Motti Verses

‘Peace Haven’ heaven in southern Sri Lanka

40 years old Gayan Sampath welcomes me to his small kingdom in the picturesque tiny bay of Batheegama village in a remote point in southern Sri Lanka. Enthusiastically he points at a colorful sign of major famous cities in the world. The closest is Jerusalem, 7216 km to the west. The charming man is the ocean turtles protector here and also owns a small kiosk and provides visitors with sunbeds and basic diving equipment for a fee. While we entered the water with a snorkel, I ended up diving and swimming with turtles under his guidance.  An unforgettable activity to cherish. “Do not touch the turtles”, he yells at a group of tourist teenagers from Germany.  Gayan assists me with his waterproof GoPro camera to get some amazing underwater shots of the turtles he protects. “I will write about your amazing project and more tourists will arrive to experience the turtles”, I promise in return. “This is great for business as money is good, but not good for the turtles”, he replies with a grim look.

The reply of sympathetic Gayan might be the microcosmos of the dilemma of the wonderful people in this part of this amazing island country. On one hand tradition and heritage of a hard working community is respected. On the other hand, a government targeting 2.3 million tourists in 2024 in order to improve the economy and the standard of living of the inhabitants.

Gayan Sampath in the picturesque tiny bay of Batheegama points to Jerusalem (photo:Motti Verses)
Swimming and feeding turtles is an unforgettable activity to cherish (photo:Motti Verses)

Progress is inevitable even here. Sri Lanka is trying to get higher spending tourists, with a capacity of 500 dollars a day. Now, the island country mostly gets tourists that spend about 100 dollars a day. A significant number of Gayan’s guests arrive in a limousine from the luxurious Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort. Precisely the  hospitality resort of the government tourism visionaries. This is the hotel where we stayed. A dream come true to high-end foreigners in one of the most remote provinces of the island. Why are they making the well arranged 3 hour drive here from Colombo international airport after a long tiring flight?

Tangalle is a fishing port, situated on a bay protected from the ocean by an enclosing reef. An important anchorage during Dutch and British rule. It is well reputed for its beautiful and virtually untouched coastline which is favored by those seeking a romantic beach getaway or perfect honeymoon destination.

Spending 3 days in this unique resort revealed all the secrets.

The large resort compound is secured with a gate that isolates it from the city. Upon check-in team members, wearing local traditional clothing, greet the comers with an inspiring ritual. The check-in procedure is conducted while we are seated on an outdoor couch in front of the most picturesque scenery one can imagine. Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle retreat is placed on a rocky outcrop near a golden-hued beach fringed by pampering lagoons and coconut palms that overlooks the roaring Indian Ocean. Certainly a place that makes guests feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. One can just relax for hours at this point or on the nearby top of the cliff and just observe the ocean landscape endlessly.

Upon check-in team members wearing local traditional clothing greet the comers with an inspiring ritual (photo:Motti Verses)


A golden-hued beach fringed by pampering lagoons and coconut palms (photo:Motti Verses)
One can just sit on a top cliff and just observe the ocean landscape endlessly (photo:Motti Verses)

The resort offers 152 rooms with 32 pool villas, surrounded by beautiful 21 acres of natural animal sanctuary. Our comfortable guest room was on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the hotel’s main wide lagoon. It was perfectly located for daily morning swims and relaxing by the impressive mighty ocean. The breakfast room with the wide terrace facing the breathtaking view was a daily joy. A great verity of tropical and Sri Lanka’s food items and friendly staff  make guests feel like royalty. “We employ 420 team members here. 60 of them are gardeners and maintenance employees, responsible for the well preserved gardens”, says General Manager, Roberto Simone. “Our prime objective here with the staff is always to focus on guests’ satisfaction. 95% of the customers are individuals. We hardly host groups here. Guests prefer to stay inside the resort and with an average stay of 5-6 nights, they are totally disconnected from the rest of the world. They enjoy the time here of relaxing and interacting with our team, interacting with nature and admiring beautiful Sri Lanka”.

