The Mudhouse

Anamaduwa, Wilpattu & Northwest, Sri Lanka Book from

MOST SPECIAL ECO EFFORT MOST SPECIAL ECO EFFORT
Reviewed by Laila Ram
A group of wonderfully simple, secluded huts hidden in Sri Lanka’s ancient heartlands, flanked by woods and lakes which teem with birds and wildlife
For adventurous travellers and nature lovers, this place is a real find. First off, the setting: you're in the middle of fascinating wetlands that are criss-crossed by a vast network of irrigation ‘tanks’ built around 2,000 years ago by the early Anuradhapura civilisation to store monsoon waters. These small lakes have sustained farming and fishing communities for centuries, not to mention an array of birdlife including hornbills, kingfishers and storks. A stay at the Mudhouse gives you a unique insight into this life, at a pace that has not changed much since ancient times.

Then there's the houses - spread extravagantly across 60 acres of forest. Each 'mudhouse' is in fact a cluster of simple, open-sided wattle and daub huts, with thatched roofs, dining/meditation areas and outdoor showers. Regardless of the size of your group, you get a cluster to yourself - making it perfect either for a couple wanting a romantic hideaway, or for a family (or group) after an action-packed, adventurous time.

Staff are local villagers, so the service is genuinely warm and friendly. We were impressed by the 'access all areas' ethos and loved helping to make okra curry on the earthenware oven, checking out the furniture workshops and wandering around the organic gardens and rice fields. With the paths lit up by oil lamps at night, and open fires flickering outside the huts, it is not surprising that the Guardian rated this "one of the most romantic destinations in the world". For us, the open-air adventure and the sense of freedom made this a holiday we will never forget.

Highs

  • The passion that owners Tom and Kumar, and all the staff, have for this project is palpable and you’re guaranteed a warm welcome
  • A wildlife haven with so much to discover: hundreds of bird species, plus monitor lizards, mouse deer and giant squirrels
  • A gorgeous yoga pavilion waits in the centre of the lake, which is great for swimming, kayaking and cycling around
  • Nearly everything you see is made and maintained on-site using traditional methods (no electricity); one of the most unique and inspiring places we’ve ever been
  • Day trips can be arranged to Wilpattu Park (for leopards), Anawilundawa Sanctuary (for even richer birdlife) and the ancient city of Anuradhapura
  • Almost everything is included in the rates

Lows

  • A suitably basic back-to nature retreat: huts are mostly open to the elements, and there is no electricity or hot water - but, for the kind of guests who stay here, this is part of the charm!
  • Some of the huts are quite a trek from the central dining area, but bikes are provided so you can whizz around in no time
  • If you do visit during the rainy season (October to December), the area gets quite muddy and damp!
  • It's extremely hard to find - deliberately
  • Co-owner Tom does not guarantee a specific hut, he instead allocates the hut he thinks will be most suitable - he does know best!

Best time to go

Any time of year - the average afternoon temperature ranges from about 28C-35C (generally hottest in March/April). The wettest months are October and November. Come in July/August for Sri Lanka's most important festival - Esala Perahera - with its spectacular evening processions (dates vary each year).

Our top tips

Book at least 3 nights take advantage of all the fantastic activities included in your stay: cooking lessons, wildlife walks, bicycle rides, picnics and kayaking on the lakes. Also, don't forget your sun cream and mosquito repellent.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Rustic Eco-retreat
  • 5
  • All meals included
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Kayaks
  • Cookery classes
Room: Family Hut / Myla Hut

Rooms

Set in 60 acres of forest, The Mudhouse consists of 4 clusters of uniquely designed wattle and daub huts (each suitable for 2-12 people). All are constructed with natural, locally sourced materials including a huge thatch roof, largely open sides and furniture made from re-purposed scrap wood. Expect simple but comfortable double beds (or good mattresses on cement bases) with mosquito nets. There are hammocks for day-time relaxation, outdoor showers and "indoor" western-style toilets and basins.

Although The Mudhouse cannot guarantee a specific hut, you can request your ideal option when booking. Couples are usually allocated to the Original Mudhouse or Honeymoon Hut; families to the Family Hut; larger groups to the Palu Hut or Maha Gedera Hut.

Original Mudhouse (sleeps 2-6): a collection of 5 huts originally built by Kumar as his own home. One hut is the master bedroom, a stilted hut holds the second bedroom (with lake views) and another acts as your lounge (or a third bedroom). There’s also a dining hut and a bathroom hut (shower).

