Luxury Hotels

Geoffrey Bawa’s legacy luxury resort south of Colombo

The Kalu Ganga river

Kalutara is a little-known seaside village 90 minutes’ drive – admittedly sometimes hair-raising – south of Colombo where, at the end of the last century, Sri Lanka’s best-known architect Geoffrey Bawa, started designing a resort, at the mouth of the Kalu Ganga river. But in 2003 Bawa was summoned to design beyond the pearly gates, the tsunami happened, and Sri Lanka continued to be racked by civil war. What is now the 141-rooom luxury Anantara Kalutara Resort & Spa was finally completed July 2017. It has one of the best beaches in the country, says the gal, and it certainly is right on the river.

Lap pool, seen from the Italian restaurant

See the image on the right. The wall to the left of the lap pool was, pre-tsunami, the boundary between land and beach. Now, thanks to preventative sea barricades, there is a good hundred yards of scrub down to the beach. This side of the lap pool is the Italian restaurant, open-sided and honestly my favourite dining here (the fritto misto is particularly superb). I would also recommend bedrooms above the restaurant, close to that eating but you do have balconies with sensational beach views. Other favourites, expecially with Middle East families, are the nine villas, one- or two-bedrooms, completely enclosed by high walls – all these villas have private pools. I actually had a sizeable pool, plus an outdoor spa facility, in suite 135, the Presidential Suite – see a video below.

GM Giles Selves visits the spa

I missed out on using the hotel’s bikes, unfortunately, and next time I will also walk ten minutes to the rail station to take a 90-minute train into Galle, coming back by taxi. On my list, also, will be escorted river-fishing, and night-time crab spearing, and perhaps taking some of the comprehensive choice of complimentary fitness classes. I did manage a couple of gym workouts, appreciating having all-glass walls that give views across the river. I also managed lots of eating, and my breakfast included ultra-white buffalo yoghurt – extremely heavy and, presumably, calorie-packed – but I resisted a slice of apple crumble cake. And of course I visited the spa, for an excellent and suitable sixty-minute Sri Lanka slimming scrub, with lots of coconut.

Farewell ritual

This is a luxury resort that has a multitude of ceremonies. You might, as I was, be woken before dawn by muezzin from the local mosque, and here the noise comes from an unpredictable number, and volume, of real people, not the impersonal recording that is ubiquitous in so many countries. On arrival you will definitely be escorted through to Reception by a troupe of dancing ladies – see the first video below. They change into white saris to perform a sunset ritual by another, more child-friendly, pool. Typical stay length ranges from three nights, mid-year, to five nights during the busier winter months and all departing guests, whether from Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UK or USA, are farewelled, as I was, with a good luck wrist cord and a chant. NOW SEE, BELOW, FIRST THE ARRIVAL DANCE, AND THEN A TOUR OF 135, THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE