an ar­chi­tec­tural feat on the is­land of sri Lanka brings to­gether the best of sea and sa­fari

hand-se­lected des­ti­na­tions, in­spir­ing cui­sine

Condé Nast House & Garden - - CONTENTS - re­splen­dentcey­

a t the south-east­ern cor­ner of sri Lanka, spread­ing in­land from the coast­line, green hills rise from jun­gled in­te­ri­ors at such reg­u­lar in­ter­vals that the hori­zon re­sem­bles a car­dio­graph. each hillock is stacked with smooth lozenges of rock, upon which an­cient stu­pas de­cay and leop­ards climb to sur­vey the panorama. Much of this land is ded­i­cated to Yala na­tional Park and it is within the park’s ad­ja­cent buf­fer zone that sri Lankan hote­lier Ma­lik Fer­nando has sited his lat­est open­ing, Wild coast Tented Lodge, un­der his re­splen­dent cey­lon la­bel.

The prop­erty, five-and-a-half hours’ drive or a 30-minute sea­plane flight from colombo, oc­cu­pies an acreage of jun­gle, fronted by dunes and wave-bashed in­lets. It is the beach, a rarely en­coun­tered facet of sa­fari, that lends this spot its unique as­pect: guests can voy­age by boat to where blue whales can be seen.

If this is sa­fari with a twist, then the largest sur­prise comes by way of the lodge’s rooms. Work­ing with nether­lands-based ar­chi­tects no­madic re­sorts, Ma­lik con­ceived the idea of 28 tented ‘co­coons’ po­si­tioned around wa­ter holes or fac­ing the beach. each co­coon com­prises a pale PVC skin stretched over steel ex­oskele­tons with an­gled glass walls at each end, which give the struc­tures a uniquely fu­tur­is­tic ap­pear­ance.

The in­te­ri­ors con­tinue the or­ganic-in­dus­trial-colo­nial ex­plorer theme, with cop­per pip­ing wash­stands and bath­tubs from Jaipur con­trast­ing with teak floor­boards, Turk­ish rugs and leather cam­paign chairs. Par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful is the ef­fect of the in­ter­nal can­vas shell, which is laced to­gether over the struc­ture’s steel braces, cre­at­ing el­e­gant lines. The of­fi­cial aes­thetic, as de­scribed by Ma­lik and dutch in­te­rior de­sign­ers Bo reudler stu­dio is ‘Jules Verne meets steam­punk’. and there are eight ‘urchin’ tents, too, de­signed with fam­i­lies in mind.

For all the fun of the de­sign, there is so­phis­ti­ca­tion at work here, too, and an abid­ing at­tempt to merge with and re­spond to the lodge’s set­ting. This idea is ar­tic­u­lated not only in the reliance

if this is sa­fari with a twist, then the largest sur­prise comes by way of the lodge’s rooms

on so­lar power and lo­cally sourced food, but also in the bones of the ar­chi­tec­ture it­self. The din­ing room is like a vaulted cathe­dral cre­ated from a web of bam­boo and steel and topped by teak shin­gles, the sil­hou­ette evok­ing the area’s rock for­ma­tions. It is a feat of con­struc­tion and engi­neer­ing per­formed by lo­cal fish­er­men, re­trained in car­pen­try af­ter an over­seas con­trac­tor dropped out.

a clay nook houses the li­brary, and the same clay has been used to carve din­ing booths, seat­ing ar­eas and a bridge that con­nects the bar and the res­tau­rant over the pool. cop­per lights, ochre cush­ions and wine-coloured chairs echo the pal­ette of the sur­round­ing ter­rain.

sa­fari here is ac­cessed by liv­er­ied ve­hi­cle in a mat­ter of min­utes. af­ter­noons are spent cruis­ing the park in the com­pany of ex­pert guides, spot­ting croc­o­diles, ele­phants and leop­ards. It is im­por­tant to note, how­ever, that this is not sa­fari as prac­tised in africa. Yala is a bustling, busy park. There are mul­ti­ple ve­hi­cles per sight­ing, but the guides are ex­perts in avoid­ing the crowds and of­fer­ing unique priv­i­leges such as af­ter­noon tea on a bend in the river.

Then there are the lodge’s fur­ther en­tice­ments: the blue whales, the tem­ple of Kataragama, not to men­tion an af­ter­noon spent by the pool. Ma­lik re­cently se­cured per­mis­sion to cre­ate a con­ser­vancy in the buf­fer zone, to al­low for pri­vate wildlife en­coun­ters. not that the an­i­mals are aware of any lim­its to their move­ment. ele­phants reg­u­larly en­ter the camp to seek out the lodge’s wa­ter­ing holes. and leop­ard paw­prints are of­ten found in the sand – proof not only of these preda­tors’ pres­ence but also, per­haps, of their ap­proval of this new ar­rival on their patch.

the din­ing room at wild coast tented lodge in sri lanka was built by a team of re­trained lo­cal fish­er­men

from top the roof of the din­ing room was con­structed from a web of bam­boo and steel. the chan­de­lier re­pur­poses bam­boo of­f­cuts; the beach as­pect of the re­sort gives guests a unique sa­fari ex­pe­ri­ence, en­abling boat voy­ages out to sea to watch blue whales

clock­wise, from top left the teak­sh­in­gled din­ing room and bar area are seen in the dis­tance; the din­ing room in­te­rior; af­ter­noon tea in the park

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