Why this hotel is the perfect place to stay when you arrive in Sri Lanka
Despite the midnight arrival, proprietor Louis and his 2IC Mohan receive me warmly and without a hint of the hour. After being on and off planes for 24 hours, landing up at a coconut plantation, in the balmy salubrious air, is just the tonic – as is the king coconut water and cold towel Mohan offers me. Louis has clearly dealt with many such dazed late-night arrivals and takes me quickly to my room, with promises of a pot of tea and Sri Lankan breakfast at whatever time I emerge in the morning. He doesn’t disappoint – the pol (coconut) roti and eggs from his own chickens are a perfect re-introduction to the joys of waking up in Sri Lanka. Ambarella Lodge uses coconuts, spices, fruits and vegetables from their own garden and plantation – there’s something special about consuming these things from the very property they were produced on. I try not to eat too much because I know a large meal first thing after so much travel is not ideal, but it takes a real effort to resist asking for more.
The place for your pot of tea
Exploring the plantation and beyond
After breakfast Louis shows me the plantation, which has over 100 spice plants amongst the many hundreds of coconut palms. I know visitors to Sri Lanka are always fascinated to learn first-hand about spices – seeing the plants that produce spices you use regularly is intriguing. We stop to chat to Sashi the gardener, who is also training up to offer yoga classes – his labourer’s physique suggests that a few hours of yoga a day would be no stretch at all.
Sashi the head gardener slash yoga instructor
After a round of the garden, Louis hands me over to Sumit – who is not only a first-class front of house allrounder but a tuk tuk driver and village guide to boot. We set off along the small back-roads that wind throughout the area, stopping to learn about the cottage industries that provide livelihoods for many of the local households.
Setting off with Sumit
A connecting theme quickly becomes clear: There is clay pot making (using coconut husk and wood for firing the kiln), coir rope and mattress making (with a very useful potting mix by-product), coconut harvesting, a coconut oil processing plant (which as someone who consumes coconut oil often, I found fascinating) and finally a coconut timber mill, where old palms go to be productive one last time (and where everything from the bark to the sawdust finds use as a by-product). It’s a lesson in ‘sustainability’ from a plant and processes that far pre-date the word’s current vogue. Whatever the case there’s something inherently satisfying about the number of ways this tropical ubiquity plays a part in the local economy.
When Sumit drops me back to my room surprise surprise there’s Mohan with a cold coconut water for me. It’s a fitting end to my stay; I’m sure I’ll be back and next time for a longer stay – and plenty more coconut.
Ambarella Lodge can be included at the beginning or end of nearly any Sri Lanka itinerary, thanks to its proximity to the airport. You can browse our suggested itineraries here or let us know your interests by email and we’ll prepare a tailor-made itinerary for you.