The last year has been a tough year for the world over, with so much sadness and loss and for people who have not been able to see their loved ones.
In Dubai we are fortunate to live in a country that was proactive from the start and one of the first countries to offer the Covid 19 vaccine. I am lucky to be fully vaccinated now which offers that extra layer of protection and reassurance. However on a personal note my business, being in travel has sadly struggled as the travel industry took a massive hit, but the good news is that since August 2020 bookings started to come in when air corridors opened and more people felt comfortable to travel, especially to destinations such as Maldives and Seychelles.
Many people are in desperate need of a little escapism so when my partners at Resplendent Ceylon asked me to arrange a ladies trip to Sri Lanka I jumped at the opportunity. I have visited Sri Lanka 5 times before as a couple and with my family and I have a deep respect and admiration for the Sri Lankan people who have over the years shown such resiliency and strength and I for one will always support the country especially as tourism is a significant part of the country’s economy.
It always surprises me why Sri Lanka is under rated as a holiday destination, but I do hope reading this article will encourage many of my readers to visit this magical place, with its diverse experiences from tropical beaches, jungle safari and vast green mountain regions that one can enjoy while staying in luxury properties.
Resplendent Ceylon comprises of three unique properties and is a member of luxury hospitality brand Relais & Chateaux and I'm happy to say that I have experienced all three of their Sri Lankan hotels each so diverse in their location yet their unique signature style and service binds them together and stands out.
Wild Coast Tented Lodge rests on a secluded beach on the edge of Yala National Park offering a raw safari experience while staying in luxury cocoons that blend in with the coastal environment.
Cape Weligama sits on a cliff edge 40 meters above the Indian Ocean with large villas set in private clusters set in beautifully manicured gardens.
Ceylon Tea Trails is the world’s first tea bungalow resort, perched at an altitude of 1250 meters in Sri Lanka’s panoramic Ceylon tea region.
You can find my review of Wild Coast Tented lodge here:
For this ladies trip we visited Cape Weligama and Ceylon Tea Trails for a week's worth of total relaxation and grounding.
Arriving in Sri Lanka during a pandemic could make you feel seriously anxious but let me reassure you that the Sri Lankan government have done such an amazing job protecting its people resulting in a death toll of only approx. 400 to date with most of the capital Colombo already vaccinated. In Feb 2021 Sri Lanka finally opened its borders to international guests.
All tourists have to apply for a visit visa (website below) and you must include a hotel reservation number from a Grade 1 government listed resort within the application. A negative PCR test is required 96 hours before entering the country and during a 7 days stay you will requested to take 2 PCR tests on the property and in 14 days you will require to have three.
Walking through the airport was rather quiet but one thing that was visible was that all staff where wearing PCP clothing and all suit cases were sanitized.
Our first resort was Cape Weligama which was a three hour drive, however the quicker option is taking the sea plane to any of the three Resplendent properties but sadly they were not operating during our stay due to lack of tourists.
Arriving at Cape Weligama brought back memories of when I was there with my family in 2019. The perfectly manicured grounds welcome you the moment you walk towards your room. 39 villas are set in small clusters within 12 stunning manicured grounds all with their own swimming pool. For one bedrooms the villas are extremely generous in size with huge bathrooms including free standing oval shaped baths. The suites come with a living room which can be made into additional beds for families. You will notice throughout all Resplendent properties the bathrooms are beautiful providing baths that are uniquely positioned in order to provide you with stunning views.
The adults only crescent shaped infinity pool is what dreams are literally made off. The views go on for miles where the blue pool water meets the ocean which meets the sky. To get to the beach 40 meters below you have to walk through the trees and down the side of the cliff where you will find a couple of hidden look out spots which offer beautiful views and little pieces of serenity.
Wherever in the property that you decide to take the weight of your feet to relax, the resort offers so many great viewing spots, remember if you visit the spa their viewing deck is awesome!
On our first evening the hotel had laid out a cliff top dining experience as the sun was setting, sitting with a glass in my hand, the cool air breeze, the sky changing in colour and views that went on for miles, simply reminded me just how the little things in life can be the most magical to which we have to be grateful for.
The next morning we woke early to go whale watching on a private yacht that was arranged by the hotel which had been government approved. This was a new experience for me which I was excited for, however it just wasn’t our day as a few hours at sea and not one whale had graced us with his presence. And believe me my head was close to the water more than I cared to have liked – catch my drift!!!
That night we ate in the main restaurant enjoying a wonderful spread of Sri Lankan cuisine. Even though there is a menu on hand, nothing is too much to ask for – in fact the chief chef loved requests and was more than happy to show off his wonderful culinary skills. Being a member of Relais & Chateaux, food is a huge part of the hospitality experience and I find that Sri Lankan food is so clean and fresh, not leaving you bloated and uncomfortable.
The next day we were heading to Ceylon Tea Trails which is a 5 hour drive or again this is where you can enjoy the sea plane. I would highly recommend booking this, not just to cut down the transit time but to see Sri Lanka from a birds eye view.
