Returning to Ranweli Holiday Village
Returning to Ranweli after many many years is indeed a pleasant surprise and a delightful experience. From the time I espied the unique ferry crossing to the entire weekend’s experience, the Village has proven to be one of a kind especially in its quest to be the trail blazer in eco tourism in Sri Lanka.
Renovated and refurbished since last September, the entire 22 acres blends in with the natural environment steeped in indigenous fauna and flora and reflecting a sense of tranquility and relaxation.
As we arrived, the ferryman was waiting to row us across the Gin Oya. In the late evening, the river was calm and still with the moon reflecting on the water. On the other side, the long passageway led us to the vast reception area where we were checked in by friendly staff. Room 111 was located further down as are all the individual rooms situated apart from each other to give guests complete privacy. All rooms, constructed with biodegradable materials, are decorated with terra cotta pots and artifacts produced by local craftsmen, including handmade local fabric adding to the ethnicity of the hotel. Adding luxury to the room is a flat screen monitor with cable TV, and en-suite bath opening out to the night sky and a king-sized bed. A private balcony looks out into the vast, manicured gardens overlooking the Indian Ocean.
The next morning, after a delicious breakfast we are introduced to the resident naturalist Nimal Monnamkulame who has a boat ready to take us on a tour of the surroundings. Despite the heat of the day, the cool breeze comforts us as we amble down the river. Armed with bird and butterfly guide books courtesy of the Hotel, we are amazed at the bird life living in these mangroves. We saw the elusive Pied Kingfisher hovering over the water before diving in to catch his breakfast, the Common Kingfisher, a Eurasian Thick Knee, the clumsy Red Wattle Lapwing, a White Breasted Water Hen, the Indian and Little Cormorants, Purple Herons and Pond Herons, a shy Yellow Bittern, and the many more species. According to Nimal, over 130 different species of birds, 50 species of butterflies, 36 species of fresh and brackish water fish and crustaceans can be seen around the environs of this Hotel! Another 10 species of small terrestrial animals and nine species of amphibians can be spotted on the property. Needless to say, this is a nature-lovers paradise to boot.
The mangroves and its ecosystems support the variety of plants and animals that make up these beautiful surroundings. For the first time, we saw the rare nypa fruticans which is the only palm that grows in water. Again Nimal informs us that over 70 varieties of flora make up the environs of the Village.
After the two hour ride we are back at the hotel and after a refreshing fruit juice served from the small unique fruit stall located next to the main bar, we embarked on the nature walk along the Boardwalk. Again, the passionate Nimal gave us detailed information on the mangrove adaptations and the environs along this Boardwalk. A wild, yet friendly rock squirrel, quite used to being fed by guests, scampered along the branches overhead in anticipation of an easy meal.
Back in the Hotel, it is time for lunch. As was the preceding dinner and breakfast, this meal was also delicious and kudos to the Chef on his culinary expertise. The buffet comprised of local and western dishes and tasted very good.
The ambiance at the large dining area was busy and the service was attentive and friendly with the Guest Relations Manager keeping an alert eye on his staff at all times.
Spotting the Ayurvedic Centre, we couldn’t help but be tempted to a massage. The Centre is clean and the pint-sized assistant doctor was charming. But, check out the exchange rate of the Euro because after conversion, the price is far too exorbitant.
Across the vast, well manicured lawn is the tempting Ocean. Although the seas were calm and the beach front inviting, bathing is not recommended here. We were told that a short stroll away was better bathing conditions. We opted to stay within the eco-environs of the Hotel instead. The pool, brimming with enthusiastic kids was also not an option.
Available on the property are touristy programs like ethnic cookery demonstrations, cadjan weaving, pottery demonstrations, rope making from coir fibre, jaggery and honey preparation from toddy, basket and mat weaving as well as weekly traditional dance and cultural shows. We were informed that yoga and meditation is also offered to those who seek peace of mind. I was quite content with soaking up the surroundings!
It was time to leave. As I mentioned before, the Ranweli Holiday Village is definitely committed to saving the environment. The enthusiasm and the passion to protect the natural surroundings is etched deeply in each of its employees psyche and this is, indeed, a far cry from the unconcerned lack of commitment to be found in other parts of Sri Lanka’s natural heritages. Two thumbs up to the Ranweli Holiday Village for getting it all right!