I had been trying to keep my eyes open for a long time. After an exhausting journey from Delhi to Mumbai, I was still a few hours away from my flight to Sri Lanka. The anticipation of re-visiting the island nation, the outpost of my last vacation before the pandemic, gave me a bout of restlessness. A short flight and the accompanying jetlag didn't help.
But a view of the plane from the glass windows near the boarding gate elevated my excitement by a few notches. With every step taking me through the aerobridge to my window seat (yes, I'm a sucker for those), my heart was beginning to fill with glee and suspense in equal measure. This was my first time flying business class, and well, I couldn&rsquot help but feel elated at the idea of finally not having to jostle for space, and space there was. Sri Lankan Airlines left little room for complaint, right from the ever-smiling attendants to the really generous wine. Flight food is a sore spot everywhere, but it is here that Sri Lankan airlines, the country&rsquos flag carrier, really stood out the food was perfect, the leg room enviable and after a heady drink, I woke up to the azure blue kissing the Sri Lankan coastline.
A Wild Experience
I stood on a beach where the land meets the Indian Ocean, nibbling on my mango and basil sorbet ice cream and the honeyflower iced tea. At the edge of the Yala National Park stood Wild Coast Tented Lodge, a luxury resort by Resplendent Ceylon which is the brainchild of the Fernando family. They are the founders of the world-renowned Dilmah Ceylon Tea.
I was ushered to a cocoon pod that I would call home for two days. I was as surprised by the idea of the pod as you must be while reading it. These 28 cocoon tents, scattered across the property, take on the shape and colour of the rocks and boulders to merge with the surrounding, for Wild Coast is a free movement zone for animals, with Yala&rsquos most famous predator, the leopard, coming in the area for an occasional stroll. The only sound that disturbs your sleep is a really loud frog, or waves crashing on the sand. Boy was I happy
There is much to soak in at the resort - I was guided by a genial concierge to the main building - the vaulted bamboo Ten Tuskers bar and dining pavilion, nestled adjacent to a free flowing infinity pool. A Sri Lankan spread, with offerings like fish curry and hoppers, accompanied by the most delicious arrack cocktails kept us buzzing. At Wild Coast, each experience is a carefully constructed delight that seamlessly packages ecological sustainability and luxury. From solar power to use of hyperlocal ingredients, everything reminds me that I am part of the land. A dip in the pool, with water that is desalinated from the ocean and later recycled into water holes for animals, left me feeling refreshed enough to take on a safari into the Yala National Park. The icing on the cake We spotted the elusive leopard.
The next day, after a property showaround, we were treated to a special high tea by a rocky outcrop overlooking a lake, a mere 10 minute walk from the lodge. The cliffs, hanging precariously over a roaring ocean, our naturalist guide, and a couple of friendly dogs made for great evening company. On our walk back to Wild Coast, the path was lit up by hurricane lamps and a small bonfire. In front of us, near the beach, was a makeshift bar with the mixologist serving the best of Sri Lankan delights for what became our favourite part of the day - Sundowner Cocktail Hour.
With dusk came complete darkness. At Wild Coast, there are no night lights, keeping in mind the wildlife, and one has to call for an escort to roam inside the property after 6 pm. Back in my cocoon, after a quick bath in a standalone copper tub that called to mind a bygone era, I fell asleep to the sight of fireflies dancing outside.
Blues of the Indian Ocean
From the rugged heart of the forest to manicured lawns atop a large mountain, our view changed dramatically in a matter of two hours, as we drove from Yala to Weligama. What remained constant was the blue of the ocean, but with a small addition - rowdy surfers riding the waves while my heart palpitated at the mere sight of them. The town, Sri Lanka&rsquos surfing paradise, boasts of Cape Weligama, another jewel in Resplendent Ceylon&rsquos collection, that charmed me by its simplicity, only to sweep me off my feet by its luxury offerings.
We walked around the property, which is laid out like a village, to our first destination - a mangrove-laden path led us to Lookout Blue point, where the silver overcast sky offers unfettered views of the ocean. A golf-cart saved us the walk to our premier ocean villa, Samuel Baker (every villa is named after an explorer) - its pristine privacy and gardens enticed me to walk a little before putting up my feet with a book, under the shaded terrace. Cape Weligama offers bespoke luxury our villa had a steam room and mossy cobblestones led to a semi private pool.
Food is the holy grail at Cape. Fish caught fresh from the bay makes its way to an elaborate menu with both Sri Lankan and international cuisine on the offer. My default spot at the resort was the Ocean Terrace, where a hearty breakfast helped me kickstart the day with a tour of the city. After a heady mix of history, surf and sand, I was back at the resort, where the cedar-soaked rooms of Sanctuary Spa treated my sore feet with homegrown spices.
It is easy to get lost in the meandering lanes of the property, but each wrong turn affords you a beautiful experience, the most delightful being the moon pool - a crescent-shaped infinity pool which gives the illusion of its water almost merging into the ocean. Nearby, the play area, with a chess set that almost matches my height, doubled up as our cocktail bar, where we engaged in a friendly (and exhausting) game of chess before retiring for lunch.
Much like its sister properties at Yala and Hatton, Cape Weligama is also a member of Relais & Châteaux, with sustainability and community welfare at the heart of all operations. The staff at the resort contributes regularly to welfare projects, including cleanliness drives at the beach.
Sri Lankan hospitality is almost peerless - at the Tableau, over a decadent Chef&rsquos Table experience with Chef Vinnol, we had a crash course in Sri Lankan history and food (and a quick conversation in Hindi, much to our surprise). It was almost a sigh with which we culminated our last day on the wondrous island. We set out on a sailing expedition from the boat harbour in Mirissa even though our sail almost snapped in a show of might by the ocean winds, we watched, over mangoes and music, the glimmering ocean swallow the golden orb, drawing a curtain on an unparalleled Sri Lankan trail.