Maya ~ Nature and wildlife in Southern Sri Lanka

After discovering the architectural marvels of Fort Galle and relaxing to the crashing waves and beautiful rhythm of the Indian Ocean at Unawatuna, we are ready for some action.  Bird action, that is. We have read about the extensive fauna in this part of the island and are ready to explore rural Sri Lanka.

We take a 2 hour local bus ride along the coast to get from Fort Galle to Tangalle.

This bus, much like many of the tuk tuks, has a large poster of Buddha in the front.
Tuk tuk driver Nadin gives us a ride from the bus station into the countryside of Tangalle and to our destination.
Lily pads dot the rice paddies along the route.

Our destination is Maya, an exquisitely restored 19th century manor house ~ Walauwa, the name given to colonial manor houses in Ceylon, (now Sri Lanka), gifted to local powerful families by the kings of Ceylon.

Situated in a beautifully serene and rural landscape, nestled between a small Buddhist temple and large rice paddies, is the Maya house

Maya (illusion, in Sanskrit), has re-emerged after an exquisite renovation (by owner and interior decorator Niki Fairchild and Sri Lankan architect Pradeep Kodikara) and expansion to the original manor house in 2004, into an intimate villa with 5 suite rooms.

The original 19th century Maya manor house has beautiful carved wood work and doors.
Detail wooden door
Maya library and veranda ~ a seamless blend between outdoors and indoors, nature and comfort.
Very spacious bedroom suite with high pitched ceilings, beautiful local art work and an overall calming aesthetic.
Did I mention ~ super comfy bed?!
The bedroom opens with a floor to ceiling glass door, creating one space with a private patio area.
Nice touch ~ a welcome glass of chilled avocado juice when we arrive.
Love the ink blue tiles of the L shaped swimming pool, contrasting against the natural stone tiles.
And of course, the view of all the trees!
The comfort of a living/sitting room and the airiness of being outside ~ Understated contemporary elegance.

The grounds at Maya are simply stunning!  The owner’s commitment to preserving the estate’s grand trees was essential in maintaining a diversity of mature trees, which provide an oasis of shade.

The varied majestic trees make for perfect resting spots for the area’s rich population of birds.

The garden is adjacent to rice paddies, which are in harvest right now, creating a dramatic contrast between the lush green of the gardens and the sunburnt yellow of the rice field.

View across the lush garden, to the sunburnt yellow rice paddies.
The trees are magnificent.
A Ganesh bell hangs on a tree near the entrance.
Stone Ganesh sculpture near the entrance. 

Sitting spaces are arranged throughout the gardens to allow for quiet contemplation, relaxation and bird watching ~ a hammock under a tree, a couple of reclining chairs perfectly located in front of the wide open rice fields where the comings and goings of wild peacocks can be observed.

An inviting spot to absorb nature’s serenity
Enjoying some quiet time in the comfy hammock swing under a huge mango tree.
Lilac blue flowers,  emerald green grass, lime yellow rice paddy ~ morning light.
The garden flows seamlessly into the adjacent rice paddy. Doing field research from my perch!

Most Westerners have only seen peacocks in zoos and botanical gardens ~ but these beautiful birds come from somewhere … and this somewhere is Sri Lanka (and India.) The wild peacocks that meander through Maya’s gardens and adjacent rice fields, are simply glorious, with their loud call that announces their presence. 

The bright, deep jewel like turquoise of the peacock’s chest, the long tail, itself a bouquet of brightly colored feathers and the characteristic yellow crown on its head makes the wild peacock, hands down, the most beautiful bird we have ever seen.  They roam and even run with grace, freely, in and around the property. 
Wild peacock takes a rest. Peacocks can fly, although not high, nor far.

A walk along the small road outside Maya house takes us past the small Buddhist temple, with its faded, yet colorful paintings on the interior walls.

Head monks from years gone by. Painted portrait with a short description.
Curvy Sinhalese writing. An art form and of itself.
Inside the little temple, brightly painted Buddha sculptures and paintings on the walls.
A farmer walks by with her water buffalos and her young son. 

