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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taprobane Island

Viewed from front-on, the Island is like something out of a "Boy's-Own" adventure...
Taprobane Island (, also known as Count de Maunay's Island, has long been on my must-visit checklist. The island, with its colonial bungalow, always caught the eye as you drove Down South, resplendent in the middle of Weligama Bay, evoking an air of romantic mystery and charm that never failed to fascinate an imagination fuelled at a young age by a surfeit of Famous Five and Secret Seven adventure stories:

For one reason or the other, I had never made it onto the island but the opportunity finally arrived hand-in-hand with the wedding of two of my childhood friends, Brooklyn Jude and Hail Mary, full of Grace.

(Jude isn't his real name, by the way. This goes back several years when I phoned him and exclaimed "dude!" whereupon his father - who had answered the call - handed the phone to him saying "there's a Jude on the line for you" had to be there to appreciate it, of course, but the name kinda stuck - he's Brooklyn Jude, I'm Colombo Jude [or Hong Kong Jude as the case may be] and the Hyphenated-Welshman is English Jude [despite his vehement protests that he is actually Welsh]).

I was lucky enough to have made it onto the elite list of wedding guests invited to stay on the island, following a conversation between Hail Mary and myself that went along these lines:

HM: we'd love to have you stay on the island, but would you mind sharing a room with my friend the air-hostess?

Me: do you mean the hot, blonde Californian air-hostess? The one who's currently single?

HM: that's the one. I know it's a lot to ask, but would you mind sharing with her?

Me: oh gosh, I don't know - it is a lot to ask...umm, let me think about it for a bit... oh what the hell, I'll do it just to please you...

See? That's the kind of selfless chap I am - willing to make any sacrifice for an old friend... I should point out, by the way, that HM was absolutely serious throughout this entire conversation...

Truth be told, I had a major panic-attack about sharing a room with the Trolley-Dolly, not for anything else but for the fact that my snoring can sometimes sound like a battalion of extra-large lumberjacks tackling a forest full of Redwoods with heavy-duty chainsaws... Having obsessed and fretted about this for days, I eventually enlisted English Jude's help in getting me one of those anti-snoring mouthguard thingies as an emergency preventative (which is another really sad sign of ageing - a decade ago, faced with the prospect of sharing a room on an exotic island with a hot blonde T-D, I'd have been stocking up on an altogether different sort of preventative...).

In any event, I ended up spitting the mouthguard out in my sleep on the first night and not being able to find it for the next two days (which prompted another panic attack as to whether I'd swallowed the damn thing...), but I had apparently not snored anyway (I had threatened my subconscious with hideous self-mutilation just to make doubly sure), so the point was moot...

Anyway, back to the point, which was to talk about Taprobane Island. At low tide, the island can be accessed by simply wading the short distance across from the mainland. We stayed on the island off-season, which meant that the tide was relatively higher than it would be in high-season, but almost everyone waded across without any difficulty, even carrying baggage with them:

The Designer-Architect in Mid-wade

When the tide is higher, though, it is worth hiring a boat to ferry you across (fair warning - the local boat operators know they've got the bargaining power and charge exorbitant amounts), especially if you have a lot of luggage.

The bungalow is situated at the top of the island, accessed by a set of steps built through a lush garden. Entering through a rather imposing white-washed facade bedecked with the British Coat of Arms, you enter the bungalow's main lobby, a large, airy, circular space boasting a high, arched ceiling. Three of the bungalow's five bedrooms lead off the main lobby, two doubles and a twin-share, all ensuite, fitted with antique four-poster beds and eclectic furniture. The twin-share featured an open-air shower, while the two doubles gleamed with white porcelain sinks and tubs. The bungalow's other two double rooms were situated on a lower level of the island, with stunning views out on to the Bay and the vast nothingness between the island and the South Pole.

The Main Lobby
One of the main-level double rooms with its lovely Four-Poster bed
The twin-share room
The twin-share's "Indoor Outdoor" Bathroom

A dining area adjoins the main lobby and leads onto a small sit-out facing a nice patch of garden. The other end of the lobby leads to a larger sit-out, with plenty of comfy planter's chairs, a fridge and a terrace with a large trestle table for alfresco dining, as well as a rocking chair and a couple of recesses that convert into sofas / daybeds. A lovely space in which to take your meals or sit around reading and chatting, not to mention enjoying a quiet snooze, lulled to sleep by the sound of the Indian Ocean...

The main level of the property also includes an open-air space ideal for entertaining guests.

The southern side of the island features a large infinity pool, with lovely views out over the Bay. Surrounded by tall shade trees, the pool is comfortable to be in at any time of day and is a particularly fine spot for a sundowner.

 The waters of the Bay surrounding the island are swimmable in the high-season, but I wouldn't recommend it during the off-season, as the Southern Coast is infamous for rip-tides and you wouldn't want to end up getting bashed about on the very pretty, but very rocky rocks around the island...

The island is served by a friendly, courteous and very obliging team of five staff, who look after you with warmth and care from start to finish. The service was unobtrusive, and the staff are clearly used to guests wanting their privacy.

The staff in their colourful "party" sarongs
The island is available to be booked in its entirety, with meals included, and this would be my recommendation, as it is the kind of venue that is ideal for a family reunion or a holiday with friends (I would say you can comfortably sleep 12 adults - 15 with a bit of "roughing it"), but not one you would necessarily want to share with strangers, given the nature of its setting. Meals are very good and included plenty of fresh fruit. There was a good choice of Sri Lankan food as well as western.

The downside to staying on an island - notwithstanding the fact that it is just a few yards offshore - is that you do need to ensure you have all your supplies laid in, as it can be quite time-consuming to get stuff in when you run short given that it's not like you can just nip round the corner to the 7-11...

Having said that, it is a minor inconvenience in what is otherwise an idyllic - and rather unique - venue for a relaxed holiday, or indeed for a wedding or other celebration. Taprobane Island was the ideal location for my friends' wedding and was easily able to accommodate 40 - 50 guests during the event.

Next up? Well, I do have a 40th birthday coming up in a few months...

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