Amanwella has a location to rival any.
Amanwella is situated 2 hrs east of Galle in the intensely lush and rural coastal district of Tangalle, where the bays are renowned for their pale palomino-hued beaches, fringed with manes of flourishing palm and mango and a brushstroke-perfect aqua sea. It is rich in wildlife; from exotic birds to monitor lizards and turtles, with a flora that boasts a cornucopia of tropical delight. All in all...you travel for this.
After the comparatively high energy of Galle Fort, Indian Ocean luxury is a good choice. The journey was easy and, besides, back seat driving is an excellent way of absorbing day-to-day life. We also stopped en-route to check out a jaw-droppingly amazing retreat, high up above a mango grove, called Kahanda Kanda, where I will be staying next time, as they do not take under 16s. (see our mini review here)
As our 4x4 pulls into the gravel road that leads to the deep clay coloured forecourt of Amanwella, I lower the window. The air is tangibly different; lighter on urban humidity with an intense ocean essence. Buddhist prayers compete with the chorus of birdsong, which is punctured entirely by the haunting cry of a wild peacock. A glass of coconut water is handed over, a salty-sweet hydrator, along with a scented flannel; while your carload of bags and journey paraphernalia is taken care of.
Shoulders drop, we sigh with pleasure, it's awesome here. It is also still very warm. First impressions are soul-surging. It's cocktail hour: the lake-long infinity pool reflecting a fringe of soaring palms merges without trace into the inky blue sea, beneath a slightly moody dusk sky; while sun-kissed guests gather for drinks in the sweeping open-plan space of the sitting room/lounge/bar that opens out onto the panorama of coconut grove glory.
Amanwella bows to its heaven-sent host.
It is to this priceless location; the enduring pristine beach, the flourishing, mature coconut grove, along with the blissfully private, prodigious locale that Amanwella has sworn allegiance. The resort was designed by well-known architect, Kerry Hill, in honour of its surroundings, allowing guests to coalesce with their idyllic setting. The architecture reflects the nuances of highly acclaimed Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa, who is now regarded as one of the most influential Asian architects of the 20th century. Bawa's work is characterised by sensitivity to site and context, while Sri Lanka is the home and root of all his inspiration.
All the suites are the same in size and interior, which is very pleasing in these situations, as suite-envy is not an issue. However, they feel slightly different according to their location on the hill. We stayed in one of the Beach Suites, a short stroll from the main hotel, with a slightly higher price tag, as the views to the sea are uninterrupted. The suites on the hill's incline benefit from a more dramatic ocean view so are equally desirable.
The suites here are more like mini apartments without the hassle of a kitchen. They are extremely exclusive in design; nestled down steps behind a tall wall of privacy with views to the sea and coconut grove. All the suites have the same interior layout, design features, and sandy cream palette, and are connected by a walkway, which terminates at the beach club. It's a win-win-win suite situation.
The suites' uncluttered and peaceful sandy-toned interiors are designed and furnished with a luxury that speaks more about its space than its fittings. The rooms are slick and contemporary, decorated and furnished in a tropical/local/ fluent minimalist style, allowing the arresting view to steal the show.
Walls of glass, together with sliding rattan shutters, surround the suites, allowing the arresting view to be on show at will. They are suitably spacious in design, with beach coloured terrazzo flooring, combining living and sleeping area together with a Kithul wood sideboard housing the well-stocked mini-bar, plus a luxuriant armchair with footstool and a long recumbent armoire that nestles at the foot of an expansive bed. Really adorable keepsakes are left in the suites at turndown, along with sweet treats and little cards. The separate bathroom, shower room and private room all benefit from a pool or sea view. Lovely locally blended potions, in opulent measures, are placed throughout, while the service is excellent, swift, and 24/7.
A large wooden fan with speed control, above the bed, meant that at certain points we could switch off the air-conditioning allowing the mellifluous sound of the waves to lull us to sleep. I have friends who can only sleep to this sound, even if it comes out of their headphones! We really appreciated the IPod dock too; the 21st century snuggles in neatly.
There is more beside: in total privacy, a good-sized plunge pool, spotless and refreshing, is situated at the entrance of each suite, complete with a covered courtyard and dining/lounging area. Sea-facing terraces off the living area house attractive Kithul wood (a dark wood with a stunning patina) furniture; a supreme spot for alfresco breakfasts, cocktails, and tea breaks. The Kithul palm supplies the treacle that is poured over the delectable buffalo curd - a truly organic experience.
Dining - a moveable feast
You can also dine to your heart's delight at Amanwella, as the cuisine is delicious, with a variety of venue options in which to enjoy your rich pickings. It's unpretentious and relaxing at Amanwella. The suave, debonair and charming GM, Pietro, has made sure that you do just that. Flat-line your stress and don't fret about your heels, hairdo, or time for that matter. Also, if you missed out on a coveted Kaftan from Mimimango in Galle Forte, then you can buy one in the boutique near reception.
Spoilt for choice
The official dining room is airy and open-plan, emitting a cool laid-back ambience with several seating options. You can choose a private spot alongside the small lawned courtyard with frangipani trees and a water feature gurgling with Koi carp beneath purple and pink water lilies; or dine on the sea-facing terrace above the pool for an alfresco experience, or, choose one of the tables in the lofty split-level interior. At night local musicians play soft plinkety-plonk tunes, while the relentless motion from the ocean continues to dominate the sound waves.
The menu is light and diverse, being mostly Asian and Mediterranean, but as I never migrate from the 'local plate' when I am travelling, the western options went untried. The enigmatic Sinhalese chef, Sujith, is passionate about food and like a real chef should be he is keen that you share his educated passion. Sujith became a buddy by the end of our stay and always checked that he was on track with our palates as well as Bibi's rather fussy one.
With sea fare our natural choice beside the ocean, we still had to savour one of Sujith's Sri Lankan curries as well. Besides, you can curry fish and prawns too (any excuse to continue in the spice vein). It was a spread of spreads with every bowl brimming with local notes, even the rice tasted slightly different. I was now 'bowled' over by the 'gotukola' leaf salad plus the sweet potato curry with yellow lentils, all of which were deeply more-ish. Lime leaves, coriander and chilli, in microgram perfect proportion, were infused into most of the dishes and the prawns still tasted of the sea. Quite an achievement when spices are included.
The Beach Club
With catch-of-the-day ranging from yellowfin tuna, red mullet, lobster, prawns, butterfish and crayfish, plus the local lagoon crab, our eyes were on stalks with delight. However, for us, there was no better place to enjoy such offerings than down at the beachclub restaurant. I adored this spot; a Robinson Crusoe setting with subtle luxury statements. There are bathrooms and shower rooms at the back with lashings of body cream, shower gel and piles of plump white towels. I became hooked on the citronella spray they offer guests and as a result kept the buzzing pests at bay. The jumbo prawns, barbequed just so over coconut charcoal, were stupendous. I noted one couple indulging in this delight on two consecutive days. You simply wont get it better. We enjoyed very chilled Pinot Grigio at the beachclub, and Planeta la Sagreta Bianca, from Sicily, with our spicier dishes.
A resplendent base from which to visit some of Sri Lanka's jewels
So, here, at paradise bay, you can simply let nature overcome you while you stop the world from turning: reclining on a cushion-clad sun bed under the heavenly dappled shade of verdant healthy palms, in a grove that delivers an aura of remote paradisiacal island-living; including regular bottles of chilled water; trays with scented chilled towels; fresh passion fruit and coconut sorbet - all set before a pristine beach and the vibrant Indian Ocean.
However, we enjoyed our excursions and they certainly enhanced our stay. Please see Top6Trips 4
for the full review.