A Sense of Peace in Kosgoda, Sri Lanka

 

As one of the most fascinating and biodiverse countries in Asia, Sri Lanka is indubitably an underrated gem of a travel destination that is rich with an abundant cornucopia of exotic flora and fauna. Famed for having vast natural resources, gemstones, and landscapes filled with tea plantations, lush forests, grassy savannahs, sandy beaches, cascading waterfalls, rapid rivers, cloudy mountains, and quaint villages, this eco tourism hot spot has more than ample to keep visitors coming back for more. There is simply so much to do and see that they can’t be accomplished in a single trip, and so for this second sojourn to Ceylon, we took the recommendations of a trusted friend and decided to hop over to check out SAMA Kosgoda – a Santani retreat.

A mere 2-hour drive from the Bandaranaike international airport in Colombo, SAMA Santani is situated along a secluded beachfront of the Kosgoda township region located on the South Western coastline of Sri Lanka. Upon arriving at the guarded carpark entrance of the resort, the personable chief butler Meu promptly welcomed and greeted us with a warm smile and a slight bow as he uttered, “Ayubowan”, which means long life in Sinhala. He then walked us towards the welcome reception lounge area and beguiled us with a brief history of the sprawling 10-acre SAMA.

The seaside mangrove area where the resort is built on was once part of a century old fishing village as well as a granite quarry site. The entire locality was an unfortunate victim of the Asian tsunami, and the huge waves partially engulfed and damaged parts of the village. Thankfully, we could not spot any hints or signs of the past destruction. Incidentally, the Sanskrit word Sama means “peace of mind”.

At an old village well located at the main entrance to the resort, butler Meu proceeded to guild us through a simple water purification ritual and then handed us a stalk of blue lotus which happens to be the national flower of Sri Lanka. After a smooth and seamless check-in process, we wiped our hands and faces with the cold scented towels, and enjoyed the welcome drink of refreshingly chilled king coconut juice.

Meu then gave us a short orientation tour of the hotel premises and facilities, before showing us to our room which was located at the charming Tapper’s Cottage that has a beautiful 20 metre-long natural swimming pool right in front of the building. The elongated room has a simple and austere quality and a full unobstructed view of the natural pool with its critter and insect inhabitants such as water hens, peacocks, colourful butterflies and mongooses.

Before each meal, either the head chef or sous chef would come out to personally speak to guests to ask us what we’d like as well as to give personal recommendations for dishes to try. As the daily specials menu changes every day, we decided to trust the chefs and chose to give them full autonomy to surprise us with a variety of Sri Lankan delicacies that we were told most retreat guests are more than happy to try. For those who simply cannot handle any spicy food or simply wish to switch things up, there is also an a la carte western menu with delicious popular items such as Ceviche de Moriscos, Lobster Thermidor, Lasagna Met Pompoen, Pizza Margherita and Tiramisu.

My personal favourite Sri Lankan food item is the ultra healthy and nutritious Kola Kanda, which is a green herbal congee served at the start of breakfast together with pieces of sweet palm sugar jaggery on the side in order to balance out the medicinal astringent flavours of the grassy herbs such as gotu kola, welpenela and hatawariya. I could drink this savoury, tasty, and detoxifying breakfast beverage every morning even without the need to include the jaggery.

Another Sri Lankan dish that we particularly enjoyed were the classic egg hoppers and string hoppers (resembles vermicelli) that were accompanied by a bevy of spiced and curried condiments. For dessert, the Wattalapam, which is a traditional nutmeg and cardamon flavoured coconut custard pudding, was simple yet satisfying. To assist with digestion, the Buffalo Curd and Treacle, as well as the Mango Lassi did the trick.

Executive head Chef Susil explains, “Good healthy food is very important. Everyday right here at SAMA, our dedicated culinary team freshly prepares and serves authentic, wholesome, and nutritionally balanced Sri Lankan cuisine using homegrown and locally produced ingredients. When preparing and cooking our dishes, we follow traditional Ayurvedic philosophy of ‘Rasa Haya’ that features all 6 flavours; sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. Each dish is prepared and plated with utmost care and love.”

A healing retreat is not complete without a rejuvenating spa treatment session. After a short medical consultation with Dr Thilakshi Dulanka, who is a trained and certified Ayurvedic doctor, she took our pulse and tested our blood pressure. The kind doctor then explained the various types of therapies available at the spa before recommending the spa’s signature Abhyangam traditional Ayurvedic massage therapy that utilises different essential oils that are selected based on your personal body composition. Our massage treatment session took place in an open air massage room that faces a small waterfall and peaceful pond filled with fish. The sounds of nature and the trickling of the waterfall as it plunges into the fish pond added to the soothing tranquility of the spa.

Once our massage was done, we were ushered into a pretty steam room featuring black and white tiles for a Nika herbal steam – featuring a myriad of different medicinal leaves such as vital negundo. The massage and herbal steam bath combination therapy strengthens immunity, relieves fatigue from jet lag and reverses the aging process. After we showered, we were served with a calming and relaxing herbal tea on pretty porcelain cups which we sipped and savoured while admiring the cute wildlife such as water monitor lizards, playful monkeys and shy hermit crabs scurrying around in the natural environment that surround the wellness village comprising of the spa facilities and yoga shala premises.

Resident yoga teacher, bodyworker, sound healer, and Ayurvedic practitioner Molly McLaughlin, who hails from the US, leads resort guests in daily yoga classes and sound baths with Tibetan singing bowls. Cheery Molly who is also the SAMA’S spa manager and yoga wellness retreat coordinator shared, “One well kept secret about the SAMA is occasionally spotting bioluminescent fireflies (a.k.a. kanamadirya in Sinhala) that can be seen darting around the resort at night. I first discovered this little known fact when I moved here and it came as a beautiful surprise for me, which I am grateful to get to enjoy on a regular basis while living here.”

One of the best things about staying at SAMA is that the idyllic Galbokka beach is literally located right in front of the resort and is inhabited by a large cast of adorable hermit crabs. There were only a small group of local fishermen around and so the place has a feel of being your own private beach.

Situated on top of a small hill located right next to the SAMA is the holy Samudhraramaya temple. We climbed up a flight of stairs to get to the unassuming temple to attend a meditation class conducted by saffron robed Theravada Buddhist monks who ended the session by ritualistically blessing us with white Pirit string bracelets imbued with an ancient Pali chant to ward off evil and dangers. Sunset views from the top of the hill were especially magical, romantic, and mesmerising. What a great way to appreciate all the beauty that life has to offer!

Within close proximity of SAMA is a turtle conservation and research centre that is popular with children. This turtle hatchery is free of charge for resort guests, and they house and rehabilitate 5 out of the 7 species of marine turtles, namely: green, olive diley, loggerhead, hawksbill and leatherback.

We enjoyed the friendly staff educating us with fun facts about the various species of turtles, as well as information about all that they do to save and help these endangered marine animals. For a donation of 3,000 Sri Lankan rupees to the turtle research centre, visitors get to personally release a baby hatchling into the sea.

On our last morning, butler Meu suggested that we start our day early right after breakfast to embark on the Madu Ganga river safari which is an hour eco-tourism boat trip filled with a variety of things to do and see such as fish spa therapy, temples, stupas, river wildlife and mangroves. We ended our activity-packed two-night memorable stay over at the SAMA Santani with a day trip to the nearby must-see UNESCO world heritage site Galle Fort that is merely an hour away by car.

To book a wellness retreat stay at the SAMA Kosgoda, go to www.santani.com/samakosgoda-a-santani-retreat/


Images: Luke Elijah

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