Kurundu- our fourth apartment- is ready for rental!

It’s been a long time since writing a post and a lot has happened in the meantime! Not only have we now aquired a funny little street Kitten-Elvis-but we have also finally built some accommodation of our own next door, which means the other upstairs apartment with the biggest balcony and view of the cinnamon field is now available for rental too! Click HERE for the Air Bnb page!

The Kurundu apartment (named after the Cinnamon field opposite) is available from this October 2019, and sleeps up to 2 people. Like the Kittul apartment it has a semi open air bathroom, so that you can shower in the sunshine at different parts of the day. The stones set into the wall were separated from the sand we used for the construction of Banana Leaf Apartments.

Each morning this bedroom is visited by tiny sunbirds most mornings, who sit in pairs and tap at the window, and at other times we get peacocks perched outside too. It’s a great apartment for nature watching.

This kitchen is really familiar with existing guests as it’s the area we have cooked so many Banana Leaf Family meals for guests, friends and family (including the giant Christmas feast that’s becoming a bit of a tradition-last time it was around 30 people!) There’s a bench in front of the breakfast bar to eat at, and plenty of room for food preparation while you look out onto the balcony.

The balcony itself has 2 long polished cement loungers with plenty of cushions for long lazy afternoons reading and listening to the jungle. At sunset, the sky above the palms opposite really glows and this is the best place to watch it from.

If you have any queries regarding renting this apartment of any of the others you can contact us on the phone, by email or through our enquiry form . This apartment would be great to rent alongside the Kittul room (Which you can see here) if you’re traveling as a group of 4, because they’re next to each other on the first floor.

Brief gardens- a short trip west.

It's easy to get into the slow pace of island time in Hikkaduwa, and forget how many amazing places are just a short train ride away.  There are interesting historic buildings all around the island (in fact we are spoilt with 8 UNESCO world heritage sites!) and it would be crazy not to explore when you get the chance.  With this in mind, I jumped on the train headed West one morning, with the plan to visit Brief garden (and get a bit of pampering as Bentota is known for it's Ayurvedic spas..why not?!)

There's something about train travel in Sri Lanka, I really recommend taking at least one trip by rail to anyone visiting the island.  The trains here are pretty old and rickety and it feels like old-fashioned travel and adventure-especially when you're lucky enough to get an almost empty carriage.  The journey we did was quite a short distance, but it pulled into pretty much all of the stops along the way which left my friend and I with time to catch up and chat and take in the view.  You can find timetables online HERE:  and there is also an app or two which you can add to your phone if you're here for a while.

We got off the train at Bentota and took a tuk tuk from there to the gardens which took about 15 minutes.  When we arrived at the gardens we rung a bell and a man greeted us, took the admission fee (1,000LKR each which we thought was a bit steep but hey) and unlocked the gates to let us in.  I will admit we arrived without much knowledge of what was inside, and there is no information available at the gate, so we just wandered around, taking in the lush, sometimes wild jungle gardens. ( Don't forget to take mozzie repellent as areas are dense and overgrown and we were bitten within minutes!)

Brief gardens was home of Bevis Bawa, the brother of renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa who is known for some large sites such as the Lighthouse near Galle.  It is a former rubber plantation and was started in 1929 and then inherited from his mother in 1949.  It's dotted with homoerotic statues and art, many of which are found closer to the house itself.  We were the only ones there at this time-the only other visitors we saw arrived as we were leaving, so it's very peaceful.

I think the main highlight for us was looking around the house-soaking up a feel for some of the lively (if controversial) history the grounds have seen.  On the walls are photographs and paintings of Bawa at different stages of his life, bookcases stuffed full, and a huge mural of the island that we stared at for ages.  It's a shame that although the place is clearly cared for and cleaned, not much is done to preserve artworks like that in the tropical climate-it's nice to have seen it before it fades and crumbles more in time.

