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Travellers Checks


Exclusive eco luxury at the Elephant Corridor


By R. Wijewardene

Space. What immediately stands out about the Elephant Corridor, is its sheer size.

Sprawling over 200 acres of shrub jungle in the vicinity of Dambulla, the hotel is easily the largest resort property in the country.

Its grounds encompass rolling plains, dense shrub, in-house lakes, and dozens of water holes, all frequented by an extraordinary range of wild life.

Simply peer into the undergrowth outside your room and you might spot a prickly porcupine, a brooding boar or a preening peacock, and if you’re particularly lucky even an elusive rusty spotted cat.

Herds of water buffalo wallow in the hotel’s water courses and stare longingly at your private plunge pools but the resort’s show piece is the moving monolith that is the Asian elephant, dozens of whom gather frequently on the far side of the in-house reservoir.

With such a spectacular amount of space and so much resident wildlife the hotel is at times more reminiscent of a private game reserve than a regular resort — and no great feat of imagination is required to transport yourself mentally to the Kenyan bush, or the midst of the great game parks of southern Africa.

Thirsty elephants

In fact the more adventurous members of the herd sometimes make appearances in the midst of the resort and after dark it is not unusual to find thirsty elephants taking a quick drink from the main pool.

While the idea that pachyderms wonder freely through the resort might seem alarming — the experience is perfectly safe as the hotel’s vast grounds are populated by an equally large army of staff. Over a hundred members of staff are constantly busy around the resort which means that there is always someone on hand to offer fizzing cocktails, deliver canapés and of course, when necessary ward off the odd elephant.

What makes the resort that much more special however is that amidst all this space, and surrounded by this legion of staff, stand just 20 suites, artfully secluded in the tall grass and low shrub of the dry zone jungle — this is exclusive luxury.

The resort’s immense size not only gives wildlife the space to roam freely but also allows for some extraordinary architecture. The vast foyer is sufficiently large that its towering columns perfectly frame Sigiriya’s spectacular rock — and the view from the elevated main restaurant is a breath taking expanse of scrub, seasonal tanks, and low hills.

Every conceivable amenity

Of course, like almost everything in the resort the rooms are astonishing in their scale — each occupies more space than an average house, vertiginous ceilings, and every conceivable amenity — not one but two televisions, deafening surround systems and of course plunge pools with views over the surrounding scrub, are standard.

The rooms however are far from uniform and the 20 suites are divided in to several classes from interconnecting family suites to the extravagant presidential villa — a compound of several sprawling buildings and pools, that offers enough space to hold a president and his retinue in almost regal luxury.

The romantic suites feature oversized indoor plunge pools and you can alternate steaming hot baths with dips in the cool plunge pool while watching elephants emerge from the distant scrub in the evening — an almost surreal luxury.

For utterly surreal extravagance however it’s hard to beat the main restaurant’s improbably fine dining — seven course meals on sterling silver ware, accompanied by a selection of wines and sorbets, are somehow served in the midst of a sprawling and pristine wilderness.

A genuine mystery

Caviar and smoked salmon canapés precede multiple courses of lamb, beef and the finest sea food — how such a comprehensively epicurean experience is achieved at such distance from civilisation is a genuine mystery….

The Elephant Corridor is a true boutique hotel in that it offers all the facilities of a major resort to just a handful of discerning guests. Dotted around the vast grounds are several restaurants, bars, pools, a luxury spa, riding stables, and even archery facilities — there’s also a helipad for serious VIPs.

In fact the range of facilities available at the hotel is so vast that despite the close proximity of World Heritage Sites at Sigiriya and Dambulla as well as the Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks — it is extraordinarily difficult to find the motivation to leave the hotel premises.

Why go to a wildlife park when at the Elephant Corridor the wildlife will come to you ?

And ultimately despite the absolute luxury and the overwhelming range of facilities on offer the heart of the resort’s appeal lies not in its plunge pools and billiard room but in the opportunity to lose yourself in its acres of wilderness.

Using a bicycle you can discover glades, and pools that seem a million miles from everywhere, take tea under a distant tree and listen to the sounds of a jungle’s silence. You can also let your mind transport you to any of the worlds arid wild spaces, and its only seeing the sunset explode over Sigiriya’s unmistakable rock that will remind you that you are in fact in the heart of Sri Lanka.

While the Elephant Corridor offers famously exclusive luxury, current promotional rates are extremely competitive — rooms start at Rs.20,000 a night.









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