From Kandy, we had arranged a pickup by tuk-tuk to take us up into the surrounding mountain jungle to the Polwaththa Eco Lodge.
We were looking forward to a peaceful break, close to nature and away from the hustle and bustle. Our tuk-tuk driver arrived on time shortly before noon. We paid Rs 1,000 for the transfer from our hotel in Kandy.
The journey took around 45 minutes. As we progressed the roads became narrower and steeper. I was beginning to wonder how on earth the tuk-tuk could handle all this weight on such steep inclines – at some extreme points we barely maintained forward momentum. Towards the end the pathway was so pockmarked that the driver had to negotiate around gaping holes as well as the vertical incline.
We arrived at the top to a smiling group of faces and a surprise cocktail reception. We had arranged to stay 2 nights in one of their mud bungalows, but we found ourselves upgraded to a tree-top wooden cabana in the middle of the jungle!
Polwaththa Eco Lodge – Cabin in the Woods
Our cabana had a large walkaround balcony with splendid views out over the jungle looking towards Lake Victoria. Around the back was a stone wash-house. In-line with the eco lodge theme, there are no electric water heaters.
If you need hot water for washing, they have their own wood-burning water-heating system.
We paid US$50 per night for a couple on half-board basis at Polwaththa Lodge (this was the Mudhouse price). The price included a good, full breakfast and beautifully-presented and delicious evening meals. All ingredients either grown or sourced locally.
At night it’s noticeably quiet (apart from the jungle noises). Inside our cabana, you could just imagine you’re in one of those “cabin” slasher movies. The cabana is basic but comfortable, with everything we needed. We had brought our own mosquito net, but didn’t need it as there was one already installed.
There is a variety of activities on offer at Polwaththa. You can go trekking through the jungle on your own or with a guide, swimming in a local river, or visit one of the ubiquitous tea plantations.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, then a full day trekking around the Knuckles Mountain Range is another option. This is also one of the best locations in the region for bird watching.
An Abundance of Jungle Life and Food
Everywhere you look in Polwaththa, you see a wealth of fascinating insects, butterflies, giant squirrels and birds. There’s also an abundance of edibles growing like weeds in the surrounding jungle areas.
Unless you really know your stuff, this is where the use of one of their local guides is indispensable.
Had it not been for the encyclopedic knowledge of our charming guide Kumar, we would have missed many of the fascinating details of the areas we walked through.
In the jungle, it can be difficult to see the trees for the woods (if you’ll pardon this reversed expression). I’d certainly never seen a cocoa plant before (and wouldn’t have recognized it if I had).
The knowledgeable management and staff at Polwaththa Eco Lodge make this a thoroughly enjoyable and unique experience. You can even go into their open kitchen and learn how to prepare and cook in traditional Sri Lankan style.
Of course, many of the ingredients are growing in the earth all around you: Rice, peppers, chillies, chocolate, wood apple, bananas, cinnamon, and so on.
To enjoy this jungle area to the fullest, you’ll need a good pair of walking shoes. You’ll also need a torch (preferably a head-mounted one), as it gets dark early and some of the pathways can be treacherous.
The Half-board and Full-board options offered are very good value: In any case, there are no alternate eating venues within realistic striking distance.
During one of our walks, we came across a small Buddha shrine in the jungle. We noticed several small objects inside the shrine. Apparently, the essential shrine offerings include: water, flowers, incense, light, perfume and food.
We’ll have to remember these details for our own little Buddha shrine back home.
We saw a lot of pepper plants, growing all around the place like weeds. Sri Lankan black pepper has higher piperine content (pungency) which fetches a premium price in the international spice trade.
What a blessing it must be to live in a place where expensive spices like this literally grow on trees.
Just before we left Polwaththa, we planted a Wood Apple tree. Planting a tree is one of the Ecotourist traditions practised here, defined as:
Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people
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