One of the  things we learned through our own research since leaving the property is that the Australian artist Donald Friend -who had initially arrived there for a short vacation and ended up staying for 6 years- had quite worrying relationships with young Ceylonese boys during his stay (and also in Bali where he also spent time) He created many pieces you can see there including the mural, and the man who keeps the house will mention him as he shows you around without going into his background.  I won't dwell on it here, but you can read more about it online..Here and here as well as a Documentary by Kerry Negara.

There are so many pockets of garden to explore, with a great outdoor shower, fountains and ponds, it's worth taking your time.  This is probably more of interest to lovers of art and gardening than people who want to be kept occupied and entertained-it suited us well! We just wish that there was some kind of information booklet given at the entry, or supplied around the house as I think it would have been an even more interesting experience to know the background and origins of some pieces, or how they were created.  If you have the time, you can also visit Lunuganga-his brothers estate, which we didn't get around to.

 We rounded off the day by indulging ourselves a bit!  Before catching a bus home we decided to get a massage in one of the beach hotels..it's a good idea to shop around as the hotels vary wildly in price!  Alternatively, you can visit spice gardens or turtle hatcheries-it's easy to fill a day here!

Our short, fun nature tour day 2

So this technically doesn't start on day 2 but hey..here it is!  We spent the night at Peanut farm which is South of Arugam bay itself and a real surfing mecca in High season.  We are so lucky to be able to stay there with guests as it feels so wild at night and while our camping is (as always) pretty basic, we have the benefit of being able to use their well and occasionally shower block to freshen up.  It may be hot but we still lit a campfire, firstly because the sound of the wood crackling, along with the waves crashing is amazing..secondly because it puts wild elephants off from wandering through.  They may be big but they move fast and quietly and because the moon is often the only light (there are no other hotels, houses or street lights here) you don't usually see them coming!

Our favourite part of staying here is waking to the sunrise (hard luck to the lazy late sleepers amongst us-the sunshine peeping through the trees will wake you up but it's definitely worth it)  As we had a couple of surfers present this meant hitting the water before tuk tuks started arriving from the Bay, which is an added bonus of the early start!  

After a surf and a snooze in the shade, we had a drive to a couple of spots to look for crocodiles.  We weren't as fortunate as usual because the water level was too low, so we saw 4-5 of them where we would usually find around 15-20 but that's part of looking for things in their natural habitat, it's not to predictable and you have to be satisfied with a glimpse of these creatures! (Take note if you're thinking of joining a Sri Lankan whale tour..!) We did however enjoy the walk, collect some exotic feathers and see some birds who were totally undeterred from fishing by us.

On our way back we stopped off at a small Hindu temple in the village.  While Hikkaduwa is predominantly Buddhist, there are a large number of Muslim and Hindu residents in this part of the island, which means you can find some vibrant temples and large mosques dotted through the towns.  Some kids who were waiting outside for a bus after school sized up our guests and managed to get some free ice creams, which then led to them curiously following them into the temple.  We had worked up a sweat by that point and needed refreshments..If anyone has tried Sri Lankan juices or tea, they will know just how sugary drinks here can be-sometimes it feels like you could stand a spoon in your glass!  It's strangely satisfying in the heat though and we noticed a tiny stall selling syrupy juice with fruit floating in it (not quite like Faluda as seen in previous post but just as sickly) and all happily guzzled a glass full in the shade.

Come evening time we took a walk along the windy dusty road which connects Peanut farm to the main road (a great spot for elephant watching with a guide at night) and made a plan to head to the lagoon for fishing and drinks.  

We rowed out on small canoes into the lagoon and found a large rock to fish from.  We were joined by local fishermen we know, who definitely helped in our efforts to get a decent meal together!  Sometimes elephants can be seen swimming here at night so you have to keep an eye out.  In the distance we could see lightening which made for a great view in the dark.  

After Marco's morning surf and a delicious breakfast, we started our journey back to Hikkaduwa.  It's so hard to leave and this time we really enjoyed having Sudhi the puppy to play with (seen above running away with a bikini) If anyone is headed that way and wants to swing by Peanut Farm, donations of flea collars, frontline, vitamins etc would be great for the jungle dogs living there.  They're very affectionate even if they seem a bit wild looking! 

