Visitors to Samakanda are welcome at any time. Please come and walk the trails, pick your own salads and herbs, bring a picnic, stay for lunch, lie in a hammock, go bird-watching, swim in the river…
Samakanda has three buildings available for accommodation – the Top Bungalow, the Lower Bungalow and the Mud Hut.
At the heart of Samakanda, The T-Shed is a multi-purpose structure built on the site of the original ‘weighing shed’ used when the property was a conventional tea estate. Constructed purely from natural materials found on the land-mud, timber and palm frond cadjan thatch - the T-Shed serves as a large central gathering space, suitable for workshops, yoga, seminars, film screenings, exhibitions and celebrations. For details on events and courses.
THE BUNGALOW RIDGE
The old 1920s Planter’s Bungalow has been fully renovated, while retaining its original charm. Consisting of two double bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, one adjoining children’s room, kitchen and sitting room, the Bungalow provides self-catering accommodation available for rent.
The Bungalow is the only building on-site connected to mains electricity and comes equipped with fridge, gas cooker, blender, telephone, Internet and solar hot water. One adjoining room, with separate access, offers an extensive ' library of ecological books, magazines and DVDs.'
Behind the bungalow is a secluded and partially shaded cooking and dining area, complete with barbeque and wood-fired pizza oven. Guests are welcome to pick fresh salads and herbs from the extensive vegetable gardens and can be supplied with a steady stream of fresh, seasonal fruits, from papayas, passion fruits and bananas to drinking coconuts and rare delicacies like the anoda (soursop).
The ridge behind the Bungalow is isolated from the rest of the property, with private paths, gardens and shady secluded spots for quiet contemplation. Guests in the Bungalow have exclusive access to Samakanda via the private entrance.
Between the T-Shed and the Bungalow, the Ambulama is perched dramatically above the Bowl. Also constructed from natural materials sourced on-site, this open pavilion provides a central gathering space for smaller groups.
Perched on the edge of the ridge above the T-Shed, with spectacular views back south to the coast and up north towards Sinharaja rainforest, the Fire Pit provides the perfect location for soaking up the landscape by day, or star-gazing and bathing in moonlight by night. A large mango tree and jak tree offer shade during the day, with cooling breezes wafting from either direction. The Fire-Pit itself can also be used as a barbeque cooking area, surrounded by low tables, mats and cushions to create alternative areas for drinks, meals and relaxation.
Shaped like a natural amphitheatre, complete with original stone terracing, the Bowl is the core agricultural zone at Samakanda. Blessed with nutrient-rich topsoils, washed down from the ridges above, along with pristine water sources from a series of wells, the natural topography also creates a sheltered microclimate suitable for a wide variety of crops. Two acres of old tea have been replaced with new bushes, then intercropped with over 1500 fruit trees, including mango, avocado, mangosteen, rambutan, papaya, wood apple, lime and orange, along with spices like clove and pepper vines.
The swampy area at the bottom of the Bowl has been excavated as a fresh-water lake and swimming area, surrounded by a series of aquaculture ponds with flowering lotuses and water chestnuts. A series of terraced paddy fields stretch from the lake up towards the Lower Bungalow, surrounded by beds of rocket, basil, tatsoi and various other ayurvedic herbs and rare vegetables, like Egyptian spinach and rosella.
Overlooking the Bowl is the Lower Bungalow, another self-catering option for accommodation. This is made available on the same terms as The Bungalow .
The Lower Bungalow was an existing building now rendered with mud on the exterior and extensively refurbished, providing one double bedroom and one single, kitchen, bathroom, sitting room, dining area and wide verandah, with fine views over the Bowl. The building is equipped with solar hot water and solar electricity.
A ‘herb spiral’ winds up and over rocks to one side and a kitchen garden at the back allows easy access to various fresh salads. A spiral of banana and papaya trees encloses another outdoor shower, fed by a bamboo pipe. Like the Bungalow, the Lower Bungalow is equipped with a wood-burning pizza oven outside.
