Uda Kanda

near Galle, Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from

Reviewed by Emma Boyle
Idyllic staffed villa for 4-6 with infinity pool and excellent food, 10 minutes’ drive from Galle and beaches
Its winning position on a hilltop, fringed by a 3.5-acre estate of bird-filled tropical gardens and rubber trees, assures Uda Kanda superlative privacy. Show-stopping views aside (across treetops and towards the fabled Rumassala Headland and Indian Ocean, in case you’re wondering), we were most struck by the villa’s beautiful indoor/outdoor style, and its intimacy despite its generous size. An enviable collection of antique furnishings (some dating back 300 years) graces each room, whilst shelves stacked with well-thumbed novels, family photos and artefacts from London, India and Morocco are reminders that this is a much-cherished family home, when it's not being let out to guests.

The atmosphere is uber-relaxed and will appeal to families and groups of any age craving tranquility and seclusion. The open-plan interiors marry well with the lush heliconia and hibiscus-fringed garden, and there are plenty of spots for socialising or sneaking away with a book. A team of 4 staff, including a clever cook, discreetly take care of cooking and cleaning, and can make arrangements for guided bicycle rides, hot-air ballooning and tea plantation tours. Whilst Galle’s beaches, eateries and Unesco-listed Dutch fort are close (10 minutes' drive), they really feel worlds away.

Highs

  • Chilling out in the cushion-plumped poolside pavilion, gazing across treetops and being serenaded by occasional temple chanting in the distance
  • The garden is a hotspot for wildlife; by day we spied kingfishers, a pair of yolk-yellow golden orioles and playful monkeys swinging through the trees, then fireflies visited us at night
  • A good set-up for families, with 1 master and 2 double/twin bedrooms, plus a baby cot, heaps of space and baby equipment to borrow
  • We loved Naveen's food, especially the herb-encrusted coral fish
  • Estate life is fun - watch the morning milking of Cassie the cow and study the slitted rubber trees oozing white latex into coconut husk cups

Lows

Best time to go

December-April is the most popular time to visit Galle, when the region is ‘in season’ and at its sunniest and driest. Calmer seas and skies also enable you to go whale watching. May and June are the region’s wettest months, with October and November a close second. Peak times include Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year, Easter and the annual Galle Literary Festival in October.

Our top tips

The artily inclined should pack watercolours for capturing the gorgeous garden, wildlife and treetop views. Binoculars are another useful bit of kit as the pavilion, verandas and even the bathrooms double up as worthy hides for spying on the prolific birdlife, monkeys and other small mammals visiting the garden.

Great for...

Family
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Villa for 4-6
  • 3 bedrooms
  • In-house cook included in the rates
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Laundry Service
  • Full-time staff to clean and tidy
Room:

Rooms

The 3 ensuite bedrooms open onto a deep wraparound veranda that's scattered with easy chairs for surveying the neighbours - birds, mongeese and squirrels (although we chose to watch them more lazily from bed!).

We stayed in the Red Room, whose double doors looked out through the boughs of a sacred bo-tree. Furnished with a kingsize four-poster bed, it also had an antique chest of drawers and a built-in mirror-panelled wardrobe. The grey-cement bathroom had twin washbasins and a star-shaped rain shower. Lullabied by crickets and cooled by ceiling fans, we slept incredibly well.

At the opposite end of the house is the spacious Master Bedroom, which gazes onto the pool and garden. Taking pride of place is a kingsize bed positioned between a 17th-century dresser (topped with a silver heirloom brush set) and an eye-catching marquetry bureau. The sand-coloured bathroom has a sunken rain shower, Victorian mother-of-pearl mirror and twin glass washbasins.

The Green Room is a mirror image of the Red Room, attached to a similarly designed grey-hued bathroom with twin sinks and a shower. Ideal for children as it opens directly onto the breezy, open-plan living room, it has 2 four-poster single beds, a Queen Anne chest-of-drawers, a walnut bureau and a mirror-panelled wardrobe. This room can also be set up as a double.

Communal spaces include a lounge with sofas and stacks of books, indoor and outdoor dining areas, a poolside pavilion, and a TV lounge with a vast library of films and board games.

Features include:

  • Barbeque
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob stove
  • Ipod dock
  • Mosquito net
  • Oven
  • Piano
  • Pool towels
  • Satellite tv
  • Swimming pool
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • WiFi

Eating

Although you can self-cater, Naveen, the villa’s English-speaking cook, is on-hand to make breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you might as well have a complete holiday! All groceries are priced at cost and meals are served family-style, with everyone sharing dishes. Naveen buys fresh stocks at Galle’s markets daily after taking your orders for lunch and dinner.