Short, fun nature tour to the East coast. Day 1

You can probably tell from other posts on the Banana Blog, that we love getting over to the East Coast.  The moment we get to the bridge just outside of Arugam Bay (above) excitement builds about A) The Surf-if it's High Season. B) The amazing animals we'll see..and C) getting to wake up with the sunrise at the beach.  Every time we go there's something new to see, and the feeling of adventure remains the same. 

We usually arrive on time to see the sun rising over the Bay, but unfortunately this time we had a slightly longer route.  Just a short drive along the road cutting through the outskirts of Yala National Park, at around 3am, we were flagged down by a lorry approaching us.  The driver told us a bridge was down (we were lucky to know at this point as it turns out it was a lot further into the park!) and that we needed to turn around and take another route.  This is a great part of the journey usually because we tend to see lots of animals beside the road, so we continued along until we saw a few elephants then made a U-turn and headed back towards Katharagama, adding another hour or so onto the journey (but worth it for the elephant sightings!) Just after the sun came up we stopped outside a military station and refreshed with tea and rotti.

From Arugam bay we drove into Kumana national Park where between stretches of dry tangled jungle you have these incredible views where the open spaces stretch on, alive with so many different types of bird and, as we had this time, elephants grazing close to the road.  Amazing!

The feeling of spotting elephants so close, in their own environment is totally awesome.  These two were relaxed amongst the marshy waters and we couldn't believe how beautiful the scenery was.  As I have stated on other posts, you must remember that these elephants are WILD.  That means staying safe and observing them from a safe distance-you don't stand much chance of out-running an elephant, even though they look so large and placid, they can reach a great speed.  We always remain close to our vehicle and do our best not to disturb them or cause them any stress.  After seasons of living close to them, Amila knows how to behave and what warning signs to look for.  That being said, this is a great experience for any elephant-lover visiting the island..seeing them unchained and relaxed!

After our sighting, we drove further into the park to Kudumbigala Monastery Complex, the serene, peaceful temple surrounded by jungle.

I'm not going to lie, the walk to the top of the rock here is pretty tiring first thing in the morning.  However, it's not to be missed as once you get to the dagoba at the top, the view is spectacular, without a hotel or highway in sight.  It's not hard to see why this has been a Buddhist hermitage for over 2,000 years.   

After the walk back down through the winding pathways of the monastery complex, it's always nice to freshen up at the hand-pumps at the bottom.  We often see groups of monkeys here and large monitor lizards, especially on a quiet day when we are the only visitors.

Breakfast was the delicious coconut rotti and Onion Sambal in Okanda.  Baked the traditional way, over a wood fire, this is a must-eat if you come here to explore or surf.

We used to camp out in Okanda but didn't have the chance this time so we headed to Peanut Farm where the High Seasons surf was just beginning right on our doorstep (camp-step?).  This was our base for the two nights stay.  They are currently re-building the cabanas there and so far they look amazing so watch this space! 

Day 2's blog post to follow...

Wet and wild at the Duli Ella waterfalls

What to do in Hikkadu when it's monsoon weather..?  Get even wetter at the beautiful Duli Ella Waterfall we decided!  Last week we took our guests there to explore...

It took us a while to get there-longer than usual as the roads had experienced some small landslides from the heavy monsoon rains and often along the way-on the more rural roads-there was partial blockage and teams with diggers trying to clear the way.  It was a beautiful journey anyway-with incredible views across the surrounding tea plantations.

This waterfall Duli Ella was named after its dust-like spray (Duli means dust in Sinhala) but on the day we visited, it definitely deserved a more spectacular name!  The heavy rainfall previously meant that huge ammouts of water were thundering down the falls, so we could see them at their best!

