By Cassandra Mascarenhas
Opening its sandy shores to the booming tourist trade after years of inaccessibility and neglect, Passekudah was graced with the opening of the Maalu Maalu Resort and Spa, the first boutique hotel to be in operation on the east coast.
Initiated under the post-war ‘Nagenahira Navodaya’ directive, the project which cost $ 3.5 million to complete was officially declared open on 30 May by Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, with Minister Gamini Lokuge, Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena and Chief Minister of Eastern Province Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan also participating in the opening ceremony.
Located at the Pasikuda Resort, 300 kilometres east of Colombo in the Batticaloa District of the Eastern Province, it consists of 40 chalets on the beach and with its rustic design, blends into the surrounding environment in a natural and picturesque way.
The resort is also the first eco-friendly family boutique resort exclusively designed according to the sustainable building guidelines on energy and environment.
With the wooden chalets designed to represent ‘wadiyas,’ Maalu Maalu duplicates the ethnic style of Sri Lankan fishing villages and keeping in line with this, promotes authentic traditions and architecture within the resort.
The Government has plans to build approximately 1,000 hotel rooms in the east to cater to the increasing demand of tourists visiting the area. A 13-hotel project is already in the pipeline, which will immediately establish Passekudah as a top tourist beach destination, with an investment of Rs. 5,483 million on the construction of hotels. The Government has allocated Rs. 800 million to develop infrastructure facilities in the area.
Although expecting a mixed tourist based in the near future, the resort is currently working with tour operators in France, Germany, UK, Australia, China, Singapore and the Middle East – countries which have so far shown a lot of interest in the resort. This interest has resulted in the resort being booked up to about 50 to 60 per cent for the upcoming months of August and September.
Maalu Maalu will be operational all year around but is expecting its peak season to coincide with the summer tourist rush. The Connaissance Group which owns Maalu Maalu also has further plans to build more Maalu Maalu resorts in Kalpitiya and Sigiriya in the near future.
The Connaissance Group was determined to use resources from the area when building the boutique hotel. In fact, the contractors were hired from the area in order to use the skills of those residing there.
In addition to that, this project will provide employment opportunities both directly and indirectly and the resort has already taken steps to provide such employment by hiring in house staff from the vicinity.
Furthermore, the Directors of Connaissance will be operating an NGO ‘reconstruire et vivre’ to provide educational and English language skills and will also open a computer centre in Kalkudah Village. As a committed socially responsible company, Maalu Maalu Resort and Spa will also contribute $ 1 from the occupied per day cost to develop, educate and cultivate skills for the youth in the area.
Although guests will be pampered with elegance and luxury at the family boutique hotel, the interior design of the wadiyas themselves are simple and reflects the indigenous Sri Lankan culture with a blending of old and new traditions.
All the chalets, which provide excellent views of the ocean, consist of wooden walls and cadjan roof covers. The 40 chalets consist of 24 deluxe chalets, eight of which are interconnected, eight deluxe suites complete with attics, four ocean suites and yet another four panoramic suites with attics. Suites come with cluster pools with views of the bay, cluster steam rooms, an exclusive private dining deck and a Jacuzzi.
Once fully operational, Maalu Maalu will feature two restaurants for guests to wine and dine at: Karadiya – an open-air restaurant and coffee shop aerated by the sea breeze with a view of the Indian Ocean, which will operate as the main restaurant and will operate daily for breakfast, lunch and theme night dinners and Dheewarayo – Habala restaurant and the Ruwala pool bar.
The pool bar, following an innovative idea, is located in two converted traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats, outfitted with comfortable benches and tables, making it a very unique dining experience and is located on the pool deck overlooking the sea.
Guests will be treated to a fusion of both traditional Sri Lankan dishes and Western cuisine and will be waited on by staff delightfully clad in Maalu Maalu’s distinct uniform, which consists of a white belted sarong and fishnet vest, once again following the traditional garb of the fishermen in the area. A discotheque and jazz bar also located on the property would provide the perfect ending to an evening.
Recreational options include relaxing sessions at the resort’s top of the line ‘Ayur Vie’ spa which offers a range of traditional Ayurveda therapy and treatments, working out at the gymnasium.
Other activities include water sports such as snorkelling, diving, wind surfing, deep-sea fishing or even merely a refreshing dip in the calm waters of the sea which is just a stone’s throw away from the chalets.
Guests will also be able to enjoy canoeing trips to the lagoons and mangroves for bird watching or enjoy a spectacular view of Passekudah bay from the infinity pool. Maalu Maalu also has a state-of-the-art conference room to provide an ideal venue for small or medium conferences and functions.
Guests at the hotel could also discover the culture of the Eastern Province by visiting the Kalkudah village or traditional Hindu temples and village markets in the vicinity. They can even go on day tours to Polonnaruwa and Habarana.