I got a hall pass from the sandpit last weekend so I could spend 36 hours in a glass box on stilts in the Sri Lankan jungle. The provider of my glass house was Wild Grass Nature Resort, a small boutique hotel in central Sri Lanka. The ‘resort’ is really just five villas, a swimming pool and an open air restaurant set in 30 acres of pristine grassland at the edge of the jungle.
My villa was several overheight glass panels held in place by exposed wood beams and hardwood floors. The extensive use of glass made being indoors feel like being outdoors, but with AC.
The living area is largely open concept so there’s lots of room to throw down a mat for some morning yoga. And the minimalist décor was comfortable but didn’t compete with nature, the main attraction.
I spent a lot of time just lying on my bed, watching and listening to the life in the jungle. In the morning it was peacocks, crowing from high branches in trees, and at night it was clouds of fireflies.
The exterior wall of the spacious attached bath is glass and connects to an open air shower. The shower walls are high enough to provide privacy but low enough that I watched the wildlife while I washed my hair. The soft lights embedded low along the walls encourage showering under the stars too.
With weather in the low 30s (Celsius), the small pool was a great spot to spend the late afternoon.
The staff was friendly and professional, and the staff to guest ratio is really high. Breakfast was a highlight, always starting with fresh juice and fruit cut and arranged like modern art. Dinner options were a combination of Sri Lankan and western dishes.
Wild Grass is a great base to visit the mountaintop fortress at Sigiriya, a UNESCO heritage site, and the cave temples at Dambulla. Get an early start for Sigiriya (7:30am departure) if you want to beat the crowds. I set my alarm and ended up climbing with a group of grade school monks until the packs of Chinese tourists with selfie sticks caught up to us.
some of the monks…
and some of the Chinese tourists, comparing recently-taken Polaroids of each other…
Round out a two day stay at Wild Grass with an Ayurveda massage (ask the hotel staff for a recommendation), a half-day wildlife safari, and sundowners at the Heritance Kandalama Hotel. The hotel was designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most famous architect and father of the indoor-outdoor monsoon Asia design style I love so much.
A few practical considerations.
Sigiriya is a five or six hour drive from the international airport near Colombo. Roads are narrow, congested and operate using a set of unspoken, unsigned rules that only Sri Lankans know. Probably best not to chance it on your own – hire a driver. Your driver’s accommodation and food at Wild Grass are included with your booking, colonial style.
It’s the jungle and the wildlife doesn’t always stay outside. I got a few mosquito bites and found a big red frog in my bathroom one morning. I didn’t see any snakes but was warned to stay on the paths because they live in the tall grass.
There’s wifi in the restaurant area but not in the villas. If you can’t disconnect, get a local SIM card with some data at the airport.
This is a hotel for couples and people like me who are totally comfortable going on dinner dates with their MacBooks. There’s no social scene at Wild Grass or nearby.