Eco-tourism and boutique hotels increasingly popular in Sri Lanka

Eco(by Quintus Perera) – Tirippane, Anuradhapura — Usually it is not quite possible for a business or industrial concern to afford a total solution, at least sustenance with nature. Yet there is one business which tries to keep abreast and close to the nature and also an attempt to provide a total solution.

Ulagalla Walawwa Resort a Luxury Boutique Hotel, part of Finco Group and a BOI approved project is utilizing an area of 58 acres, in Tirappane about 23 km from Anuradhapura to develop 25 luxurious villasat a cost of around Rs 700 million.

A group of journalists were taken to Tirappane to witness the project being completed, recently. The site they have chosen is an old Walauwa – first the ancestral abode of a village chieftain Nikawewa family and then the Panabokke’s of Kandyan fame that has been operating for the last 200 years.

The developers are using the Walauwa in its entirety with some modifications to suit the modern architectural trend as for example, they have converted the infamous torture chamber to punish the errand servants etc of the Walawwa as the wine cellar of the Resort. The resort is the brainchild of ICC / FINCO Vice Chairman Harsha De Saram.

Ranjan Dissabandara, General Manager who was at hand along with two other officials Ranjaka De Mel, General Manager, Marketing and Lalin De Mel, Resident Manager to answer the queries of the media said that in developing this resort they are very near to a total solution as they have in the first place not disturbed the spirit and tranquility of the land they use or the vicinity.

Unlike other similar projects they have not used virgin land but a land that has been in use. Though elephants and other animals wandered at the backyard of the Walauwa it is a land that animal and people cohabited with two irrigation tanks (Wewas) and the jungle covering two sides. They have selected the areas to erect villas very carefully to avoid cutting down any trees but chosen land covered only with scrub jungle. In fact they have started growing 1,000 large trees within their land.

Most of the walls of these villas are fitted with planks that are built with a mixture of paddy straw. To retain the coolness of villas a special kind of imported straw are used on the roof. Mr Dissabandara said that when the resort commences operations – soft opening by May and full operation in August – they will employ 30% of the required staff from the area. Inside their compound they are maintaining. 20 acre flush paddy field meeting their total rice needs and very much more. Mr De Mel said that every three months they are training 10 youth from the area as naturalists and tour guides. They intend to absorb a part of them and the balance could obtain ready employment as they will be trained.

Most importantly is spending a massive Rs 120 million in constructing a solar panel to obtain 125 KVA electricity that would take care of 50% of their energy requirements when the resort is in full operation. But when it is not at full capacity the excess electricity will be sold to the Ceylon Electricity Board.

They are installing water purification plants and all waste water is recycled to be used for their massive plantations. Their plans are to grow all the needs of their vegetable and fruits and any shortfall they intend to buy from the area itself. They have already earmarked some farmers to outsource their balance fruits and vegetable and these farmers would also be provided with some inputs and training.

The entire waste matter of the resort will be collected to make compost manure for their vegetable and fruit garden and guests could taste the fresh fruits and vegetable that is plucked just outside their challets. The required cowdung for the compost would be purchased from the villagers.

Though the Ulagalla Walawwa is completely isolated and is in a remote village atmosphere, the resort is fitted with all the modern internationally accepted hotel facilities – you name it they have it. Horse riding, archery, canoeing are some of the recreational facilities.

Two irrigation tanks that link the jungle are on the border of the Walauwa and careful guests could watch the wild animals slip out of the jungle to drink water from the tanks in the wee hours when the rest of the world is asleep.

The resort has fixed the villa rate, half board at a price of US $ 250. The Ulagalla Resort concept is comparatively unique as it appears to be closest to nature and stands out as it hasn’t compromised nature. The company is also working on two other hotel resort projects.

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