Duli Ella is on the border of the Sinharaja forest reserve, which was designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  According to UNESCO's site, "Sinharaja is the country's last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds, but the reserve is also home to over 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies, as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians." so it's an undeniably important area to protect.

Once we parked, we bought our tickets and then began smearing our feet in Siddhalepa Ayurvedic balm to ward off leeches (Something to be prepared with when entering any rainforest area!) This also had the benefit of smelling amazing!

A nice thing about the falls is that they are very accessible for walkers with strong steps most of the way up and handrails, without them looking too out of place.  Once you get to each part of the falls though it starts getting slippy, we had our hearts in our mouths every time a guest stepped close to the falls-this is somewhere to take extra care!

The final part of the ascent to the top was off the path, into the jungle and through the water at the top.  This is definitely worthwhile as it opens up into a stunning leafy green space and has a pool at the top that's safe for swimming..our guests also enjoyed an added extra in the form of a fish massage!  Lots of small fish cluster around your feet if you stand in the water for a little while, and start nibbling your feet.

On the way down, we had the chance to experience the amazing views across from the water falls.  It was hugely atmospheric with the sound of the water crashing behind us and the mist swirling across the hills.

If you don't make it to the very top, or would prefer somewhere still to swim, there is a pool at the bottom of the falls that's perfect to cool off in (or if you're like us and our guests, and have it to yourselves, make a big splash!) This is ideal if you were to bring children and want to enjoy the water with them.

This journey can be done in 2 hours from Hikkaduwa in normal conditions, and you need maybe 1.5 hours there so it's an ideal day trip-if you set out early you can easily be back on the coast to enjoy the sunset.  There are also tea plantations and factories you can visit along the way if you don't get the chance to visit any inland.

For more information on tours like this (or adventure tours-our specialty!) You can contact us HERE.

Nature tour part 3: Peanut farm, fishing and surfing

So..last time we were at the East Coast, we camped in a field opposite the turn-off for Peanut farm, as the monsoon season had filled the normally dried-out lake by the entrance, cutting off access.  This time we were optimistic that we would be able to take our van through. As soon as we left the road we knew there was NO chance we could get through as the outskirts were mud and we would have had some apologizing to do to Dushantha (our driver) if we asked him to go ahead (and potentially a lot of hard work getting the van out!!).  So we unloaded by the side of the road and walked the winding jungle road to our destination.

The plus-point of the road being under water is that we were the only ones (beside our friends who live there) who were there-we had the place to ourselves, and it is an awesome wild beach to be on!

We love sleeping under the stars and listening to the waves so always opt to sleep on the Kabanna balconies here-facing the sea.  They're hopefully being re-built soon, with the addition of solar energy to power lights and kitchen equipment-at the moment the guys only occasionally use their generator, navigating the area at night by torch and cooking on a traditional fire stove-this place is off the grid.  At the moment though we love it how it is though, in it's slightly ramshackle state!

As it's still the tail end of the off-season, the sea at this hidden surf spot was pretty flat, but it didn't stop us taking in boards and having some fun! During high season it gets a bit busier so it's a real novelty to have the sea to ourselves!

We ended this great trip with salty skin, sand in our bags and huge smiles on our faces.  It's always hard to leave this incredible place but we plan on returning whenever possible!

Nature tour part 2: the night we camped where leopards live.

Following on from our last post..The day continued to be full of opportunities to spot some amazing wildlife! From the fishing village we took a jungle walk, following the road outside of the Kumana National Park entrance. You get a great view of the temple from here, and there's an ideal fishing spot close to the road.

We didn't walk far before coming across a large group of deer grazing, and one of the most striking things- trees full of Malabar pied hornbills, which looked pre-historic, perched above the lake. Due to their unfortunate decline in number, these amazing birds are listed as Near Threatened, so it is pretty incredible to see them in such numbers!

We piled into the van next as the temperature was cooling off and we knew the elephants would be coming out of the jungle and closer to the road to feed.  It didn't take us long before we spotted a pregnant elephant, and stopped to watch her, quietly and safely in the bushes.  You have to take care when close to wild elephants as they are not only powerful but unpredictable.  We always encourage our guests to be respectful and cautious-you don't have to look far to find news about the damage these beautiful creatures can cause!!

