The first stop on our 1 month trip to Sri Lanka was at an eco hotel just outside Galle. The best time to visit the South-West corner of Sri Lanka / Galle is between December and March. We visited in August and so, as expected, there was quite a lot of monsoonal rain.
Kaju Green Eco Lodge is nestled in the jungle about 20 minutes from Galle and 10 minutes from Dalawalla beach. The hotel has 7 bungalows, all open air, each looking onto little rivulets from the nearby lagoon. Kaju Green is run by a lively Sri Lankan woman, Nuwani, who can help you to organise anything you might need – best to WhatsApp her if you need anything both before and during your stay!
Our first evening in Sri Lanka was magical. As the lights go down at Kaju Green everything becomes dimly lit, as if there is only candlelight. The food was really wonderful and each meal we had was delicious (just be aware that whether or not you have lunch and dinner or just one of these meals at the hotel you will be charged $20 USD per person / per day). The first night we found it quite difficult to sleep, not being used to the humidity and the noises of the animals, the water alive with fish, frogs and who knows what else, in the darkness. Nonetheless, quite amazing to be lying under the mosquito net listening to these nighttime sounds, so far from the urban sounds of London!The hotel offers morning yoga, spa treatments, canoeing, beautiful Sri Lankan food and a lovely pool. They are environmentally conscious and are doing a really good job at it – they even have their own well for fresh water!
We needed time to relax after a very busy final week in London so spent most of our time reading, lounging by the pool, sleeping and eating. But on our second day we ventured into Galle, in a tuk tuk, in monsoonal rain – which I loved! The jungle was incredibly lush and beautiful as we emerged and drove towards Galle. There is both dilapidation and construction going on, as you expect to find in any developing country, but you hardly notice as you drive by watching the landscape change from jungle, to beach, to people’s homes and little shops.
We walked along the stone sea walls that line the perimeter of Galle Fort, the fortified old city founded by Portuguese colonists in the 16th century. It’s a good idea to start the walk at the iconic white lighthouse on the south-eastern part of the fort and walk until you can see the clock tower. We watched a group of young boys play a very serious game of cricket as the sun slowly slipped away and the locals came out to gather and watch the sunset. We stopped and sat overlooking the ocean and listened to the ABC (Australian radio station) as my dad discussed Indian gardens – how suitable. Unesco named Galle Fort a World Heritage site, and so there is a lot intact, however, it’s also lovely to see these beautiful buildings being loved and transformed into trendy shops, cafes and restaurants, a wonderful mishmash of old and new.
I particularly enjoyed these shops: Barefoot (the Southern outpost of the stylist Colombo homewares shop), Stick No Bills (a Ceylon-themed print shop), Carrousel de Galle (clothes, jewellery and bags – but quite expensive), Exotic Roots (a gift shop run by a mother and her two children who create all the art themselves), Orchid House (for tea, locally produced products and doorknobs), and Raux Brothers (this is again the Galle outpost of a Colombo favourite, it has lovely pots and furniture).I particularly enjoyed meandering between the shops in Galle, there was dainty jewellery, colourful prints, soft cloth, scented soaps, hand-painted doorhandles and basket bags. However, it’s worth noting that the majority of the shops in Galle Fort are owned by foreigners so it is quite expensive compared to what you will see elsewhere in Sri Lanka.
The small city Galle is peaceful, full of colour and like no other city in Sri Lanka with such a heavy European footprint still evident. Wandering around the narrow streets is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, but it wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Isle of Gelato. The owners of this gelataria trained in Italy and so the quality is tip top — they offer delicious seasonal flavours and make everything from scratch.
Our visit to Galle and 3 nights at Kaju Green were the perfect introduction to Sri Lanka and we were very excited to continue the journey. There are a couple of excellent eco hotels in Sri Lanka so make sure to find them, they are making a great effort to support the local environment which is rapidly changing with the increase in tourism. For example, below are some of the other hotels in Sri Lanka who are, to some degree, operating according to environmentally friendly principles:
- Gal Oya Lodge
- Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge
- Cinnamon Lodge Habarana
- Hotel Sigiriya
- 98 Acres Resort and Spa
- Polwaththa Eco Lodges
- The Rainforest Ecolodge – Sinharaja
For my pre-departure tips for Sri Lanka click HERE.