Jungle Beach, Kuchaveli: A well-hidden vacation treasure celebrates its second birthday
Wednesday, 9 July 2014 00:00
It’s official: the best holiday hideaway on the shores of the Indian Ocean is in Kuchaveli, a twenty-minute drive up the east coast of Sri Lanka from the forested turquoise coves of Trincomalee. That’s the expert opinion of World Luxury Hotel magazine, which offered this prize accolade to Jungle Beach, the so-close-to-nature-you-can-taste it resort hotel at Kuchaveli owned and run by Uga Escapes. Jungle Beach was also rated the best resort hotel on the East Coast last year by the world’s most popular and authoritative online hotel and resort review site, tripadvisor.com.
Kuchaveli, where, in the old days, a ferry across the lagoon connected Trincomalee with the vast jungles of the Wanni, is a fabled beauty-spot where forest, sea, salt-marsh and lagoon come together to create an explosion of biodiversity on land and in the air and water. Dozens of species of birds inhabit the area, the lagoon and ocean teem with fish, shellfish, turtles and cetaceans. Apart from fishermen who still work using traditional methods, the beach is broad and mostly empty, stretching up and down the coast as far as the eye can see.
Jungle Beach, as its name implies, is built on a site that was – and effectively still is – part of the surrounding forest. The ten-acre area was selectively cleared of scrub, but the 180 mature trees growing on it were all spared and the hotel was built around them. With its low, thatched-roof buildings and absence of walls in public areas, Jungle Beach blends almost invisibly into its surroundings. Its 48 cabins, all crafted from indigenous materials, offer complete privacy and seclusion. Their luxurious appointments – king-size beds, top-end entertainment systems and just about anything else you can imagine – seem unexpected (but very welcome) in these rustic surroundings. The spa, gym and open-air restaurantand bar also nestle modestly amid the greenery, which has been enhanced by the addition of about two thousand new shrubs and saplings. Now celebrating its second anniversary, Jungle Beach used to be a well-kept secret, but with these recent accolades and the publicity generated by them, more and more people have begun to visit, and advance booking is now strongly advised. For a weekend – better make that a week – of luxurious living, feasting all your senses with your feet in the sand, there’s no other place like it around the Indian Ocean. And that’s official.