That night we cooked up the fresh fish which was caught that day, with noodles and of course washed down with a healthy measure of arrack which we brought to share with the fishermen. We climbed onto a nearby rock for our feast and watched as the sun set and the stars formed a stunning pattern overhead, listening to the sounds of the jungle.  The rocks were still hot from the sun beating down on them all day, and warmed our backs as we lay on them star gazing before our friends started singing local songs.  The question was asked as to whether there are any leopards in the park..the reply was that there is a cave very close to where we were sitting that one lived in! No sightings during our time there but a wild boar crossed paths with our guest on his way to the van!

The next morning, before it got too hot to walk barefoot, we left Okanda and drove to Kudumbigala Monastery Complex.

Walking through the shady walkways, we were informed that a strange smell we had noticed was a sign that a bear had recently been there, although we didn't see more than a glimpse of one ourselves unfortunately.  We reached the first of a series of cave temples-built in the second century-and took in the surroundings.

It is no exaggeration to say that the view from the top of the highest rock is breathtaking and well worth the climb.  Standing next to the red-brick Dagoba, you get the most incredible view of the surrounding area-stretching out to the sea and the national park.  There is no highway, hotel or high-rise in sight-the only sign of human habitation is the odd farmers hut and the few dirt roads that snake through the park.  The below (iphone) images don't do it justice at all!

Once again, more to follow with our final part of this tour where we headed to the awesome Peanut Farm..!

Why we love the East Coast in "off-season" -adventure with our guests!

We love how spontaneous and adventurous our guests can be!  Chiya and Austin were staying in our Bamboo apartment in Hikkaduwa, and after some great chats about Sri Lanka, we arranged a tour to the East Coast!

We left Hikkaduwa at 11:30pm, with bags packed with supplies- where we camp there is no luxury, and there are quite long drives between each location so it's a good idea to stock up on basics like large water bottles and mosquito coils before you leave.

Because we left late in the evening and drove through the night, it was a great opportunity to spot some wildlife!  The route takes you around the outskirts of Yala National Park so we crossed paths with elephants, foxes and deer who had come close to the road to feed in the cool of the night.

The other bonus was that we arrived in Arugam Bay with an incredible sunrise!  As it's still the off-season there, it was pretty quiet, with just a couple of lone surfers to be seen from the beach-just how we like it!

During High season, you wouldn't guess that the area is covered in paddy fields-it's usually so dry!  Due to the monsoon rains, these large wetlands are full of life, with herons, kingfishers and crocodiles visible from the road.

In spite of being tired from the drive, there was a real feeling of excitement as we drove into Kumana National Park, frequently stopping to get a better look at the amazing variety of birds around us.

We arrived in Okanda happy but in need of a sleep!  In High season this remote fishing village is a great destination for experienced surfers, but the monsoon sea is pretty flat at the moment with small waves carrying in the fishermen with their catch.  We have friends amongst the village and are extremely privileged to be able to camp there with them, especially as there is no accommodation in the area and they are excellent hosts!  They emptied a hut for us to have an afternoon snooze on its soft sandy floor.

It's really special to be standing on a beach like this, knowing that you are close to elephants and other wildlife, with no building in sight apart from the palm leaf huts.

We watched quietly as the fishermen brined their fish which were butterfly cut then laid out on the hot rocks to dry.  Eagles circled overhead but didn't get too close to the fish.

Our guests took the opportunity to cool down with a swim while we had a little walk to buy some of the village's speciality- Pol (coconut) rotti, and sambol-the perfect afternoon snack!

As well as being a surf destination in High-season (March-Oct) Okanda is also the site of a Hindu temple- Okanda Devalaya, where in February a feast is held, attracting pilgrims from across the country. At this time however, we only saw a few people around the entrance, along with some extremely tame deer.