To break up the journey we visited Udawalawe Elephant Transfer Home located within Udawalawe National park. The Elephant Transit Home is associated with the Born Free Foundation. This is home to over 100 orphaned or sick elephants who are fed and cared for until they are strong enough to be returned to the wild. The centre allows you to visit at the feeding times of 06:00, 09:00, 12:00, 15:00 and 18:00. From behind a barrier you can watch the elephants ambling along behind a keeper, where they will be fed milk through plastic hoses. It was so sweet watching the babies run as fast as they can while trumpeting to get their milk. The first three baby elephants that came running out reminded me of my three kids at home running to be first in the kitchen – it was so sweet to watch. (And No I still wasn’t missing them!)
The remainder of the journey up to Ceylon Tea region is through narrow roads winding up the mountain, with views that just kept getting better and better. On one side you could spot the hard working female tea pickers plucking away in the tea plantations which are contoured along the slopes. The ladies are wearing brightly coloured sacks on their backs in order to store the ‘two leaves and a bud” which are later taken to the factories to be dried. (I will explain the meaning of two leaves and a bud in a minute!)
We finally see the sign for ‘Tientsin Bungalow’ which was going to be our home over the next 5 days. We drive up the narrow path and as we eagerly jump out the car we are instantly entered into an English country garden. It’s so beautiful and reminded me of the UK countryside with the most stunning colonial bungalow in the middle of the lawn. The sun was starting to set and within minutes the sky had changed to a beautiful pink and purple colour. Before arriving I thought I knew what to expect but I can honestly say it wasn’t what was right in front of me – what I was seeing was no less than utter, exuisite natural beauty.
We are welcomed by a team of staff (again all wearing pcp clothing) standing on the terrace next to a table which was laid out with late afternoon tea and drinks. We are invited to explore our home, which was exclusively ours with 6 bedrooms, and shared large living room, dining room and a snooker table room.
With jazz music softly playing in the living room and drinks on ice you automatically felt at home, but where was I exactly, this wasn’t what I had pictured, yet from the moment I walked into the property, I knew I was going to enjoy my stay.
The interior is designed with a colonial charm with each bedroom having a four poster bed, a fire place with logs ready to light and two grand chairs in front of it. The Resplendent signature style was so prevalent in the bathrooms with the free standing sleigh baths perfectly positioned next to glass doors or large windows which would open up into your own private garden showcasing the tea plantations and mountain region beautifully.
Back outside within the grounds is a large swimming pool and Jacuzzi, tennis courts and even a private garden for croquet.
Your days at Ceylon Tea Trails are simply designed for relaxation, socializing and dining. The Chief Chef takes great pride in providing a culinary experience as he will make anything your heart desires with three courses for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Booking at the Ceylon Tea Trails is an all inclusive experience which includes alcoholic drinks, afternoon teas etc. Even though I didn’t seem to stop eating I never felt bloated or uncomfortable which I put down to the food being so clean, organic and fresh.
Dining can be set up anywhere within the grounds so we enjoyed a picnic in the garden, breakfast at the pool and dinner on the terrace.
Ceylon Tea Trails comprises of 5 bungalows which are spread out across the valley:
Castleragh Bungalow – Built in the 1925 at an altitude of 1,120 meters- 5 bedrooms
Dunkeld Bungalow – Built in 1925 at an altitude of 1,230 meters – 5 bedrooms
Norwood Bungalow – Built in 1950 at an altitude of 1270 meters – 6 bedrooms
Summerville Bungalow- Built in 1923 at an altitude of 1118 meters – 5 bedrooms
Tientsin Bungalow - Built in 1988 at an altitude of 1320 meters – 6 bedrooms
You can enjoy mountain biking, kayaking and wonderful hikes and trails which you can start from any of the properties' front doors.
We enjoyed an early morning hike in the tea plantations with our guide who explained more about the tea pickers and collecting “two leaves and a bud”.
Sri Lanka is one of only a few countries where tea is still plucked by hand, from bushes planted along the contours of the slopes. A highly skilled workforce, predominantly women, moves along rows of bushes, stripping two leaves and a bud from each plant and often covering over 10k a day. The leaves are immediately carried to the nearby factories where they are dried, processed and packed into crates ready for transportation.
Due to the current restrictions we couldn’t visit the tea factory so Bernard who I believe has 53 years experience in tea gave us a tea demonstration at the bungalow.
Dilamh Tea is sold all over the world and was founded in 1988 by Mr Merrill J Fernando which he named the brand after his two sons, with one of the sons, Malik Fernando owning the Resplendent Brand – so tea really does run through the family's veins.
We wanted to visit Dunkeld Bungalow as the view was very different over looking the reservoir with an infinity pool. It was great to see another option of bungalow even though they all differ in size and the grounds/views all have the same feel and signature Resplendent touch.
This is a property I would highly recommend to families or a group of friends. It’s a place where you can take life at your own pace, enjoy each others company, be at one with nature adding as much activities as you like and even more so with the current pandemic, it’s the perfect venue to social distance offering total privacy.
I would like to thank the entire team at Resplendent for their wonderful hospitality and excellent service. Until next time!!
Watch the video of our stay:
Sri Lankan Airlines currently flies twice a week – Saturdays and Tuesdays from Dubai Terminal 3
To apply for your visa visit click here: https://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US
You must include in the visa application a reservation number provided by your hotel booking
A negative PCR test required 96 hours before travel
For the respective protocols, You can also visit