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Discover Sri Lankan serenity at Kurulu Bay and beyond

 (ES Magazine)
(ES Magazine)

My eyes were closed for my yogic savasana, but my other senses were on full alert. Frangipani trees scented the dusk air, monkeys howled as they swung from branch to branch. When I blinked them back open, the sky was a shifting canvas of marshmallow clouds. I was lying on the yoga shala at Kurulu Bay overlooking Koggala Lake, which opened last December. It is part of a clutch of grown-up hotels and lodges that have sprung up inland from Ahangama, the cool surf spot on Sri Lanka’s south coast that has been gathering pace since the pandemic. They follow in the footsteps of Palm, a tropical paradise with A-frame cabanas and new treehouse suites, where you wake up immersed in the jungle.

At Kurulu (meaning bird in Sinhala), life is centred on the beautiful restaurant and turquoise pool. I passed soft, tranquil days here, powered by tuna sashimi salads and lobster tail curries, gentle swims and occasional drifts to the good-looking spa for a massage — retreating to my cottage at night for deep sleeps. It is only 10 minutes in a tuktuk to the buzz of the town, but Kurulu Bay is a tranquil slice of heaven.

Further uphill sits Tekanda Lodge, a newly minted private villa and guest house that sits atop an organic tea plantation and melts into its jungle surroundings. With four generous bedrooms in the main lodge and secluded cabanas, days at Tekanda unfold at a deliciously slow pace — ripe for contemplation and restoration. But its founders and hosts, Richie and Charlie Pembroke, have also designed the lodge to bring people together; we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner family-style around the dining room table, oiled by G&Ts and shared stories. Some days I spent lazing by the palm-fringed pool, hydrating with king coconuts and listening to the symphony of jungle sounds; on others, I hopped in a tuktuk for sunrise surfs at one of the many breaks that dot this coastline.

Ahangama Beach at sunset
Ahangama Beach at sunset

Across from Tekanda, glimpsed through the towering palm fronds, was my final stop, Trebartha East. Designed by a Colombo-based architect in a roundhouse style, it makes the most of the magnificent 360-degree views from its cinnamon estate home. There are just four rooms, so I felt like I was part of an intimate house party — thanks to the jovial hospitality of owners Benny and Patrick, who have evening drinks and dinner with guests when in residence.

Inside, Trebartha East is a love letter to Sri Lankan artists and artisans: rattan pieces that were woven less than a mile away; rugs from a local female collective and bold, colourful works commissioned from native painters. Outside, a glittering pool follows the curve of the property’s circular footprint — and is an extraordinary place to watch the sunset from.

Soul-nourishing food at Trebartha East (ES Magazine)
Soul-nourishing food at Trebartha East (ES Magazine)

I could have holed up happily in each of these spots, looked after by their smiling staff, seamless kitchens and dreamy views. When I did leave, it was to eat: rice and curry in an auntie’s garden at Manori’s Kitchen in Ahangama, prawns in the beautiful restaurant at Malabar Hill near Weligama and grilled fish at Citra in Kabalana.

Kate at Palm (ES Magazine)
Kate at Palm (ES Magazine)

I dropped into Kurulu for a final dose of yin yoga overlooking the lake, blissed out by the warm, late afternoon air and the sounds of the jungle I had come to know and love. (kurulubay.com; palmhotelsrilanka.com; tekandalodge.com; trebartha-east.com). SriLankan Airlines flies direct from London to Colombo (srilankan.com)