Dozing in the sun outside our hut, we could see some beautiful birds up-close.  Just above where we were lying was a stunning green Bee Eater that was completely undisturbed by our presence.  (We are lucky enough to have had some really kind guests recently who gifted us their copy of a book of Sr Lankan birds which helped us identify them! You can find it HERE )

I'll round this off here, as we have more to show you and this post is getting a bit long! -We got carried away with having a decent zoom lens on this trip and plenty to photograph! Next installment coming up shortly..

Cooking up a storm at Mangrovia

Mangrovia Lagoon Restaurant is a beautiful place to escape to- excellent food and a stunning setting to relax in, right next to the quiet lagoon.  With a menu that changes daily, including hand-made pasta and only the best fresh local and authentic Italian produce, it's a well-loved spot!

We are lucky enough to be one of the very few accommodation providers they have offered their Sri Lankan cookery classes to-for our guests.  Madhu, the lovely Owner and chef wants to keep the classes small and personal. 

Our Guests Mike and Jennifer went down on a fantastic sunny morning to give the class a go and got involved in the preparation of some delicious local dishes including:

-Pumpkin Curry

-Prawn Curry (fresh from the lagoon)

-Pol Sambol: a tasty side-dish created with finely ground Coconut (Pol), Maldive fish (dried) chilli, lime, shallots end more..

-Red rice cooked the traditional way.

Madhu adapts the menu according to what our guests want and Mike and Jennifer were interested in using some Sri Lankan vegetables as well as ingredients they can source at home in Russia. 

Sri Lankan cookery considers many things such as combinations of flavours- for example, there are certain tastes that balance each other out so you would match a few dishes in one meal (Amila eats pol sambol with spicy coral fish curry, but wouldn't add Daal as a dish as the flavours would change too much) and textures which compliment each other (ie: the traditional morning meal of string hoppers with kiri malu (Milk fish) Delicious!) .  There are also ingredients believed to have Ayurvedic properties with health benefits which Madhu happily discusses.  

Mangrovia provides the perfect setting for a morning of Sri Lankan Cookery- with Madhu who is passionate about food and a lush tropical setting where you can watch the cormorants resting on branches above the lagoon as you cook.  The best thing has got to be eating the final result though!! The restaurant is a shady spot where you can really take the time to savour the dishes.  The favourites seemed to be Pol sambol and the prawn curry!

For more information contact us here.

Exploring part of the cultural triangle..and more!

This is our latest tour-joined with Amazing Lanka who provide tours with Russian translation across the country.  The route took us from Hikkaduwa, to Pinnawala Elephant orphanage, Sigiriya to Dambulla the next day, and Kandy.  There they saw kandyan dancing and tooth temple The botanical garden and the Hindu temple in Matale. Our final stop was Ramboda for the waterfalls.

Pinnawala Elephant orphanage was Established in 1975 to protect and care for elephants found orphaned in the jungle.  In 1982 they began a captive breeding program from which over 20 elephants have since been born.  There is a schedule each day, starting with bottle-feeding the baby elephants, after which the whole herd is taken to the river to bathe which is a totally breath-taking sight.


The next stop was Sigiriya, an incredible UNESCO protected palace and fortress.  The impressive 180ft Granite plateau, known as Lion's Rock, is worth the climb for the views from the top, and its well preserved frescoes are a must-see for anyone visiting.

After a night spent at the Viceroy Resort, we moved on to Dambulla (above).  Dambulla's main point of interest is an amazing cave temple complex, including more than 80 caves, containing statues and paintings related to Lord Buddha's life.

After Dambulla, we travelled to Kandy, Sri Lanka's second largest city where our guests visited the Temple of the Tooth

Sri Muthumariamman Thevasthanam temple in Matale was our next destination.  It is known for some colourful chariots located here and is a site first built as an idol of the goddess Mariamman, by workers from the South of India.

The final part of the tour was at the waterfalls in Ramboda- the 11th highest waterfall in Sri lanka, before driving back to Hikkaduwa.

