Hotel Review: Tri in Koggala, Sri Lanka
Words by Julianna Barnaby
Sri Lanka is one of 2017’s must-visit destinations: in no small thanks to the panoramic sceneries and rich historical heritage found on the island. Tri, a boutique hotel on the shores of Koggala Lake, shows us why Sri Lanka should be on everyone’s luxe list.
My car pulled up to Tri at sunset. You could say it was pretty perfect timing as within the first few minutes of my arrival, I was sitting down on the hotel’s terrace and witnessing a glorious display as the sun set over the Koggala Lake.
Those first moments at Tri were indicative of what it’s about: paired down luxe celebrating and in tune with its lush natural setting at the edge of the Koggala Lake.
The hotel features 8 lakeside villas, all with private terraces and some with private pools, along with three suites in a centrally-located water tower.
The Evolution of Tri
Tri opened last December (in fact it’s just had it’s first birthday), but it’s been a long a fruitful journey for its owner Robert Drummond.
Few luxury hotel owners can boast being involved in every stage of the development of their property in the way that Robert can. Having worked in Sri Lanka for several years, he visited the site that was to become Tri in 2003 and fell in love with the location. And who can blame him? Anyone who visits Tri can immediately appreciate the alluring setting.
So Robert bought the land, then spent the next ten years working out what he wanted to do with it. The more time he spent on the site (then residing in the site’s single hut), the more he knew it had to be something special.
Initially he wanted to make Tri into a retreat centre – a place that allowed guests to enjoy the natural beauty of the setting but that wasn’t necessarily going to be a hotel.
It wasn’t until Rob moved back to Sri Lanka in 2012 that Tri in its actual form really started to come into being. He paired up with Raefer Wallis of groundbreaking architectural firm A00 to design Tri, allured by their award-winning reputation for sustainable architecture.
From then onwards, it’s all moved very quickly. Tri opened in December 2015, the first environmentally-focused sustainable hotel in Sri Lanka.
The villas are dotted around the hillside site, each one with a unique lake view. Though it might look like the villas have been strategically placed to take advantage of the best lake views, in reality they were placed in natural clearings to maximise harmony and minimise the impact on the land of Tri’s construction.
The villas are the final word in laid back luxe. They’re constructed from local materials such as Sri Lankan granite, and even the cinnamon wood for which the area is so famous is used to clad the villas and the striking water tower.
I stayed in one of the pool suites. After winding down a path and descending a number of steps to the villa’s entrance, I wasn’t quite prepared for what awaited me inside. A large villa, simply but tastefully decorated from natural materials with floor to ceiling windows and doors leading to a private lakeside terrace.
Tucked around the corner was a private pool – again with impressive views of the lake, and a smaller terrace with a few sun loungers in which I spent quite a few hours soaking up the sun and taking advantage of the peaceful surroundings.
Back inside the villa there was very much an emphasis on minimal decor and clean lines: after all, who needs gaudy colours and loud patterns when you’re never out of sight of the breathtaking lake views just outside?
The main room was set on two tiers, with the bed on the top level and a seated area on the lower level. The bathroom and dressing area were at the side of the villa: again spaciously designed using a combination of textures and colours from a range of natural materials.
Tri’s restaurant offers visitors elegant cuisine using almost-exclusively local ingredients. As with the rest of the hotel, much of the design focus is on simple comfort, playing up to the always-visible backdrop of the lake.
Robert is an advocate of encouraging guests to explore the local flavours and dishes, and is proud of the fact that Tri doesn’t import cheese from France or steak from New Zealand. Instead the meals are very much local ingredients turned into an array of tasty dishes.
Each meal covers several courses of flavour-rich food, balanced between Sri Lankan and western cuisines. Koggala Lake is the obvious source for much of the seafood used by the hotel: it’s famed throughout Sri Lanka for the quality of its fish and shellfish. Guests can dine on prawns, crab and oysters taken straight from the lake.
Those on wellness-focused or detox programs can enjoy raw foods, or those chosen to complement an Ayurvedic programme. Many of the vegetables and herbs used by Tri are grown on their own land: coconuts, passion fruit, tamarind and mango trees are abundant on the site, and there are dedicated nursery gardens too.
It’s a well known saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and if that’s true, you’ll never need to worry at Tri. Breakfast dishes such as eggs benedict with smoked mahi mahi or the local red millet (kurrakan) porridge provide the perfect start to the day, particularly when paired with the freshly squeezed juice.
That’s not to say that lunch and dinner are any less impressive. Tri’s Sri Lankan dinner feast is a real treat and offers guests the chance to sample a number of traditional dishes such as lagoon crab curry and traditionally made roti with cashew nut butter.
Spa & Wellbeing
Guests at Tri can be as active (or inactive) as they like, but the resort prides itself on its wellbeing aspect and spa offering.
One of my favourite spaces was the treetop yogashala, with its near-open sides so it appears to float over the bamboo grove below. Tri’s co-founder Lara Drummond leads Quantum Yoga classes in the space, and also offers guests the option to create a tailored yoga, spa and nutrition plan after an initial assessment.
The spa has two treatments rooms, each one with plenty of natural light and air circulation to help guests to relax into their surroundings. On a week-to-week basis, Tri offers both traditional Ayuvedic therapies and those from western traditions.
Tri hosts a range of visiting wellness practitioners, from masseuses to nutritionists and yoga teachers. Guests will shortly be able to undertake one of their specifically designed wellness packages, such as the seven day Ayurvedic menu. Their ever-changing rotation of guest practitioners means that guests can also experience something different every time they visit.
The Tri Philosophy
So is Tri a hotel or a wellness destination? The answer is both, and more.
One of the more unusual aspects about Tri is its dual focus on providing a retreat for both the body and the mind. In addition to the yoga classes and nutritionally balanced meals catering to the body, there are a number of features focused on the mind.
The peaceful location is immediately calming and naturally encourages quiet reflection. There’s an open library where people can go and read and relax, and which also hosts film and documentary screenings.
Tri are also about to embark on hosting a programme of interesting speakers who will come to the resort to discuss a variety of topics such as sustainability and local flora and fauna. Ultimately, Tri will become a place where people can educate themselves as well as spending some quality time in a beautiful setting.
Location wise, Tri has it all. Though it’s not in the beach, it’s a very short (15 minute) ride along the outskirts of the lake to the stunning coastlines Sri Lanka is becoming increasingly famous for. Guests can take advantage of the private beach club and restaurant on Kabalana beach.
The resort itself is set amidst verdant tea plantations (where you can learn about the tea making process). Galle Fort, a UNESCO heritage site is only a short 25-minute drive away, meaning that visitors can experience the benefits of the lake, the beach and the culture of Sri Lanka without having to venture too far from their luxurious retreat.
Overall, Tri is one of the most exciting boutique property openings of 2015/16 and a great base from which to explore the southern part of Sri Lanka, or focus on relaxing and rejuvenating yourself. All sound pretty perfect? That’s because it is.
Address: Koggala Lake, Aladuwa Watte, Pelassa, Thitthagalle, Ahangama 80650, Sri Lanka
Rates from £220 to £550 per room on a half board double occupancy basis.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +94 (0) 777 708 177