The Auspicious Escape by Juliet Coombe20th May, 2019
Juliet Coombe says with great positivity that tourism will quickly return to Sri Lanka and people will again enjoy this magical island for its true values of kindness and hospitality to all. In her search for a visionary approach, she went to Calamansi Cove Villas by Jetwing and has enjoyed the last few days trying out their new experiences for this auspicious month, from making your own lotus Vesak Lantern to take home with you, to doing a vegetarian/vegan cooking class and re-connecting with mother nature through an amazing ancient medicinal tree and flower garden trail.
Life is back to normal; fishermen are unloading the mornings catch, while others pull in their nets and invite me to give them a hand. I have been up since dawn, as it is Ramadan, and fasting has started across the island; many good deeds are being done everywhere as Sri Lanka returns to its deeply respectful way of life. Having a go at bringing in fish is a great leveller in a time of crisis and just what I needed to remind myself of exactly how tough life really is, and I would recommend anyone suffering from shock that a proper break is essential, so you can return to the world with a visionary and positive plan for the future. Laughing with the fishing community as they realise how totally hopeless I am, I leave them to it and start exploring the tiny cove, with its wonderful rocky outcrop that protects the bay for safe tranquil swimming; something unique along this coastline. It is also surrounded on all other sides by native jungle, far from the bustle of roads or towns. Here, some of the staff make star lanterns and tease each other on who would make the best one. Over the next few weeks, as part of your holiday package, they will teach everyone staying, how to make one, as well as encouraging everyone to have a go at one of their other fabulous new experiences.
Returning from our early morning adventure, we learn, as we sip our breakfast juice in Calamansi Cove Villa restaurant, Tangerine, that the name of the place is derived from the Calamansi fruit, which is a South Asian small round citrus fruit that ripens a bright orange and is found in abundance in the surrounding Balapitiya area. Found in abundance at the entrance of the property, this exotic, natural, healthy and rejuvenating fruit is a cross between a miniature lemon and a lime. It leaves a note of sweetness on the tongue and is the colour palette of not only the villa logo, but also the interiors of each of the thirteen villa rooms, with wonderful mixes of green, yellow and orange in the throws for the beds and matching cushions.
Calamansi Cove is nestled in an oasis of peace and luxury; a place with excellent security as Jetwing have always employed ex military to guard all their properties, as the clients safety has always been at the top of their priorities. Hidden away, and only accessible via small village lanes, this lovely spot, a short drive from Colombo, is an excellent weekend get away to de-stress from current woes and learn exciting new things. The owners say that this is a place where silence speaks for itself and you can enjoy re-connecting with nature through their yoga teacher, in the early morning or improve your game of cricket with Sindu, their lethal batsman. The amazing architecture marvellously blends the natural beauty of the garden with the artistically presented food. Each villa is named after a fruit, the vibrancy of which is captured in paintings, by Janaka De Silva, of each of them in the recreational area at the front of the villa. One of the islands most famous artists, Janaka is currently working on an underwater gallery and restoring the Mask Museum in the Galle Fort, as I write.
The architecture of each villa is brilliant; incorporating natural light and its surroundings. Guests also enjoy excellent shower rooms, private gardens with ample seating, a mini bar and a tea and coffee maker. Each suite also comes with its own roof terrace for watching glorious sunsets and is a truly lovely spot, if you are an artist, to put up your easel and create your own masterpiece of this tropical Eden. Fabulous French picture windows look out onto your garden, filled with birdsong, the occasional naughty monkey and Buddhist chanting in the mornings; all part of the magic of this beautifully landscaped spot.
And if security concerns you, being so close to an open beach, each suite has two heavy doors with big locks. There are security cameras, security guards; even two dogs, Tommy and Jimmy, who love to look after the hotel guests and make sure even if a naughty snake appears that it is sent packing, back to its jungle home. As I sip my tea, I am honestly not sure if anywhere could be safer than Sri Lanka, with all its amazing extra security measures or more special as this is an island whose food is seen as one of the best cuisines in the world; my juice has just been picked off the Calamansi tree and the fish straight out of the water. You won’t get anything fresher unless you are lucky enough to live on a farm.
Whether you are a birdwatcher, stargazer, gardener or nature lover, I highly recommend this place for a weekend or weekday re-boot, as its staff are inspiring and, well, the venue speaks for itself from the reviews, instagram pictures and websites.
Mahesh is worth a special mention, trained by Chef, Thushara, for the delicious food he cooks; and Surjit, the lifeguard, for the fascinating beach and rock tours; and the robust fun loving owners, behind the scenes, who have considered every detail in running a truly wonderful hotel. Between them all, they have thought of everything, all drawing on their broad experiences and being lovers of travelling around the island. In the rooms you will find both aircon and fans (plus fans over the patio); umbrellas, caps, coffee and tea makers perfect for a writer that never sleeps; robes to wander around imagining oneself to be the female version of Oscar Wilde; a hairdryer for a stylish hair flick and even European sockets, so I could write this feature! For a break, I enjoy chess and board games in the library between fresh fruit platters and energetic swims in the pool. Lanterns add to the lovely spirit of the place as they exquisitely light the winding paved paths through a beautiful tropical garden from reception to the restaurant.
My favourite parts of the villas are the tropical gardens; the huge bathrooms with rain showers, along with the second private outdoor shower, which got equally well used after our sandy beach bank sliding competitions; and a four poster bed with mosquito netting, facing a fully framed glass window overlooking nature. They all helped me to return to a calm place. I know, as I watch the sun rise this morning, that together we will rebuild this beautiful island and, during this auspicious and religious time for Buddhists and Muslims, together with our Tamil, Christian and international friends, we will help each other, through our different faiths, by offering food to everyone on the streets, of all religions. Through these acts of universal love and kindness the Vesak and Ramadan festivals bring is something Sri Lanka is world famous for, we will together rebuild this island.
How to get there:
Wijerama Temple Rd, Balapitiya, Sri Lanka
Calamansi Cove is at the end of Wijerama Temple Rd, which is less than a 1 km from the Balapitiya bus depot and the Jumma Musjid. Call 772441114
Juliet Coombe is an award-winning British photojournalist. Read her full article on page 11 in epaper.newsexpress.lk
17th May 2019 edition.