Natural Beauty at Royal River Resort

Mention Kithulgala, and you envisage undulating waters and winding roads. Famed for white water rafting and mountain treks, Kithulgala has the allure of the perfect destination for an invigorating holiday. I am excited about this weekend. So, along with some great company, I am on my way to the Royal River Resort located in the heart of Kithulgala’s raging waters. As instructed, we arrive at the Plantation Hotel which acts as the HQ to the Royal River Resort. After a short coffee break and a tour of Anton Jayasuriya’s magnificent Rolls Royce collection, we are en route, 6.2 km inland, to our final destination.

Albeit the potholed and precipitous roads encountered, the scenery is awesome as we drive through sprawling rubber estates dotted with gushing streams and cascading water spouts. This is a land that is located on a rocky promontory with some amazing historically famed caves.

The warm welcome we received at the RRR is a pleasant surprise. The genuineness of making a guest feel welcomed is something many of the larger hotels lack. Then, through a short, yet meandering pathway, we were led to our room. The first thought that comes to mind is that the website does not do justice to the RRR. I told our host this.

All four rooms at the RRR have river front views. Once you open the large windows, the deafening roar of the mad rushing waters just below our window takes a little getting used to. At 1100 meters above sea level, the view is fantastic. It actually gives a heady rush of excitement and fills the air with a refreshing freshness. The room, comfortably furnished with a huge four-poster bed, a reclining couch, carpets and flowers is topped off with a quaint fireplace reminiscent of an upcountry bungalow. Oh, and the full board rate comes with a complimentary bottle of wine, a fruit basket and a delicious home-made cake. Together, this makes a perfect destination for a honeymooner which is just an observation on my part!

But as usual, we are ready to explore. Further down, the meandering path leads us to an open-air dining area adjoining the natural pool. I dipped my foot into the freezing water and shuddered! Despite the reassurance that this is a swimming pool of pure spring water, I was not interested in turning my brown skin blue!

The dining area, furnished with a selection of sofas and easy chairs as well as dining tables, is an open area with the gushing waters just a few meters away. This area has large sofas and settees as well as dining tables and chairs which adds to the ambiance of this spectacular location.

Thankfully, our chef, Sanath, was ready with an ala carte menu which diverted from the insistence that I take a cold dip. We opted for a tasty meal of rice and curries (almost 8 dishes in all). Kudos to Chef Sanath, the meal was excellent. Even the subsequent dinner and the Sunday morning breakfast were replete with options. Guests have the option of selecting local or Western cuisine.

The Royal River Resort is situated in a 50-acre property. Numerous nature trails lead off into the verdant jungles. Some of the more popular bird life around here is the endemic Grey Hornbill, the Yellow Fronted Barbet and the Scarlet Minivet. It is an amazing feeling to feel a

We were encouraged to visit the famous Beli Lena caves. Located about five minutes away from the  RRR, these vast imposing caves holds evidence of a lost generation of Sri Lankans dating back 12,000 years. At the time, the cave was occupied by the Balangoda Man described as Homo sapiens balangodensis by Paul Deraniyagala, a renowned archaeologist, who found ten skeletons of these people. According to Deraniyagala, these people lived 32,000 years ago. Then, about 15 years ago, archaeologists found the skeleton of a child dating back 28,500 years old.

 

The evening before, a local politician had made a cursory visit with the promise of developing the route and a rest area close to the caves. A garish board was testament to his visit. But the path had been cleaned up so that made our climb easier and faster. As we climbed higher and higher, the view just got more amazing with the threads of a late morning mist lazily drifting pass. At the entrance to the cave falls a continuous sheet of water from an overflowing river. Pass that and you end up inside some awe-inspiring caves that transports you centuries back. We were glad to have made the climb and left with amazing memories and a collection of great photographs.

Back at the RRR, we take time to go through the collection of memorabilia belonging to the owner Anton Jayasuriya. From a collage of Barbara Sansoni pencil sketchings hanging from the walls, to books on Buddhism, travel destinations and a random selection of novels and biographies and other totally unrelated bric-a-brac are testimony to the owner’s hobbies and quirkiness.

Unlike the usual touristy destinations of sun, sand and sea, a trip out into the interior of the country brings a totally different perspective to a journey. The freshness of the air, the awesomeness of the landscape and the vastness of the country is best enjoyed at places like Kithulgala. And a location like the Royal River Resort is a great place to stop and savor the beauty of the country.

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