If you are interested in visiting some or all of these sites, (or even a different itinerary) contact us for a quote and we will be happy to help!

The Jackfruit apartment

This is the second of our apartments in Hikkaduwa-Jackfruit (named this because of its view of a Jackfruit tree opposite..if you haven't tried Jackfruit curry yet, give it a go!) This is a self-catering apartment, equipped with fitted kitchen and private en-suite bathroom.

The bedroom has a comfy 8inch thick mattress, and stays cool due to the titanium concrete floor-an ideal place to rest after a hot day!

The bathroom has hot water (solar powered) and is cool and spacious!

Relax on the terrace in a deck chair and watch the wildlife around you-chipmunks, birds, bats and monkeys..and in the evening fireflies.

You can book this apartment (and Bamboo) through Air bnb here..

Introducing our first apartment-Bamboo

Hidden away next to a cinnamon plantation in Hikkaduwa, a 5 minute cycle to the beach, we have built the Banana Leaf apartments.  This is the first one-Bamboo and we are very excited to share it with you!  It is available on Air bnb.

We decided to build here as it feels like a haven away from the crowds, where you can watch chipmunks, monkeys and monitor lizards in their natural habitat, and some amazing sunsets against the palm trees.  At the same time it doesn't take long to walk to the beach or visit the lagoon.

Each apartment has a kitchen with shutters opening the breakfast bar out onto the terrace, a gas hob, Fridge-freezer and all the kitchen utensils you might need during your stay.  The bedrooms have a large four-poster bed with a very comfy sprung mattress, A/c or fan, a wardrobe and desk.  Bathrooms are cool and spacious with a concrete and stone bath tub and natural stone shower.

East coast part 2: Surfing, sunsets and night fishing

After an incredible sunset (with an impressive thunder storm in the opposite direction at the same time!) and a night sleeping under the stars at Peanut Farm, we started out early with a trip into town for supplies. 

No matter how many times we visit this part of the country, it's always striking how you see such a lot of open sky, and vast spaces of scrubby land covered in animals. 

Back at Peanut farm, Amila made the most of being at one of his favourite surf points and got straight into the sea. The current was pretty strong making it an exhausting paddle out, but one of the advantages of being here is that you can walk around the side of the cove and enter the water at the perfect point.  (and he was feeling particularly lazy so that was ideal..!)

So, to explain why this dog keeps appearing in our photos..this is Chilli, our dalmation who fully immersed himself in his first tour-coming nose to nose with deer, chasing crabs, staying on our Kabanna balcony with us at night and getting plenty of attention from the children on the beach (nothing unusual there)

Our nightly supply trip into town (there is no running drinking water at Peanut Farm so take note if you go, large water bottles are a must) gave us another spectacular sunset- this time at its best over Arugam Bay itself, where groups of people spilled out of the restaurants onto the street to watch..what a crowd pleaser!

When I think of the East Coast, I think of seafood.  My memories of being here always involve a fishing trip or at least time with local fishermen eating their fresh catch.  The idea of leaving without having spent time somewhere (usually remote) with cold sand between our toes, a torch or bonfire burning and a slight worry that an elephant might trample through, is not an option.

Tonight's menu was whatever our fishermen friends caught with their grab net at the lagoon.  We sat and drank arrack with them by the light of a homemade oil lamp, as one patiently went through the motions of repeatedly folding the net in sections, separating the main part of it across his shoulder and throwing it into the lagoon where it splayed out in large hoop before the weights sunk it to the bottom. 

There was a large hole dug into the sand which the net was emptied into-and it helped slow down the escape of the crabs that were tipped into it.  We were so lucky to have both crabs and prawns, which were cooked simply in salt water with some added pepper.  Sitting by the lagoon, hearing the splash of the net in the water, watching the flames of the fire spread a glowing light across the sand was better than sitting in any restaurant.  Last time Amila went night fishing here they stayed on a small boat until sunrise but this time, with a dog in tow and a long drive home ahead the next day, we were back in our Kabanna by midnight.

