By Nilma Dole — One of the most beautiful islands, 200 yards off the Southern Coast in the centre of Weligama Bay, is definitely Taprobane Island upon which a stunning view of the Indian Ocean will stun your senses. Keeping in mind that there is nothing between the island or the South Pole, the destination is a green, tree-top island with an idyllic setting.
Nominated by world-renowned travel magazine Conde Naste Traveller as one of the Top 50 romantic destinations in the world, Taprobane Island was built in the 1920s by the eccentric English Count de Mauny as his humble abode. It has passed many ownerships and has been a getaway for many celebrities like Robin Maugham, Paul Bowels, Arthur C. Clarke, and Peggy Guggenheim.
Today, the Galle Literary Festival GLF founder Geoffrey Dobbs is the proprietor of the place, revealing the secluded spot to the rich and the famous. We managed to saunter to the island after some literary gossip at the (GLF) but did get wet feet trying to enter the island but we were in good spirits. Once on the island, we were welcomed with some fresh lemon juice served by the hospitable caretakers who are part of a five member team who made our stay at the Island comfortable.
The sweet-smelling Araliya and the lush coconut palms swaying in the breeze made it feel as it we had stepped onto a miniature Paradise. Taprobane Island is a fitting example of Sri Lankan tourism haven which has been blessed by astounding tropical magic at its Southern tip. During the 2004 tsunami when most of the visitors had to hold on to trees for dear life, they managed to survive since the Island had breakers around for protection.
Set on two and a half acres of exotic beauty, there are 5 en-suite bedrooms, with enough relaxing space to stretch your aching legs and live the Islander life. The gorgeous infinity pool overlooks the Weligama Bay with a pristine 180 degree view which feels like a drop straight into the sea. Ensuring that you can relax and take it easy while you are on Taprobane Island, you can read from a collection of amazing books, most of the writers who have attended the GLF since its inception in 2007.
The island was obviously named Taprobane due to its spitting image of the majestic Sri Lanka itself, where the tastefully-designed Neo-Palladian mansion was carved to perfection by Count de Mauny. According to researcher Tim Porter, the Count fashioned an octagonal villa that permitted verandahs which was a 1930’s architectural folly where tropical gardens extend through the foliage to the overhanging edges, fully occupying the crest of the island.
Rooms look outward from a stupendous middle space, with verandahs spilling out to embrace the landscaped garden and stepped terraces hovering over the ocean, one has the sensation there of living on a magnificent cruise ship.
According to Tim Porter, the island became neglected for many years until a brief period in the 1970’s when the son of the painter Balthus held court there and captivated many a young visitor! It was not, however, until 1995 when the present owner moved in, that the process of restoring the island to its heyday was begun.
Travel writer Paul Bowles stated that at one point, all cobras found in Sri Lanka were put into sacks, carried across to Taprobane Island and left there, since in Sri Lanka one doesn’t kill snakes. Luckily, cobras do not scare visitors nowadays. Today, Geoffrey Dobbs entertains literary gurus, artists, celebrities and many more to this wonderful paradise making it the highlight of the GLF.
After a deserving siesta at Taprobane Island after the GLF, the finale party was held that night on the Island itself which made a fiesta!