We return to Maya to indulge in what turns out to be a surprising feature ~ the BEST food we have had in Sri Lanka. We have of course been enjoying and indulging in the local curries. Yet, our palates are delighted by a change of flavors and the creative twist on classic fare.

The chef and his team have brought to this Walauwa, world-class culinary skills. Some of the highlights include: sesame-encrusted seared fresh tuna (perfectly rare), served with black wild rice and finely chopped beet ~ adding a nice crunch and glazed crunchy bright orange carrots;  A simple black coconut roti steals the show; A watercress herb soup, which provides a flashback to French “soupe de cresson”, is superb. Our love of fresh veggies is well satisfied by a crunchy salad of chickpeas and green beans.

Raw passion fruit dessert. Yum!

And then… there is breakfast ~ the star of the show is a home-made granola with fresh local fruit and a Sri Lankan specialty, buffalo curd, similar to yoghurt, and palm treacle, which is memorable.

Meals are served next to the pool and gardens. At dinner only the light from soft lanterns light up the feast.
Sri Lankan classic: The egg hopper. (Rice flour and fermented coconut milk make up the hopper batter.)
Artists in the kitchen!
Perfect yoga platform at the bottom of the garden. 

For more info on Maya hotel, see: http://mayatangallesrilanka.com/index.html

It would be tempting to allow our taste buds to drive our travel itinerary and just stay put at Maya; but that is not our destiny. We have come to Maya en route to our bird watching adventure.

From Maya, we travel to the Bundala Bird Park ~ an important wetland sanctuary for migratory water birds as well as endemic birds… a pleasant 2 hour tuk tuk ride away.

And we are off…!

Bundala Bird Park is simply magnificent.  We did not anticipate just how much birdlife we would be graced by.

We see rare Purple Herons, Grey Herons, (at least 3 feet tall), Purple Koots, the colorful Painted Storks, Spoonbills, Green Bee Eaters, Black Headed Ibis, wild Parakeets, Sandpipers, Kibbits to name a few.

It is fabulous to see birds free and wild and happy. All throughout Asia, (Viet Nam, Indonesia, Thailand) people capture birds and put them in cages for their selfish pleasure.   Seeing birds en masse in their natural habitat is an incredible treat.

We visit the extensive park grounds by “Safari jeep”, outfitted purposely with high seats for optimized animal viewing and all around open sides.
Ben watching an assortment of birds in the lagoon.
Spoonbills, Painted Storks and Herons

The peacock ~ known as Peafowl. Their loud call is a “may – aw” sound.

Cormorans cluster on the water’s edge

Cormoran
King Fisher.

We see quite a number of other animals in addition to the birds  ~  mongoose, 2 types of monkeys, black faced grey Langurs, endemic to Sri Lanka, and Sri Lankan Macaques with their super cute “hairdos”.

Monkeys are always fun to watch, living in groups, swinging on trees, some with little babies holding onto their mother’s stomachs. As well, we see wild boars, spotted deer, land monikors ~ a type of extra large lizard/ iguana, and a slow moving, old elephant on his way out of the scrub to have a drink at the lake.

Black faced monkeys, only found in Sri Lanka, travel in groups of 10+ monkeys
Sri Lankan Macaques sport a particularly cool hairdo

Bundala Park encompasses a stretch of ocean front red cliffs
Vacacionus, Nomadus Homo Sapiens

Photo credit for Bandala Park portraits goes to Clarence Coolay, a very kind Sri Lankan man who saved us when our camera ran out of battery!

10 thoughts on “Maya ~ Nature and wildlife in Southern Sri Lanka

  1. Sharon Rosenzweig

    This place looks awesome. So lush and tastefully done. It makes me want to go to join you in the pool, the library, the hammock. The food is so beautiful too. Wonderful how it’s situated, with mature trees among rice paddies. What a find! Ganesh is my favorite, the God of new beginnings. How perfect that he welcomes you.

  2. Nicole

    Wow, this hotel looks so inviting. So lush and restful. Beautifully designed! Food sounds and looks so clean and perfect. Have to get there! Great pics, wonderful wildlife. You lucky people!!!

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