Corporate Info

08 May 2016

DAMBULLA, April 13 – The setting is pastoral. From the moment a right turn is taken off the Dambulla-Habarana Road (towards Habarana) at the inconspicuous Hiriwadunna junction, what meets the eye are vast tracts of paddy with watch-huts atop trees and beautiful peacocks, prancing and strutting about with their rainbow-tinted tails, serenading the more innocuous pea-hens.  About 1.5km off the main road, there comes into view the epitome of serenity. Simple and rustic the setting may be, but this oasis of tranquillity offers all modern-day facilities and sumptuous eastern as well as western food.

Amaara ForestIt is the Amaara Forest Hotel set amidst 10 acres with trees aplenty and another 10 acres ‘running wild’ allowed to remain as the forest. A slow walk along the rut-scarred road of an evening gives a glimpse into the humble homes of the villagers, with little children quick to wave at strangers. It is the Sinhala Avurudu day and all the villagers are awaiting the dawn of the New Year at the auspicious time. Homes have been swept clean, gardens cleared of leaves and there is an air of expectation – the exact time to light the hearth to cook kiribath (milk-rice).  As dusk descends as it does very quickly in the Dry Zone, villagers wending their way home in bullock-carts or cycles murmur to visitors going walkabout that it would be better to be inside than out because guess who comes a-visiting sometimes – a majestic elephant to feast on the wild mangoes off the tree just outside the hotel’s gate. The villagers feel protective towards anyone who is at the hotel because they are very much a part of its running, for nearly 40 per cent of the staff is from around here, often seen cycling to work or getting a ride on a more affluent villager’s motorcycle. They are employed in different sections including as receptionists, chefs and gardeners.

Blending with the village and ensconced within an abundance of greenery, the Amaara Forest Hotel boasts of 40 cozy, large rooms, with attached bathrooms. Each room has its own verandah if it is on the ground-floor and balcony if on the upper-floor, where guests can relax, sipping steaming cups of tea, while seeing monitor lizards and mongooses making their way around and a giant squirrel surreptitiously going from branch to branch or hearing the awful cry of the pea-cock amidst other more pleasant bird-calls. Sometimes a tiny toad would decide to seek the dampness of the bathroom, during the noonday heat, but the staff is quick to respond to an SOS from anyone who is averse to such creatures.

“More than 1,600 trees were planted within the property to negate the effect of having to uproot around 25 trees during construction,” says the hotel’s hands-on General Manager, Ravi Perera, explaining how conscious they were about retaining as much greenery as possible.  It is an eco-touch throughout, with the hotel’s restaurants, bars, conference hall and gravelly paths all being named after the trees found in its own forest. While the fine-dining restaurant is ‘Thimbiri’, the others are ‘Kaya’ restaurant and ‘Maadang’ forest restaurant and the guests can take a gulp of a long cool drink at the ‘Kumbuk’ bar or the ‘Illuk’ pool bar.

It could also be a never-to-be-forgotten conference at the ‘Milla’ hall which can accommodate 100 seats, theatre-style.  Conscious of the scarcity of water in the area and the need to conserve this precious commodity, the water from the waste-water treatment plant is channelled to the hotel’s garden and farm. The kitchen waste, meanwhile, is distributed to local farms to be fed to their livestock. The hotel’s organic farm established a month ago to source its own fresh vegetables has been thriving, with Mr. Perera stating with pride that they harvested 8kg of spinach in three weeks. Whether guests are the adventurous-type or the stay-home type more content with curling up with a good book, there is much that the Amaara Forest Hotel has to offer.

It can be the nucleus from which many an excursion, including to several World Heritage Sites, may be undertaken whether it is an elephant safari in the hotel’s own jeeps to Minneriya or Kaudulla; a climb up the magnificent Rock Fortress of Sigiriya or the Pidurangala Rock; exploring the Dambulla Cave Temple; taking in the marvels of Sri Lanka’s first and second ancient kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa; or driving to Trincomalee, one of the world’s best natural harbours, to swim in the turquoise blue ocean at Nilaveli or even spend the day on the beautiful beach at Pasekudah.

Of course, if journeying out of the hotel is too much trouble, guests can laze around in the swimming pool, while their children splash about in the kids’ pool, let the tension and stress be relieved at the Araliya Spa, walk down to the meandering Sigiri-Oya and take a dip there or bird watch. For the slightly more energetic, bicycles may be hired, otherwise, guests can amble along the pathways, taking in the beauty of nature and marvelling at the sound of stillness disturbed only by the rustling of the leaves, a bird-call or the orchestra of the cicadas deciding that it was time to provide some music.

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