The design of The Ark is based upon a ‘watch hut’ (a simple thatched structure built into a tree) used by farmers to safeguard their crops overnight. Sharing a similar A-framed design, The Ark’s steel and wood construction is undeniably contemporary and clings incomprehensively onto sheer rock fringed by jungle. The elevation of the house was designed to maximize the stunning views, and also act as a luxurious hide for viewing the wide array of wildlife that share in this serene location. And it really is truly peaceful, which is surprising given its easy accessibility – a 1 hr drive down the expressway from Colombo.
The Ark is home to a top floor living and dining area open to the views and a small pantry, along with three wood-panelled ensuite bedrooms across three floors. Adjacent to the house via a decked walkway – and sharing in the magnificent valley views – is an infinity swimming pool and a generous timber terrace fringed by wildlife-inhabited jungle. A discreet yet warm team of staff look after guests and the experienced cook rustles up some delicious western and Sri Lankan cuisine (rates are full board). Treks and nature walks through the surrounding estate can be done at your leisure and if you seek more adventure (and wildlife), the Sinharaja Forest Reserve is approximately 2 hrs drive away.
Bedrooms are furnished with double beds, lamp-topped side tables and painted cupboards hosting extra linen. Ensuite bathrooms in each bedroom are fitted with good hot water showers. Floor-to-ceiling ‘windows’ fronted by iron bars ensure that even from inside you can always share in the panoramic views, and enjoy continuous airflow. Wall-mounted fans assist to keep the interiors cool.
– Treks through the estate – wander through the lower rubber and tea plantations and trek the upper portion of the estate for spectacular views
– Visit Makeli Ella, a 10m waterfall with bathing pool resembling a bride’s veil
– Drop into Kalugala Monastery, a sacred hermitage in the forest inhabited by highly disciplined and reclusive Buddhist monks
– Close by is the Fa-Hsien Cave, which is the biggest of its kind in Asia and where evidence of 30,500 year old ancient man was recently discovered
– Sinharaja is the island’s last remaining slice of virgin rainforest, and proffers huge biodiversity. Come here for trekking and bird watching; a large proportion of the island’s endemic bird species are found here
– Bevis, the younger brother of architect Geoffrey Bawa spend over 40 years creating ‘Brief’, a five-acre garden home to tropical plants, hidden sculptures and a low slung house. This is a magical place to visit.
– For beach time head to Bentota, the island’s water sports capital. Activities range from jet skiing and waterskiing atop the lagoon to diving, fishing and snorkeling out at sea. Bentota’s 4km stretch of beach is beautiful.
Start off your day with an alfresco breakfast beside the swimming pool as the sun rises over the tree-cloaked hills beyond. You can choose from a typical English breakfast featuring tropical fruits, eggs, sausages and toast, or go for the Sri Lankan alternative which might feature kiri bath (rice cooked in coconut milk) or string hoppers (steamed rice flour nests) with fresh curries and spiced sambols.
Lunches feature Sri Lankan rice and curry and give you a superb opportunity to sample delicious and unfamiliar regional produce, since as many ingredients as possible are sourced either from The Ark’s 40-acre estate or from the local area. Expect curries to feature fish or meat along with dhal (red lentils) and a selection of vegetable dishes such as snake beans, bitter gourd, aubergine and pumpkin. A small snack menu is also available for nibbles if you feel peckish.
For dinner, expect a three-course western meal. Rajapaksa will create a daily soup for a starter, which you can follow with a dish such as spaghetti bolognese, beef steak, roast chicken and grilled fish served with vegetables. The dessert menu includes creamy buffalo curd with local kithul (palm) treacle, a variety of ice creams & chocolate biscuit pudding etc.
No alcohol is served at The Ark. Guests are welcome to bring their own, and no corkage is charged. We recommend you stock up at the airport duty free.