Autumn 2016

Wellness without wi-fi

New luxury resorts in Sri Lanka are tempting the well-heeled to get away from it all, even from their internet addiction!

sprinkling of high-specification wellness retreats have settled quietly on often overlooked Sri Lanka, helping the island zoom straight to the top of the list of global sustainability credentials. 

From the rugged cliffs on the west coast, via the lush rice paddy fields and elephant sanctuaries further inland, to the east coast’s pearl-white sandy beaches, the island is emerging as a wellness haven, where architecture and sustainability both inspire and excite, according to Arabian Knight’s international concierge expert Timmy Coles-Liddle.

The CEO of Nine, a private concierge club, which provides tailored travel and lifestyle solutions to individuals and families globally, Coles-Liddle shares his trio of uber-luxurious wellness retreats nestled in this unspoilt Indian Ocean island...


Safari seekers hunting for an eclectic experience should look no further than the latest opening from Uga Escapes, Chena Huts. Chena, which refers to ancient clearings in the southern forests of Sri Lanka, is situated on the cusp of Yala National Park, an area famed for its abundance of leopards, elephants, painted storks and flamingos – rubbing shoulders with literally hundreds of other resident mammal and reptile species. 

Stroll down to the beach at dusk and look out for the local sea turtles laying their eggs. Here, unlike that of its predecessors, the accommodation is spacious, sleek and ultra-modern. 

Fourteen huts, each boasting a cavernous 1,130 sq m of space, provide expansive glass walls, a shaded outdoor deck made of reclaimed local wood and a built-in plunge pool and shower. 

Following an intensive day game-watching, allow the resort’s internationally trained local therapists to administer centuries-old treatments and techniques, in a bid to relax and rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. 

Chena’s refreshing inclusive philosophy ensures that every last planning detail is handled on site.


Without upsetting its mammal neighbours, TriLanka – pronounced ‘Tree’ – is one of a number of exciting new launches which focus solely on rebalancing the body and mind whilst preserving the surrounding environment – and, naturally, uncompromising on creature comforts. 

Just eleven elegantly decorated suites are dotted on a six-acre hillside on the shores of Koggala Lake, Sri Lanka’s largest.  Upon finding the lush site over 10 years ago, the resort’s founder, Robert Drummond, has made sure the impact on the local flora and fauna has remained minimal – no easy feat in a country that only claimed its independence in 1948. 

With an emphasis on inside-out living, TriLanka effortlessly combines green roofs, edible gardens and discreet solar panels with an otherworldly level of luxury. 

Drummond and his team have expertly synergised modern and ancient. The naturally captivating environment remains relatively untouched, with each guest suite or usable space framed by carefully chosen panoramas. 

Magical islands are visible from the lounge and a sunrise spectrum of every red, pink and yellow one could imagine can be enjoyed from many of the guest suites. 

Sustainability is key, with recycled local Jak wood for windows, doors, flooring and cladding, living roofs with indigenous creepers and sedums like water grass and dwarf bamboo elsewhere. 

The winding path, which spirals down to the lake’s shore is as expected – abundant with lush mangroves, native butterflies and nesting birds. The impressive 21-m cantilevered swimming pool with obligatory chill-out deck has been lovingly crafted and uses ionising filters to avoid chlorine or chemicals. 

Healthy and nutritious contemporary cuisine is offered to guests with an emphasis on locally sourced seafood and plant protein, and both raw and foraged foods will play their part in a menu which caters to even the trickiest of diners.


For those familiar with Ananda in the Himalayas and Kamalaya in Koh Samui, Santani Wellness Retreat & Spa is hoping to lure like-minded travellers seeking rejuvenation and detoxification with its holistic approach, honourable sustainability mandate and futuristic cabins sitting proudly on the side of a 48-acre lush hillside. The resort, whose name ‘Santani’ means ‘in harmony with’, was launched this summer.

The property, which promises to be the first dedicated wellness retreat in the country, will provide guests with a total mind and body overhaul through a series of tailored wellness programmes, housed in a property which consumes typically only 30 per cent of energy usage compared to a standard hotel.   

Award-winning architect Thisara Thanapathy, whose expertise lies in creating high-quality minimalist spaces, has crafted just sixteen uber-contemporary cabins and two two-bedroom suites, dotted majestically overlooking rice paddy fields. Think burnished steel and pared-back elegance in the cabins and ginormous floor-to-ceiling windows in the restaurant, pavilion and spa. 

Who doesn’t love an outdoor lounge with atmospheric campfire? If a total (or partial, depending on preference) digital detox is what you’re after, then the retreat’s ‘no wi-fi’ policy in rooms will excite, but what other holistic rebalancing can this new kid on the block provide? Actually, rather a lot. A staggering seventeen Ayurveda treatments, nine yoga practices, the world’s most effective massage techniques and too many facial wraps, scrubs and mindfulness classes to mention. 

Fusing global health science innovations with the most revered Ayurveda treatments from Sri Lanka, the focus is on developing an experience to suit each guest’s specific requirement which will impact well beyond after they leave Santani. We’re talking a fine dining experience centred on locally sourced organic produce and wholesome, foraged foods. The retreat’s emphasis on sustainability is impressive. 

They’ve used recycled materials throughout and minimised the use of concrete and cement, opting for certified timber and metal instead. A reed-bed system has been developed to treat the water which is 100 per cent recycled. And all just a speedy 45-minute seaplane transfer from Colombo international airport – what’s not to love?

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