Amila and our Peanut Farm friends

It's always sad to leave but we'll be back (Hopefully with some decent crocodile photos next time, although the experience in itself was amazing enough). 

We are excited to say we're constructing apartments in Hikkaduwa at the moment, which means being on-site a lot, or at least available.  -More information to follow!- For this reason we had an early start on our last morning which allowed us to take in the sights which were in darkness on our journey there.   If you are interested in an East Coast adventure-culture, wildlife and surfing-contact us and we can happily tailor something to you.

Our journey back to Hikkaduwa

Elephants, crocodiles and sleeping under the stars.

Although our base in Hikkaduwa on the South West coast is amazing year-round, it's always great to head over to the East Coast, where high-season is currently in full swing.  With Arugam Bay listed as one of the worlds top 10 Surf destinations, there is a great crowd, and a lively atmosphere, while not so far away, some incredible, un-developed beaches lie in wait, and you don't have to go far to spot some amazing wildlife.  We made the trip last weekend, and here's a look at our journey.

We set off at around 1pm from Hikkaduwa and took the highway East.  The journey took us through Lahugala National park where without even leaving the road, we had a couple of elephant encounters-one completely blocked the road for a while.  At 1,554 Hectares, this is one of the smallest National Parks in Sri Lanka, but also a very important one for elephant conservation.

The journey took us about 7 hours (including the necessary food stops!) and we arrived in Arugam Bay to some friendly, familiar faces-as always-then headed to Mambo's for dinner.  Located at the main point of the bay with an uninterrupted view of the beach, it's a popular spot, owned by a fellow Hikkaduwa local.  Safe to say, it was a great evening!

As much as we like being in the midst of things, we were itching to get to our favourite place-which is pretty much the opposite of the bay..Reached by driving off the main road, across a dried up river bed and through a seriously bumpy jungle road (Tuk Tuks and jeeps have the advantage here..) Peanut Farm is a quiet, beautiful haven for any type of nature-loving beach bum.

Large wooden swings invite you to lie down and watch the clouds (and waves) roll by, there's a small restaurant run by a handful of friendly guys-one of whom also repairs boards on site- and a generally laid-back atmosphere.  If you look along the coastline from this point, you won't see another restaurant or hotel.  It's easy to loose track of time here.

We took the opportunity to go looking for wildlife, and jumped in the car to go to Kumana National Park.  This is the most important bird watching site in Sri Lanka (the best time is between April-July when thousands of birds migrate here).  The landscape is currently very dry but has some fantastic views.

From here we drove through to Okanda, where fishermen sat mending their nets in the pockets of shade and fish were laid out on the rocks to dry in the sun.  This is another quiet but quality surf point, although this time we didn't see another soul in the water.  With 2 peaks, one of which is 2-8ft, the other 2-4ft, it's worth the journey. 

This is also the site of the Okanda Devalaya temple.  Situated on the Kumana Panama jungle path Okanda Devalaya is believed to be the location God Skanda first sailed into Sri Lanka in a golden boat. The boat, which was turned into a rock, still stands on the Okanda beach known to all as the ‘Ran Oru Gala’.

When it was time to get out of the sun, we drove into the village to enjoy some food (any excuse for a bunch of food addicts.) Pol (coconut) rotti is particularly good here, take note!  We spent some time watching the local deer-who are amazingly tame and seem to be happy hanging around-before re-tracing our route back trough the park.  It was one of those days where you can't believe how much you've seen within a short space of time.  In spite of being here before, it's always enjoyable.

There's always something extra to do at the end of the day here..and we took a small diversion on the way back to Peanut Farm to do some crocodile spotting.  Within one short stretch of river, we saw around 20 crocodiles.  This was a moment where I needed a zoom lens-I was NOT getting close-at the risk of sounding like a bragging fisherman, believe me when I say these crocs were huge.

So that's our first couple of days covered.  There's more to come-surf and night fishing-so another post will follow..