Paradise Found at Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle
You know you are in a special place when you walk through the gate on a bridge over tranquil water into a sanctuary filled with colours of tropical blooms and swaying palm trees with the whisper of the wind and the song of the ocean as a soundtrack.
Video: Bridge over tranquil water at the inviting entrance to Anantara Peace Haven
A trio of ladies in colourful costumes beat the drum and sang to greet you in traditional style while ice cold coconut juice and cold towels are offered to refresh you. And when your alarm clock is the trill of peacocks at the crack of dawn and the scent of tropical lilies permeate in the air, you know you are in paradise. Welcome to Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle, designed for the mind, body and spirit.
The resort is situated in the town of Tangalle in the southern coast of Sri Lanka in a 21-acre coconut plantation with a stunning garden in harmony with the wild landscape. Coconut palm trees fringe a sandy crescent-shaped beach washed by the tempestuous Indian Ocean. Accommodations are spread out among the lush grounds housing 152 rooms and pool villas.
We were ensconced in a fabulous garden pool villa with a plunge pool enclosed in a walled compound surrounded by verdant vegetation. In the evening peacocks roosted on the trees and sang us their lullaby and woke us up with their dawn serenade. The elegant villa is modern with classic touches of art pieces and Sri Lankan handicrafts. There is a roomy walk-in wardrobe next to the spacious bathroom that has a patio door leading to the pool. It is a stylish well-designed villa complete with a personal butler service.
At the heart of the resort lies the 25-metre split level pool, sandwiched between the beach and the main restaurant Journeys. Junior guests have their own pool next to the main pool and a recreation centre at the Joli Kids and Teens Club.
The adults can indulge themselves in the luxurious Anantara Spa with an array of massages and treatments to refresh and rejuvenate. I signed up for the Anantara Signature Massage, a 90-minute invigorating treatment designed to enhance circulation and induce deep relaxation with my own choice of special blend of essential oil. It was pure bliss.
Meet the Wild and Wonderful Residents
The resident Nature Guru, Eddie, took us on a delightful nature walk round the resort enlightening us on the ecosystem of the environment and observed the fauna and flora. The verdant vegetation lends itself to be homes for many wildlife such as peacocks and many bird species while Indian Palm squirrels would sneak up to steal packets of sugar for their snacks during breakfast.
There were brown scaly lizards that darted nervously across the path and monitor lizards that camouflaged among the greenery. Langur monkeys ruled the roost dancing on the roofs of the villas and frolicking on the trees like naughty schoolboys. A small stream teeming with fish flows along the resort flanked by mangrove trees giving the otters and mongooses a field day feasting on the fishy meals. Upon request, the resort gardeners would take guests on a boat ride to observe the mangrove habitat.
The fine sand on the resort beach attracts turtles to come ashore to lay their eggs. One night we witnessed an Olive ridley turtle came on shore to lay her eggs and after a long rest from her exhausting journey, she ventured laboriously back to the sea. She may be very slow on land, but once she hit the water she was in her elements. It was a rare privilege to see the turtle in its natural habitat laying eggs and returning back to the sea.
The resort has a garden-to-kitchen practice with its own allotment growing vegetables, herbs and spices particularly cinnamon, Sri Lanka’s most priced spice. They even cultivated an organic rice fields of brown and white rice. The sea of jade green rice stalks is a sight to behold with hundreds of dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the field to feast on the insects and mosquitoes lurking about in the rice fields. They are nature’s way of controlling the mosquitoes. Guests are able to dine village style in a rustic treehouse by the padi field.
Flavours of the World
Our taste buds were truly tantalised by the choice of food on offer. For a taste of international cuisine and local delicacies, Journeys, the main buffet restaurant, is a showcase of food from around the world, true to its tagline “Circumnavigate the World”.
There were dishes to suit all palate from western dishes, Asian cuisine to Indian and Sri Lankan curries. The seafood was catch of the day from local fishermen and vegetables and herbs were from their own organic gardens all lovingly prepared and beautifully presented. The daily sumptuous breakfast was also served here with offers of refreshing coconut water and local herbal drink to start the day.
For ala carte dining, we opted for Verala which was housed in iconic pod structures said to be inspired by the shape of sea urchins. It specialises in Japanese Teppanyaki, international cuisine and Asian fare with Sri Lankan signature food. The restaurant is a cool hang-out for drinks and food by the beach.
Sri Lanka In A Pot At Spice Spoon
Hooked on Sri Lankan cuisine, we took up a cookery lesson at Spice Spoon from the resident chef who took us to the local market to shop for fresh ingredients in a tuk-tuk, the local motorised three-wheeled transport. We called at the harbour first to buy some fish straight off the fishing boat. The boats berthed cheek by jowl by the harbour while the fishmongers were in full throttle touting their catch to haggling customers.
There were weird and wonderful fish including a strange looking fish which the chef said was called “chicken fish” as the thick flesh apparently tasted like chicken, so we bought some for our cookery class. Then it was off to the bustling fruit and vegetable markets bursting with local produce. I chose my favourite vegetables of okra, four-cornered beans, brinjals and snake beans for our greens. I could not resist buying the freshly ground spices and aromatic curry powder to add to my spice rack at home.
Back at Spice Spoon, we cooked a variety of the most delicious vegetable curry flavoured with local spices and aromatics thickened with fresh coconut milk. The “chicken fish” was delicately prepared in a rich spicy sauce and it did taste like a hybrid of fish and meat. The famous Sri Lankan crabs were included in our menu which we cooked in a rich tangy sauce with coconut milk. Sri Lankan crabs are much in demand in Singapore and Malaysia for their sweet succulent flesh.
The fried brinjal salad paired with fresh tomatoes and fresh herbs was a perfect complement to the rich curry dishes. All the dishes were cooked in traditional clay pots that enhanced the flavour of food especially curry. For dessert we made pancakes rolled up with grated coconut caramel fillings. It was a sweet sensation. I will definitely add Sri Lankan cuisine to my cookery bragging right especially when I cook them in my newly acquired clay pot from Sri Lanka.
Anantara Peace Haven lives up to its name as a peaceful hideaway from the hustle and bustle of Tangalle, a busy town just minutes away. It is truly a destination resort where one is tempted to just stay put and enjoy being pampered as only the Sri Lankans know how. The resort is ideal for honeymooners, romantic getaways, family and anyone who appreciates nature’s masterpiece in a luxurious haven. For detail and special offer search for the resort on www.anantara.com
Acknowledgements: Music for video: https://www.bensound.com/