THE SPICE GARDEN
The Spice Garden is the central arrival area for visitors, with car park, 'reception' visitor information centre, the Samakanda shop and main office. The various walks and tours are all designed to start and finish from this point. Less developed at present than The Bowl, the Spice Garden will integrate existing tea with inter-cropped spices, various bamboos and traditional local vegetables, like cassava (manioca), snake gourd, bitter gourd and wing bean.
Areas have also been demarcated for cultivating ornamental flowers, a work-zone consisting of pottery studio, creative office space and crafts centre, plus additional land for commercial vegetable production protected by shade-cloth.
Heading west from the office building, the main path takes one into the Bowl and towards the T-Shed, Bungalow and western end of the Ridge. Heading east takes one past the old Workshop, a large example of traditional mud building, where timber was once stored and seasoned for building but is now being converted into accommodation for volunteers, providing three double bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and an open sided living space. The path then forks, dropping down to the River Walk on the left, or up to the Banyan Tree and Ridge Walks to the right.’
THE RIVER WALK
This rambling walk takes one down a steep path to the Polwatta Ganga, a river that borders the eastern boundary of Samakanda and ultimately flows into Weligama Bay on the coast. For most of the year, the river is suitable for bathing, with a series of rapids and rock pools.
The path takes one through the zone filled with most of the rare and endemic rainforest flora, following a small stream that twists and turns between stone terraces and grottos of large boulders. Remnants of the old tea estate are still visible beneath the jungle, with overgrown tea bushes turning into trees over perfectly preserved stone terraces, steps and drains. The hike back up from the river is quite steep and strenuous, so allow at least one hour for the round trip.
THE BANYAN TREE
The Banyan Tree zone was only revealed after some months of work on the land. A small clearing has been made around one banyan and paths opened up to two others, taking one past dramatic overhanging rocks, grottos and small caves.
Surrounded by encroaching jungle, this is perhaps the most peaceful part of Samakanda, suitable for meditation and quiet contemplation within a primal, natural setting. Beneath the main banyan, sheltered by a massive overhanging rock and accessed by steps down through a narrow gorge, lies a primitive stone shrine, surrounded by stone seating. A large mound-shaped rock, representing the feminine energy of Shakti, stands over the stone phallus representing the Hindu god Shiva.
The shrine was probably created by Hindu Tamils that would have lived and worked on the tea estate, some families living in the now ruined ‘line building’ nearby. In the next phase, this area will be developed as a ‘healing zone’, the existing structure renovated as treatment rooms for massage and ayurvedic therapies. Rare ayurvedic and medicinal plants are being introduced for various preparations made on-site.
‘A more recently opened path now winds from the shrine back through the jungle, past another equally impressive Banyan tree. This shelters a shrine to The Buddha on some enormous boulders, which look like they previously formed part of an ancient human habitation. When evening events are held at Samakanda, these paths are lit with flares and clay lamps, creating an atmospheric ‘magical mystery tour’ through the jungle.’
THE RIDGE WALK
The vast bulk of the land, the ridge will remain relatively untouched, preserving as much habitat as possible for a ‘biodiversity refuge’. An ecological study identified numerous rare trees, plants, ferns and orchids, along with considerable birdlife and wildlife, including porcupines, pangolins, wild boar, pythons, cobras, giant squirrels, ring-tailed civets and two species of endemic monkey. By maintaining the boundaries and adjoining land, we hope to protect many of these from illegal poaching and ensure them a place of refuge for the future.
A number of paths wind their way up, down and around the ridge, but all start or finish from the T-Shed, or the top access to the Banyan Tree. Vistas have been opened up at strategic points, to take full advantage of the spectacular views in each direction. Apart from modest thinning in places for our timber needs, or removing an invasive species for cattle fodder, the rest will be left as it is.
