Wild Adventure at the Boulder Garden
In the middle of Sri Lanka’s awesome virgin rainforest is a fascinating collection of boulders that seem to have fallen from the sky. These enormous rocks balance precariously atop each other creating a landscape of caves and caverns brimming with mystery and untold stories.
In the midst of these boulders is the ingenuity of timeless architecture. Designed by Bawa protégé, architect Lalyn Collure, the Boulder Garden lies cleverly nestled within these large rocks blending in perfectly with this UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sinharaja Rainforest.
In 2008, Collure won the coveted Geoffrey Bawa Award for Excellence in Architecture for his design of the Boulder Garden.
The Boulder Garden is surrounded by the idyllic and unspoiled lowlands of the South West, and set against the lofty Rakwana mountain range providing an apt backdrop to the sculptured tea and paddy terraces. The Boulder Garden is, in fact, a tribute by owner Sarathchandra Ramanayake to his home town, Kalawana.
After a two hour drive from Colombo, through Mathugama and Kalawana, we reached the turn off to Boulder Garden. A 200 meter off- road drive leads to the huge car park. As you alight the first impression is of the magnificence of the namesake-boulders! Massive rocks are embedded into the landscape like some Gothic necklace.
Steep cobbled steps cleverly cut between these rocks lead up to a small reception at a mezzanine level. The fresh seasonal mango juice was delicious and certainly was a very welcome drink.
This 10-roomed eco boutique hotel is built in keeping with the distinctive contact with nature. The all-suite rooms are located on three tiers on the North face overlooking the distant hills. The rooms are categorized into one split-level family room, and seven suites with twin/double beds. Complete privacy surrounds each room and has an individual style to it whilst blending in to the natural environment. Architect Collure has cleverly adapted sustainable development principles by relying on local resources from the community.
The individuality of each room is in the interior arrangement. While one has a sunken bath with a clear view of the mountain range in the distance, another will have a boulder in the shower. However, all the rooms are equipped for comfort and style albeit the dim lighting to blend with the eco-setting.
Another surprise awaits you at the next level where more steep cobbled steps lead up to the Grotto restaurant. This unique restaurant lies under a huge boulder that seems to suspend in mid air! The entire open-air restaurant allows the guest a fantastic experience of dining in the middle of the forest. Close at hand is a natural spring-water pool set beneath the natural surroundings whilst actual shallow ponds create a moat around the restaurant.
I was lucky to witness the thundering sounds of the rain lashing around me while enjoying the most delicious meal. One of the best features at Boulder Gardens apart from the lush and spectacular surroundings is the food. Every meal was a gourmet delight. Breakfast consisted hot croissants and eggs in five different ways and lunch is from the ala carte menu offering a variety of choices in meats and fish and ample selections for the vegetarians. The candle-lit dinner consisted a sumptuous 7-course menu that would satiate even the most disparaging guest. Well done Chef!
Apart from the uniqueness of the Boulder Garden are the activities available for the adventurous. The Sinharaja rainforest is home to 60% of the island’s endemic trees, many of them considered rare. The forest is also home to over 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of birds, mammals, butterflies, insects, reptiles and rare amphibians. For the eco-enthusiast, this is an ideal opportunity to explore what this amazing forest has on offer. Also, the acreage surrounding the Boulder Garden is strewn with massive boulders which make up over 30 natural caves that are steeped in mystery and folk lore. Apart from the tales from the village’s forefathers, the archaeological department has been unable to verify the myths that abound these wonderful rocks. Other activities include kayaking, bird watching, mountain biking, and trekking.
However, I do not recommend this hotel for differently abled persons, older travellers, and families with young children or teenagers. The steep stairs and rock surfaces are not suitable for persons with disabilities and for older travellers. Families travelling with children will be surprised to find the lack of privacy inside the rooms. Also, wet weather may bore ‘in’-bound children for lack of entertainment. Although the communications brochure said TV’s are available, I did not see one in any of the rooms.
However, this is a wonderful experience for any die-hard eco-tourist or enthusiast. The Boulder garden is ideally located for the eco-enthusiast and will certainly be an unforgettable getaway.