Oct 16 (ES) Sri Lanka has long been a destination for travellers seeking escapism. This small beautiful island, situated south of India, is larger than life with idyllic beaches, sprawling tea plantations and exquisite properties that have the luxury credentials to rival any major city in the world.
There are plenty of towns hidden away from the well-trodden tourist paths of Sri Lanka. One is Piliyandala, where you’ll find Bolgoda Lake - which at a staggering 342 square kilometres is the country’s only natural and largest fresh water lake.
Just 45 minutes away from the capital of Colombo, it's a secluded gem for those looking for a serene lakeside break.
For those who want to stay as close to the water as possible, local and international visitors can stay on board Flow by The Amber collection – a luxury river cruise aboard two floating houseboats docked on a secluded inlet on Bolgoda Lake.
Flow 1 and Flow 2, which were originally two steamers, channel old school elegance and luxury, with cosy four-poster colonial beds, antique furnishings and in-room standing bath tubs.
This is a boutique experience, with just five bedrooms in addition to a living area and dining space, all only accessible via Flow’s private marina. The crew on the vessels include an ex-Navy Captain, engineer, chefs, steward and deckhand.
Flow, as I discovered, is a haven for naturalists and also promotes well-thought out sustainability. The Flow ‘steamers’ are ﬁtted with bio-tanks, which dispose of fuel waste in an earth-friendly way causing no harm to the very lake and ecosystem they sit in.
Every day on Flow immerses you in the lake safari experience. On my first day, at the crack of dawn, the captain set sail for Flow’s nature-watching cruise with naturalist Ajantha, who shared his knowledge on the rich and diverse flora and fauna of Bolgoda Lake.
As we cruise through unspoiled mangroves, we spot eagles, parrots and kingfishers. The Sri Lankan Monkeys also make an appearance leaping from palm tree to palm tree, calling to each other. In distant shores you can also spot the holiday homes of some of Sri Lanka’s wealthy elite.
Breakfast is served on the upper deck’s floating lawn and is a banquet of traditional Sri Lankan dishes: string hoppers, dhal curry, coconut sambol, fish curry, coconut roti and spiced chickpeas – all served up on a banana leaf.
The relaxing mornings are followed by fun-packed afternoons curated by The Marina - an exclusive water sports private members club, which arranges outdoor activities and excursions for Flow’s guests on a complimentary basis.
I opted to hop onto the back of a jet ski to enjoy an adrenaline-fuelled escapade speeding downstream the Bolgoda river to the south to the mouth of the Indian ocean at Panadura.
On the right day you may even spot the salt-water crocodiles, who are known to circulate the area mostly unnoticed.
A more relaxing excursion is fishing on an ‘Oruwa’ – a traditional Sri Lankan fishing boat made entirely from wood, held in place with bamboo poles. They are hard to miss as the sight of local fishermen steering the rudders and casting their nets are very much a part of everyday life on the lake.