant tanks, the Wirawila Tank, Saraii Village is a one-of-a kind sustainable eco-friendly resort.
Through tall trees, I glimpse a mud hut, and then another. Above the thatched huts are two tree houses perched on tall trees. Steep wooden ladders wind up almost 25 feet to these tree houses. I have reserved one for myself this weekend. Fascinating!
Waiting to welcome visitors is Hassan, who hands me a fresh fruit juice. Soon I am joined by Charitha and Prasanna, who, it seems takes every opportunity to sneak a weekend at Saraii Village. I am soon to find out why.
The tree houses, the Crib and the Nest, are each designed to accommodate guests comfortably. My abode, the Nest has two floors and I cautiously climb to the topmost floor. Two mattresses and floor cushions are arranged between branches of the tree. A flimsy mosquito net encircles the tree house. It helps to keep the insects at bay. I settle in.
Two other large wattle and daub chalets with open-air toilets cater as double rooms. Each has a verandah that allows guests to sit out and enjoy the wilderness around them and to become one with nature. A common area serves as the restaurant cum lobby.
Whilst most holiday seekers prefer to stay at the usual run-of-the-mill hotels, some look for more adventurous destinations. These thrill-seeking travelers will find Saraii Village appealing.
Prasanna is quick to add that it is Charitha’s foresight that initiated this project. According to Charitha, it was a project that started with her MBA studies on sustainable living that first galvanized her passion for sustainability. Together, they have turned four acres of barren land in Wirawila into a project that she has always held close to her heart- sustainable tourism with an agro/eco platform.
So far the day is fabulous and light winds blow right through this room, swaying the tree ever so gently. I can hear that peacock still calling nearby. I also notice that dark clouds are gathering overhead. Before long, the heavens open up and the rain comes thrashing down. Little droplets of water find its way into my cozy tree house. But the courteous staff soon cleans up the room. I have nothing to grumble about, as this is part and parcel of an outdoor adventure!
Having heard so much about the Mattala Rajapakse International Airport, we decide to pay it a visit. The approach roads are fabulous and the temptation to put the pedal to the metal is great. Windows down, hair blowing in the wind, music on the radio and invigorated by the feeling of sheer happiness we arrive at the country’s newest airport. One thing is for certain…despite the lack of airplanes landing, this port is bustling with activity as scores of sightseers, from adjoining towns and cities have come to see what all the recent fuss was about. Judging from the excitement around us, they are not disappointed and everyone, it seems has a dream to fly somewhere, sometime.
Back at the Saraii Village, as the evening light fades away, the lanterns are lit, shedding ambient warmth around us. Glasses of wine are passed around and the smell of grilling seafood emanates from the kitchen. Dinner is delicious and the conversation is seamless. As the moon rises up high in the night sky, the lanterns burn out one by one and we head off to our tree house.
As the day dawns, the rains have abated and the morning skies are clear once more. As I sit, perched on the top of my tree house, sipping my coffee, I am entertained by bird call. The peacock is calling out to his mate once again.
We decide to drive over to the Wirawila Tank, which is less than a couple of miles away. The Tank hems two sides of the main road and vast expanses of water reach out to the furthest corners on either side. With a mountain range on one side, cloudless skies are the backdrop on the other side. The tank is full of cormorants, pelicans, egrets, the inimitable lapwing and painted stork. A lone fisherman comes slowly into view as he gently paddles his way across the water, nets trailing behind his canoe.
Today, the Saraii Village is marketed to travelers who favor outdoor, adventure. The objective is to give guests a true connection with nature, a link with the people and local community who play a large part in supplying and maintaining this place, the chance to enjoy this breathtaking landscape and to experience the culture and its environment.
If you do not expect carpets and five-star comforts, you will not be disappointed with the food and the fabulous ambiance. Recently, Tripadvisor voted Saraii Village as one its Top Ten Tree houses. I couldn’t agree more!
The peacock still calls. The morning is bright and the tree house is awash with light. The sun is out on another beautiful Sunday morning. I feel the tree gently swinging as the winds have picked up. I have to leave. Reluctantly I climb down the ladder and say goodbye to my wonderful hosts and their staff and head home.