Waterfront Holiday at Wapi Bungalow

It was in the still of the night when we finally reached our destination – Wapi Bungalow at Tissamaharama. Leaving late Friday night was a good idea as we were intent on avoiding as much slow moving weekend traffic as possible. Almost four hours after departing from Colombo, we were in Tissamaharama, and with perfect directions given by Ravin, we were soon at the doors of Wapi. A quick check in and we hit the sack…too tired to enjoy the stillness of the night.

With the sun lighting up a beautiful Saturday morning, we were up, refreshed and ready, to venture out and explore this property. Perched on the banks of the Yodakandiya reservoir, this three-bed room bungalow is aesthetically designed to blend in well with the natural settings of the landscape. Two air conditioned double-bedrooms located downstairs open out into the large garden replete with indigenous trees with the vast and breathtaking Yodakandiya Reservoir about 50 meters ahead.  The open air dining area allows guests to enjoy meal times with the caressing wind blowing in from the river.

We opted for the delightful third bedroom located on a wooden mezzanine floor. A large deck (which can double up as more sleeping space) overlooks the river whilst the bedroom opens out to the same vista across the sprawling garden. The serenity of the view is magical. Live- in help, who double up as caretaker, cook and guide is a husband and wife combo, Sugath and Anoma.

We started off our day with a delicious breakfast and freshly made juice which was just the beginning of many more delectable meals to follow. And now it is time to explore…

The Yodakandiya is a haven for rich bird life. Far in the distance were flocks of cormorants, pond herons, egrets and much more bird life. A fisherman’s boat gave us an idea… to canoe across to the Kaputu Island, famed for the flocks of crows nesting there and according to folklore, the place where King Kavantissa communicated with these birds. But before that, the Yala National Park beckoned us…

A cat nap after another fulfilling lunch was a great idea. By early afternoon, cameras, tripods, caps and coffee in hand, we were soon on our way to the Yala National Park. Silently praying for a sighting of the Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) we soon come across a tusker and then another and another. At one point, a playful baby elephant romps after a flying plastic bag caught up in a wind current blowing across the open plains. Seconds later, a pack of six Golden Jackals join the chase soon to be followed by a couple of wild boar!

Then, we get a call. The Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus inornatus) has been spotted and we rush over to the Meda Para (main road). Thankfully, the usual vehicle stampede is not as bad as we expected and for our luck, we get the best seats in the house! About four feet away is the most awesome sight of a young bear, oblivious to our presence and clicking cameras, sniffing the ground and foraging for food whilst intermittently scratching himself or playing in the sand. We spent a good 20 minutes with this unusually extroverted creature before leaving, reluctantly, but nonetheless exhilarated at the amazing sighting and the many photographs taken during that brief encounter.

Back at Wapi, Sugath was ready with a nice hot pot of coffee and sandwiches that we tucked into before heading off to wash away the dust of the jungle. The sun had set and as darkness spread through the canopy of trees, the fireflies were rising up to the sky. Down below in the garden, Sugath had lit a dozen fire flares that added to the ambiance of the evening as we enjoyed a glass of wine into the late night.

Sunday morning, after breakfast, a local boatman offered to give us ‘a ride’ across to the island. Twenty minutes later, we alighted in this beautiful island inhabited only with buffalo and myriad birds. To just sit and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this island was worth the task of rowing across. We also found some amazing camp sites that we vowed to tent up in the near future.

For the entire weekend, Sugath and his wife spoiled us with delicious local cuisine comprising red rice, home grown vegetables and fresh fish bought from the local fisherman, not forgetting the mouth watering local curd with pure kithul honey.

Wapi, meaning irrigational tank, is the perfect location for large groups of holiday seekers. The bungalow can accommodate up to 12 persons comfortably. The air conditioned rooms come with en-suite baths with hot and cold showers. The wonderful thing about Wapi is its centrality to many exciting places of interest like the Bundala, Lunugamvehera and Yala National Parks, the Kataragama Shrine and its four amazing stupas, the Kirinda beach and temple, , Situlpahuwa temple and the Maha Ravana Light House, all within an hour’s drive from Wapi.

Kudos to owner Ravin who has tastefully decorated the bungalow, keeping it simple yet very comfortable.

A quick nap after Sunday lunch and it was time to depart. But the weekend at Wapi, the bear and the boat ride will remain treasured in our memory…

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