The loud and enigmatic harmony of the rahaiyas welcomed us at mid-day. A family of grey langurs were resting on a nearby tree but were too inquisitive to be entertaining their partners. Trees of various shades dominating the landscape swayed in a frenzy to keep up with strong winds. We were at Back of Beyond – Kurulu Uyana, a name earned by the property as it’s an ideal place for bird watching situated at the foot of the iconic Pidurangala Rock.
A night on a treehouse
We spent our stay at the Milla Treehouse, one of two other treehouses at the property apart from two family cottages. Inspired by his childhood treehouse back in Skelton Road, it was at this venue that it’s proprietor Dr. Yohan Weerasuriya built his first treehouse when it started operations in 2007.
Each treehouse has been built to accommodate at least four adults and includes a fridge, safe, pedestal fan and a seating area. The ground floor includes an open-air bathroom and an open lounge. Free WiFi is available at their lounge and the property also includes a dining area as well. For first-timers, it could be a bit scary as you may hear various animal calls during the night. But if you want to sleep as close to nature as possible, this is possibly a good experience. Staying true to its concept of ‘do good instead of feel-good’ everything from the architecture has been designed with minimum disturbance to nature while following sustainable and eco-friendly practices every day.
Exploring the unexplored
While in Sigiriya we were inclined to explore what else was in store for visitors other than hiking the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and you will not believe what we discovered! According to Sigiriya and Beyond, a thoroughly researched travel guide written by Dr. Weerasuriya et al, you could explore many undiscovered religious sites, archeological sites and lakes within a 30km radius from the Sigiriya Rock. During our stay we took a boat ride at the Pahala Thalkotte Lake situated a few kilometres away from the property. As dusk was nearing, villagers were seen having a bath, doing their washing and children playing in the waters. Although we only spotted resident birds perched on the trees, a boat ride in this lake will present to you a clear panoramic view of Pidurangala and Sigiriya rocks.
Cormorants, darters, Brahminy Kites and over 130 species could be spotted during the migratory season. An evening snack on the lake perhaps will make you contemplate on how time has stood still in rural areas located away from the suburbs. The greeneries remain untouched and you could only pray that they remain intact with ongoing threats of deforestation. With dusk falling in, we headed back to the property to see what more was in store for us. When at BOB you can’t just retire to bed after dinner because the amazing team will always have something planned for you. A Loris walk was what was in store for us. With red lights to find the way, we walked through the forest patch, twisting and turning branches falling onto the way, almost tripping on gigantic tree roots and followed the lights until we spotted those bright eyes! A tiny grey slender loris was looking at us from a distance and our mission was a success.
Supporting local communities
What is unique about BOB Sigiriya properties is that all meals include harvests that come from their farm. Having ventured into the avenue of organic agriculture nearly 12 months ago, BOB has focused on reintroducing Sri Lankan indigenous/ heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. The farm includes two sections; the organic and the commercial section. The farmers agree that the organic section needs more treatment and care as they have to ensure that no chemicals are mixed. You could see a variety of herbs such as mint and basil and fruits such as papaya, vegetables such as cucumber and sweet potato growing in it. The commercial section includes eggplant, thumbakaravila, tomato, capsicum and many other vegetables. Don’t forget to have a chena breakfast at their farm!
This project has also supported local communities as it had given them new job opportunities, while they have also been familiarised with environmentally conscious farming methods in order to allow communities to live in harmony with wildlife, while also demonstrating the possibility of coexisting with elephants who dominate the territories.
Tempting local flavours
When at BOB you certainly wouldn’t want to miss their local options on the menu. While they do prepare continental cuisine on request, visitors usually expect to indulge in the local flavours. During our stay, we were treated to a hearty lunch with local vegetable curries and fried lake fish. They also have sea fish and chicken options as well. Warm pol roti, kiribath and other options are available for breakfast. At night you could have an option of soup and grilled vegetables with chicken or a lighter meal as you wish. Kiri pani, ice cream and fruits are dessert options that complement the main meals.
Dehigaha Ela – A venue to connect with nature
Situated nearly 8.3 kilometres away from Kurulu Uyana is Back of Beyond – Wild Haven, Dehigaha Ela. Inspired by the stream that flows in its boundary, this property is dedicated to those who want to disconnect with technology and connect with nature in a literal sense. Once again we spent a night at the Damba Treehouse, designed by the same architect who designed treehouses at the Kurulu Uyana property. With breathtaking views and a soothing wind, various birds and butterflies adding colour to the sceneries, it was a stay to remember. Located on a seven-acre property, this property is hidden in a forest patch developed through Assisted Natural Regeneration as it had been a bare land destroyed by slash/burn cultivation sometime ago.
The Dehigaha Ela property includes boulder cottages for families and treehouses for those who want to bond with nature. It could accommodate around 20 guests at a given time and each room includes basic amenities required for you to spend a memorable stay. While at Dehigaha Ela, don’t forget to dip your feet in their natural fish spa and take a dip in the stream. The stream feeds the Kiri Oya that flows into the Minneriya – Giritale sanctuary. A nature walk observing fresh and dried elephant dung to stay away from the jumbos would certainly add to your excitement. You are advised to take the unknown path with a guide as there are many migratory routes engineered by the jumbos. Communication signals could be weak in both properties but you will certainly not regret the experience.
Note : – Visitors are advised to keep their snacks in the fridge and to lock it as the monkey visitors are well aware of where you could be hiding such essentials.
At any given time, frogs of all shapes and sizes could be aiming their next landing pad and it could be your head, shoulder or anywhere near you. So don’t panic!
We left with a heavy heart but with an assurance to return back and unwind with nature. So if you want to spend time with nature, do take your loved ones to the Back of Beyond property in Sigiriya and you will certainly be amazed!
Images courtesy: BOB