Family Hut (sleeps 4): located a considerable distance from the central dining pavilion, this hut has 2 double beds and its own dining facilities.

Honeymoon Hut (sleeps 2): much simpler than its name suggests, with it has one double bed on a raised platform. It’s next to the Family Hut and the 2 can be rented together (good for a large family) or separately (in which case the other one will remain empty).

Palu Hut (sleeps up to 12): there are 6 double beds, a couple of outdoor shower rooms, some hammocks to kick back in, and a private garden.

Maha Gedera Hut (sleeps up to 10): a large, square hut with 5 doubles, a spacious indoor/outdoor bathroom with a tree shower and a central courtyard, perfect for socialising.

Features include:

  • Extra beds
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net

Eating

The Mudhouse serves excellent local food, with many of the ingredients coming from its own organic farm. Chicken, fish or vegetable curries are served for lunch and dinner. We particularly enjoyed the delicious fish curries served with coconut rotis, sambal and mallums (lightly cooked greens).

There is no menu as such, just the dish of the day, but you can make special requests. If the food is too spicy (or not spicy enough), let the cooks know and they will adjust your food accordingly.

For breakfast you will get eggs alongside a Sri Lankan specialty such as hoppers, roti or pancakes, as well as fresh fruit, toast and jam.

There is a central dining pavilion overlooking the tank (lake) where meals can be taken together with the other guests. In addition, each hut is totally self-contained, with its own dining area, so if you don't feel like being sociable, you can have your food brought to you and eat in your own forested seclusion.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

Around the Mudhouse, activity is optional. You could just chill out in a hammock and hang out by the tank (lake) watching buffalo, water birds and occasional elephants. Or you could explore on foot or by bike (every guest is allocated one), tuk-tuk, tractor or kayak. Kumar and his staff are happy to guide you or advise on solo excursions:

  • Spend an afternoon swimming, kayaking and wildlife spotting at the pretty local tanks. The Mudhouse have a private tank with an island yoga sala
  • Cycle or tuk-tuk to the rock temple at Mulegama. It has stunning countryside views and the Thonigala Rock inscription (considered to be one of the longest in Asia)
  • Test your culinary skills with a lesson in the traditional kitchens, where everything is cooked in an earthenware oven over wood and charcoal fire

And further afield...
  • Wilpattu, Sri Lanka’s largest national park, is only an hour away and one of the world's best places to spot leopards. It's also home to crocs, sambhur, water buffalo, elephants and the elusive sloth bear, plus spectacular birdlife (best Nov-April): eagles, owls, kites and various waders
  • Anawilundawa Bird Sanctuary has a rare combination of mangrove, coastal and freshwater environments all in one park, attracting an incredibly diverse range of migratory and native species (painted storks, black-headed ibis, grey herons and spoonbills)
  • The ancient city of Anuradhapura (3-4 hours away) is well worth an overnight visit. Explore the array of dagobas and ancient monuments gradually being reclaimed from the jungle.
  • The rarely visited cities of Yapahuwa and Panduwasnuwara, both former capitals, have fine examples of Sinhala rock carvings
  • The Kalpitiya pensinsula (1 hour away) has some of Sri Lanka’s most untouched beaches, and offers dolphin and whale-watching trips (Nov-Feb)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Organic farming
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Wildlife

Kids

We think this is a great option for adventurous kids aged 5+ (younger kids are accepted but you would have to be energetic parents). For our own kids (aged 10 and 12 when they first visited), the open-air adventures and sense of freedom made this a holiday which they still talk about to this day.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Family Hut is the best option as it has 2 double beds, plus an optional rollaway bed. The Maha Gedera Hut (5 double beds) and Palu Hut (6 double beds) will fit a family with ease (any beds which are not needed can be taken away).

Babysitting:

A non-English speaking babysitter can be arranged on request.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • Life jackets/swimming aids

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The chef will happily make kids meals and, if they tire of curries, the staff will do their best to come up with alternatives like pasta.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Nature trails
  • Cricket
  • Cooking lessons
  • Kids bicycles

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Hikes
  • Picnics
  • Historical sites
  • Rock walks
  • Wildlife- & bird-watching

Families Should Know:

Parents with younger children will need a lot of energy, as the resort is home to lots of wildlife and unfenced deep water. Bear in mind it can get very hot and there's no a/c or fans.

Distances:

  • Airport: 2.5 hours (Colombo Bandaranaike)
  • Hospital: 15 minutes' drive
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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