Slanting eyes of a leopard, golden rays bouncing off the peacocks’ blue plumage, intricate stone carvings barely visible in the undergrowth, laughter mixing with the sound of the waterways … cameras, note books, ice boxes, tents and sleeping mats … family holidays that revolved around my father’s passion for this land, its wildness and its people. Photography, conservation and activism were the products of his endless travel and exploration in the backwoods of Sri Lanka.
And along with the love for this land we inherited a partiality towards a particular type of refuge ... places where we had the privacy of lounging on a deck chair, gazing at the stars listening to the night sounds of the jungle at the end of a long day, having the occasional frog looking solemnly at you over the basin tap … where we spread our maps, books and photo equipment on the dinner tableand discussed with the bungalow keepers the best way to approach the next day ... their friendly greetings when we return again next season…
From those holiday’s developed a passion that made me move deeper into the natural environment through higher studies in Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry and Agriculture in USA. Returning home, I built a successful career in water and wastewater purification and management in the private sector. But the dream of the wild, the memories of those days and nights in the open spaces kept surfacing, along with the intense desire to see my twin daughters enjoying nature the way I did as a child.
The dreams turned to reality as Idecided to move out of the corporate sector and strike out on my own, searching for beautiful remote properties and building small lodges for my family and friends to enjoy. It did not take long for the chain of totally Sri Lankan owned and operated Back of Beyond lodges to develop into a highly personalized, environmentally sensitive wilderness resorts.
Each location has its own character and we built our retreats to reflect and enhance what each site naturally provided. When staffing our retreats we went back to our memories of friendly, obliging and knowledgeable guides, cooks and helpers that made our holidays special… Back of Beyond staff are handpicked for their personality as much as their skill.
Our dream is to have a Back of Beyond retreat in many different natural and historical settings our island has to offer. Remembering, always, that wildlife were the original inhabitants of our varied forests and waterways, and we are their guests.
Touch gently… Yes, we acknowledge we are intruding … but we hope we touch our natural and social environment so minimally that it feels nothing but a gentle touch…
- In all our properties, we take great care to learn the ways of the land, the waterways, plant, bird and animal life of the particular area before we start ‘developing’ it. This way we hope to minimize disruption to any of the existing natural patterns of the land and its life.
- We leave a major proportion of the land untouched or rejuvenate it as a wild habitat where needed. This orientation has become even more important than we expected, as are discovering how critical these ‘wild pockets’ are as a refuge for wildlife as man takes control of more and more of the natural landscape even in the most remote areas.
- We practice rainwater collection and have created mini lakes for storing excess rainwater. When the dry season sets in, our rain water conservation becomes a life giving source for wildlife as well.
When introducing built structures
- Preserving the natural environment is important to us. We have retained the natural topography and vegetation that is unique to each property. We have barely cleared any land when building our lodges as we use spaces that naturally lend themselves to structures.
- The major portion of the land is left untouched as we maintain a low density of less than 1rooms per acreWe ensure a low impact both visually and environmentally.
- We have tried to use modern methods of environmental construction, as well as revive the traditional building practices (such as rammed earth) and material (illuk and talipot thatch and bamboo rafters, instead of wood).
- We work with rural craftsman and builders and have learnt to appreciate their special style of working.
For our energy needs
- All of our properties have sustainable sources of energy. Solar power is the most extensively used, whilst Dendro is harvested from within the properties for cooking. At Dehigahaela and Yala we operate totally on solar power. At Kahandamodara where we have a 5 kW solar panels, we export more electricity than what we consume!
- Open Space House Plans minimizing electricity consumption through the use of natural light and ventilation. No air-conditioning is used in most of the properties, by choice.
Our team that you will meet
- We have chosen our team carefully, giving equal importance to individual personalities and specialized knowledge. All part time help is sourced from the villages.
- Our team will provide you with friendly hospitality in keeping with the Sri Lankan village base that they all come from.
- We believe in collective responsibility and doing what we enjoy doing.
You have the best multi-tasking team, which is a very good example to any company. The staff give their best to serve the guest. They do it whole heartedly as if it is their own hotel
- Guest comment, February 2010
- We welcome you to the homely comforts of personal care and flexibility, and the seclusion, warmth and homeliness of an eco-retreat, which is in keeping with the natural a socio-cultural environment, rather than a boutique resort or hotel.
- We welcome you to experience an environmentally friendly lifestyle, rather than to simply provide you with accommodation and food! We welcome you to a peaceful eco- retreat, where nature and human beings are given a chance to once again live in harmony.
- We encourage you to explore the properties and the surrounding areas. We have developed a range of activities, such as trekking, cycling, swimming, birding, exploring ancient sites, all of which aim to be as low impact as possible on the natural and socio-cultural environment of our properties and its surroundings.
- We hope you will be interested in learning more about the natural environment around you as well as the history, culture and community around you. Our staff have wide ranging knowledge arising from both their professional training and their local roots and they will help you as much or little as you like. Each retreat has a library with books on nature, regional history and community.
- However, we caution you that our properties all border and merge with forested and open land with considerable wildlife including elephants, snakes, crocodiles and insects. We request you to discuss with our staff the best time and place for walks, treks, cycle rides, swims, etc. Please heed their advice. They are well trained to make realistic judgments and provide you with the best options. Our staff will also accompany you on request.
- We have always practiced a policy of engaging people from the community in all our activities, from the construction phase to the operational. Most of the construction work of our retreats have been carried out by the local villagers, who bring with them a deep knowledge of the land and its people. Many who start working with us during the development phase, stayed with us as suppliers of fruits, vegetable, curd, honey etc. The villagers return to help us in subsequent maintenance work, and many of our fulltime employees are from nearby villages or neighboring regions.
- Being part of the village community we participate in the village religious and community activities, often helping out the local temple and school when special needs arise.
- We don’t run our own safari tours but use local jeep drivers, guides and boat operators.
- There are however, some practices we do not condone with. Elephant rides, so popular in the Sigiriya and Habarana area, we strongly reject. These are businesses that hardly remit a decent income to villagers and is downright cruel to the elephants.
- You are welcome to join in our community involvement, such as volunteering with the local schools in teaching creative arts, English etc. Feel free to discuss any particular interest, hobby or skill you have so that we can together approach the community and offer it to them.