The paths and terraces wind to the crest of the ridge and all along the top, taking one through a Forest of Tea, the long neglected bushes now over twenty feet tall. Albizzias, kitul palms, jak, rubber and breadfruit trees tower above, along with other rare endemic hardwoods like goraka.
Hiking up and down the ridge can be done quickly in half an hour, or extended to a much longer amble, virtually all of it shaded. By taking in the Bowl and the River Walk, a hike of at least three hours is possible, without leaving the land. By taking in a swim in either the river or the lake, this can comfortably stretch to five or more, suitable for a morning, an afternoon or even a whole day.
All rates include breakfast, one further meal per day (lunch/dinner) and guests in any building have access to the four Samakanda mountain bikes free of charge.
All children 12-16 are charged at half price and children under 12 welcome for free.
Laundry, transport, local tours, pizza oven sessions, movie nights in the T-Shed, massage, ayurvedic treatments, food shopping etc, are all available at low extra cost.
The Top Bungalow – sleeps 4 adults plus up to 6 children
original 1920s ‘Planter’s Bungalow’ fully renovated to modern standards
two double bedrooms with four poster beds, mosquito nets and en suite bathrooms
smaller children’s bedroom including antique ‘four-poster cot’ with mosquito net
mezzanine level upstairs provides further sleeping area and children’s ‘den’
sitting room with ‘work station’ desk for laptops and Internet access
kitchen is equipped with fridge, gas stove, water filter and blender
mains electricity and solar hot water
outdoor kitchen and dining area with clay oven and BBQ
adjoining ‘ambalama’ yoga pavilion with stunning views over the Bowl
kids play-zone with tree-houses and ‘fire-pit hut’
fruits, salads and herbs in easy reach
The Lower Bungalow – sleeps up to 4 adults
rebuild using Samakanda materials and a mud render applied to the walls
one four poster double room and one single which can be made up as a twin
sitting room/dining room with day beds and cushions
off-grid and powered by a solar panel to provide lighting
solar hot water
clean modern white cement bathroom
equipped kitchen with gas stove and water filter
fridge space in Top Bungalow
verandah with stunning views west across the Bowl, paddy fields and pond
phones, cameras and laptops can be charged at the Top Bungalow
clay pizza oven outside
outdoor ‘banana spiral’ shower
kitchen garden at the back
The Mud Hut – sleeps up to 6 adults
traditional mud and ‘cadjan’ palm frond thatch building
three spacious double bedrooms with mosquito nets
equipped kitchen with running water and polished cement surfaces
outdoor verandah sitting area
shared separate adjoining bathroom
Food is very important to us at Samakanda. Indeed, the roots of the project stem back to the time founder Rory Spowers worked as a chef in London’s famous River Café restaurant. Rory’s passion for cooking led to his passion for growing fresh, nutritious, organic produce and thus led him down the road to Samakanda.
Rory’s old boss, the River Café’s Rose Gray, oversaw the construction of the first pizza oven, conducted a kids pizza workshop at the first Galle Literary Festival and pronounced Samakanda rocket (arugula) to be the best she had ever eaten anywhere!
Other celebrity chefs have also passed through Samakanda and enjoyed culinary adventures with the fruits of the forest garden: TV chef and UK champion of ‘real food’ Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a Web of Hope patron and was present at the Samakanda launch; Peter Kurivitas, from Sydney’s famous Flying Fish restaurant, cooked up a storm, grilling freshly spiced tuna steaks inside banana leaves and Rick Stein’s BBC crew deemed our jak-fruit curry and ‘gotu-kola’ sambal to be the best they had tried in Sri Lanka.
Most rice and curry dishes are prepared by Mallika, who looks after the bungalows, but guests are very much encouraged to get involved if they want to learn the secrets of local delicacies.
Visitors are free to experiment with any of the produce available and use the BBQ areas or clay pizza ovens, which can be used to roast fish, meat and vegetables, as well as baking pizzas or breads.