High up in the treetops, nestling in the branches of six or seven trees is a two-storey house without walls, without stilts, with a floor and a staircase made from old railway sleepers and a roof made of palm leaves. The trees are its foundations; recycled wood and bamboo are its columns and beams. It’s a solid and enchanting home which gently rocks with the flexibility of its base, murmurs with the creaking of its supports and whispers with the fluttering of leaves.
Up in the treehouse you are about 25 metres off the ground, quite far from your normal placement in the world. It’s an ideal retreat and it is no wonder that children are so drawn to escape to such a magical abode. As time passes, the world you are used to seems to diffuse and gradually fade, giving spaciousness, separation and a different perspective.
Saraii Village was the dream of Charitha Abeyratne Hettiarachchi who embarked on an exploration of sustainable tourism with an MBA that focussed on Global Social Sustainable Enterprise at the Colorado State University in the US and used a piece of land in South East
Sri Lanka for her project. Using a three- acre man-made forest that her husband Prasanna Hettiarachchi (Director of Saaraketha Organics) planted in 2001, she experimented with traditional, local, ecological construction and designed a resort offering visitors a glimpse of life close to and in harmony with the environment. The word ‘saraii’ means ‘the essence’ in Hebrew and, true to its name, while staying at Saraii Village you experience the essence of nature in Sri Lanka.
It is about a three hour drive from Colombo to Saraii Village on the way towards Tissamaharama via Matara. Yala National Park is about 30km away. The climate in this part of the country is usually dry and hot. Vast expanses of arid land dotted with grasslands and bushes stretch into the distance from the sides of the road as it wends its way inland from the coast.
The trees have shed their leaves and the visible lack of canopy and foliage seems to make the heat feel as if it is increasingly intense. But at Sarrai Village the scene changes. You find yourself amidst a small protected pocket of forest, home to 1,600 trees (endemic hardwood trees including teak, mahogany, halmilla, ebony, burutha, sooriyamara, kaya, margosa; and fruit trees such as mango, orange, passion fruit, pomegranate and papaya). This provides a welcoming hideaway from the sun, also for the wildlife who visit – the birds, peacocks, squirrels and chameleons.
Nine traditionally constructed luxurious treehouses and mud chalets provide all the accommodation at Saraii Village and are honourably formed around the trees. Not a single branch was cut in the building.
All the rooms are solid, spacious, airy and light with thick comfortable mattresses and pillows, white linen and fluffy towels. Electrical sockets, hanging lights and bedside lamps, wifi and kettle are provided to create all the comfort for a perfect
forest hideaway. Apart from that it is an experience of returning to nature and simplicity and those items are provided to enable that. There is no hot water, no AC or fans. Instead, you fall asleep in the coolness of natural architecture.
Food & Drink
Traditional Sri Lankan curries, rice and salads are prepared with homegrown vegetables and vegetables grown on local farms. There is a western touch to breakfasts and the meals packed for excursions from the resort. Guests are welcome to bring their own alcohol.
What LT loves!
Waking up in a tree house! It is a beautiful and special way to start the day, and one that has to be experienced to be believed. The creativity with the reused materials from railway sleepers to antique doors, old brass handles and locks, is an inspiration. Buffalo curd from this region is considered to be the best in the country by virtue of its smooth, light and creamy texture.
Things to do
By far the most outstanding and popular attraction in the region is Yala National Park for which most people stay for a night and leave before dawn the next day. However, for those who stay longer there are many places to explore from the resort. You can take a morning boat trip on Wirawila Lake, just a 10 minute walk away, visit the local organic farm where
you can collect and cook your vegetables. Bundala National Park is close by which
is a well-known bird watching sanctuary. Katharagama Temple and Kirinda Town are also a short drive away. If you have time, allow yourself the opportunity for idle moments lounging in the treehouse, reading a book or immersing yourself in the environment around you.
The Saraii Village
Randunu Kele Watte, Weerawila, Hambantota District,
Tel: +94 710 377 772 www.saraiivillage.com