Surrounded by jumping monkeys on trees and bushes, endless colorful peacocks, vivacious squirrels and silent iguanas, one might think it is indeed an animal sanctuary. If God created heaven it is indeed here on earth in this peace haven. “Italian Michelangelo was the closest to heaven with his famous fresco ‘The Creation of Adam’ which forms part of Rome’s Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. You are actually an Italian in heaven”, I challenge the resort’s boss. Simone smiles and says: “It reminds me of a British returning guest lady that speaks highly of the resort because she doesn’t need to bring any language with her. A bathing suite and a light dress are sufficient as dressing elegantly is not the first priority here”. If it feels like heaven, sounds like heaven, it must be heaven in earth.

Simone comes from a small town in Calabria Italy and worked 9 years in Milan. Italian food is his pride and he urges me to dine in the posh  “il Mare”  restaurant here. The menu was indeed of the highest class. Local Executive Chef Chaminda Pathirana is making the outlet an experience to preserve with quality sea products that one cannot find even in Italy. Gastronomy was also unique, of the highest level, in the Verala Asian outlet by the crick that divides the retreat. Chef Tharindu selected for us unforgeable Japanese delicacies in a dinner to cherish.

Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort, placed on a rocky outcrop near a golden-hued beach (photo by Anantara hotels)
General Manager, Roberto Simone: “95% of the customers are individuals. We hardly host groups here”. (photo by Motti Verses)
Our comfortable guest room was on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the beautiful gardens (photo:Motti Verses)
Executive Chef Chaminda Pathirana is making the posh “il Mare” restaurant an experience to preserve (photo:Motti Verses)
Chef Tharindu selected for us unforgeable Japanese delicacies in the Verela Asian outlet (photo:Motti Verses)

The resort offers guests experiences like sunset yoga, surfing lessons, a coconut guru presentation, lagoon boat ride, nature walk and Mama’s kitchen workshop – how to cook homemade Sri Lanka dishes. High end guests tremendously love the activities.

We were eager to discover nature in this part of the island after our unique experience in the central provinces. Surrounded by rice fields and hungry skinny animals we headed to the most famous national park here – Yala. Located almost  2 hours east of Tangalle, this  gigantic area of light forest, grassy plains and brackish lagoons, is very rich in wildlife. It was exciting to encounter deer, buffaloes and rare bird species, sitting in a safari jeep with a local driver and guide. Although this is not an African safari, we certainly enjoyed the experience. Elephants attracted us the most, however the main tracks and viewing spots are crowded especially when a leopard is in sight. Not a common scenery for the visitors that flock this park by the numbers.

Galle is yet another place to visit, either arriving from the airport or on the way back. Known for its fort, this fortified old city is surrounded by impressive sea walls; it is the largest remaining colonial-era fortress in all of Asia. Its narrow streets reflect the rich history of Portuguese, Dutch and British rule.

Yala Park – sitting in a safari jeep with a local driver and guide
(photo:Motti Verses)
Elephants attracted us the most, however the main tracks and viewing spots are crowded (photo:Motti Verses)
Known for its fort, Galle is surrounded by impressive sea walls (photo:Motti Verses)

The best spot in Sri Lanka to learn how to surf is Weligama. Young people from all around the world flock all year round to this popular sandy village. This kilometer long shallow beach is a jewel.

Southern Sri Lanka’s reputation as a picturesque travel destination is intact. Yet in order to attract high end Israeli travelers, marketing campaigns are certainly needed. Israeli tourists would love to discover the island and combine it with a pampering leisure retreat. Especially when trips to the Maldives drop due to recent travel warnings there by the Foreign Ministry to Israelis. This is certainly the time for Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle and the rest of the upmarket resorts to stand out.

About the Author
The author is a hotel expert, traveler, writer, videographer and the former Head of Public Relations of Hilton Hotels and Resorts in Israel
Related Topics
Related Posts