Breakfast can be Western or Sri Lankan, accompanied by buffalo curd and honey (which also makes a great dessert), tropical fruits and cereals or museli. We woke to a cooked breakfast of eggs, toast and bacon washed down with Naveen's special mixed fruit juice. The Sri Lankan option includes vegetarian curries, a fish or chicken curry and string hoppers (steamed vermicelli-like rice flour nests).

Lunches and dinners can be as light or as indulgent as you’d like; Naveen's menu lists plenty of fish and seafood, plus veggie options. Think iced carrot and coriander soup, crispy fried whitebait, Moroccan lamb koftas, Sicilian crushed tuna and, of course, plenty of delicious Sri Lankan curries.

For lunch, Naveen prepared us a delicious herb-encrusted coral fish with a lightly dressed salad, chive-flecked mashed potatoes and his special porcini mushroom dressing. In the evening, deep fried tuna fish balls (very moreish!) were paired with pre-dinner drinks, and our 3-course dinner included a delicious coq au riesling (with crispy roast potatoes) and a wicked chocolate mousse.

Within a 10-15 minute tuk-tuk drive are many excellent restaurants; ask staff for their tips. Take-out options include Lime Leaf, a nearby Indian, whose big menu of spicy dishes includes tandoori chicken and fresh garlic naan.

Features include:

  • Breakfast by arrangement
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob stove
  • In house cook
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Oven
  • Shopping service
  • Toaster
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Grab a book from the shelves and laze by the pool, soaking up the sun and those incredible views
  • Wander the estate to seek out fruit trees and see how rubber is tapped
  • Take a guided bicycle ride through Galle’s verdant hinterland, passing temples, paddy fields and wildlife hotspots before ending up at the beach for a sunset cocktail
  • Golden beaches are 10 minutes’ drive away; Unawatuna’s shallow waters are kid-friendly, whilst Wijaya Beach is a much quieter, more intimate affair
  • Explore Galle’s 16th-century Dutch fort, whose narrow cobbled streets are flanked by ochre-coloured colonial abodes, cafés, gelaterias, boutiques, churches and museums
  • Learn about tea production at the nearby Handunugoda Tea Estate, which grows (and lets you sample) traditional black-leaf tea as well as an expensive variety of white ‘silvertips’ tea
  • Take a half-day trip to Galle’s lush bird-filled rainforests and reserves; local company Rainforest Rescue’s great-value eco-tours visit Hiyare, Kanneliya and Sinharaja
  • Other good day trips are leopard-rich Yala National Park and the elephant playground of Uda Walawe
  • Between November and April, go on a whale- and dolphin-watching cruise off the coast of Mirissa, a 30-minute drive away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children are warmly welcomed and Uda Kanda is great for kids of all ages, although toddlers will need supervision around the pool area, which is unfenced (as is common in Sri Lanka). Staff will happily take kids on little tours of the estate and local village, and past young guests have loved having the run of the tropical garden and watching the morning milking of Cassie the cow. There's lots of baby equipment to borrow.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The villa has a baby cot with a mosquito net, which can fit in any of the bedrooms. The Green Room has twin beds, so is ideal for kids.

Babysitting:

Available for an additional fee

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cot with a mosquito net and bedding
  • Pushchair
  • High chair
  • Potty
  • Microwave for bottle warming

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

Children's meals:

There's no specific kids' menu, but the cook is happy to tailor meals to children

Kids Activities on site:

  • The pool
  • Extensive gardens for hide'n'seek and wildlife spotting
  • Kids' books
  • Family DVDs
  • Friendly dogs and a cow!

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beaches
  • Playgrounds

Families Should Know:

  • The pool is unfenced and there are occasional unprotected drops around the property
  • There are 4 loveable dogs on site who are used to having kids put their fingers in their eyes, mouths, ears etc! They do bark, and quite loudly, but are not only child-friendly, but also very protective of children
  • All bedroom doors are external, leading off the veranda, but this is common in Asia. The external doors are lockable and there are 5 security guards (4 of whom have 4 legs and bark!) so the property is very secure
  • As a tropical country, Sri Lanka is home to snakes, scorpions, monitor lizards, mosquitoes etc. Apart from the mosquitoes, they generally stay away from humans

Distances:

  • Airport: 2-3 hours' drive (Colombo)
  • Shops, including a pharmacy: 2km
  • Hospital: 6km
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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