Style : A perfect mix of contemporary and traditional.
Scene: Reunions where everyone’s needs and requests are taken care of and looked after.
Seen in the Lobby: Your friends and family having an amazing getaway.
Driving through the gates of the resort I was greeted by a welcoming party of the staff who would be looking after me for the next week. Welcoming it certainly was, I quickly had a refreshing cocktail in my hand while taking in the quiet calm of the vast gardens stretching out in front of me.
Hired out in its entirety (with a mantra of ‘It’s all yours’) ÀNI Sri Lanka is a beautiful 15-suite private resort that sleeps up to thirty guests. Located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka and perched high on five acres of land the resort offers panoramic views over the palm tree lined beachfront and ocean.
While luggage was quietly being unloaded and sent to our suites, we were led through a traditional Sri Lankan candle lighting ceremony which we were told was to ensure we had an enjoyable and memorable stay. This was a lovely way to mark the start of our stay and get an introduction to Sri Lankan culture. It certainly worked as my stay at this beautiful resort was unforgettable.
Open since 2016, the resort was designed by Parisian architecture and design studio AW2, took five years to complete and is fully accessible with ramps, elevators and pool lifts. ÀNI Private Resorts owner Tim Reynolds is a paraplegic and has been heavily involved in the design of all of the resorts so that all are fully wheelchair accessible while ensuring that the luxury aesthetic is never compromised.
The resort’s suites are spread over the estate across two main villas. The two villas feature large open-air entertainment pavilions, bars and kitchens, dining areas and pools meaning guests can pick and chose where they wish to dine and spend leisure time. After all, it’s your private resort so, with a ‘customized luxury’ approach, guests can decide what works best for them.
The sleeping arrangements can be tailored so that each member of the group has accommodation most suitable for their individual needs. Some of the suites feature their own private plunge pools, some suites are further away from the main entertainment areas and other suites are more suitable for those with younger children (let’s not all fight over the suite with the waterslide!).
My suite was spacious and cool with contemporary style while incorporating touches of traditional Sri Lankan design. As soon as I walked into my suite, I threw open the balcony doors to take in my ocean view.
I spent a lovely afternoon on my balcony, with drinks and snacks from the complimentary mini bar, listening to the lapping waves on the beach below. My serenity was only disrupted by spotting a monkey skipping across the gardens. The sprawling grounds of the resort are beautifully cultivated and the wildlife such as monkeys, exotic birds, flowers and fauna (plus the resident cats) enchanted my party that much of our breakfast each morning was spent discussing the wildlife that we had spotted.
The resort has been cleverly designed with multi-generational reunions in mind. The layout and size of the resort means that your entire party of up to 30 people can all be engaging in their own activities before reuniting for Sundowners and group meals. Not that I am saying you would want to create distance from certain members of your family… but it’s good to know that the option is there.
There are plenty of activities that will appeal to all age ranges and tastes to do within the resort such as Cooking Classes, Shuffleboard, Open Air Movies, Bicycle tours and walks along the resort’s idyllic sandy beach protected by sandbars and reefs. A well-equipped gym, yoga pavilion and tennis court is also available.
Of course, with such beautiful surroundings and views, it is completely acceptable to forgo any activity and just spent the day by the infinity pool with a cocktail. I loved that, should you require something new to read, the two main villas have well stocked libraries featuring books on Sri Lankan history, style and design, architecture and cookery plus a selection of novels that have been left behind by previous guests.
Spa treatments are included in the rate so of course I indulged in trying the menu of ancient Ayurveda Treatments. The two person spa room hosts hour-long treatments ranging from relaxing and balancing Ayurveda reflexology foot massages to deep tissue sports massages for those needing a more intense experience.
After my blissful massage, when sipping herbal tea and enjoying the ocean views from the spa, my partner and I started chatting with one of our spa therapists about Ayurveda. Manjula, the therapist, mentioned that other members of our party had also expressed an interest in learning more. In a prime example of providing their guests with bespoke experiences, one evening Manjula had set up an spontaneous ‘Introduction to Ayurevada’ lesson in the TV Room for those who wished to learn more. Manjula’s talk was fascinating and his passion for Ayurvedu teachings and wishing to expand our knowledge was clear.
To get a greater taste of Sri Lankan culture and the local area there are off-site excursions that can be taken such as visits to Tea Plantations, tours around Galle Fort (a UNESCO Heritage city), Whale Watching and Safari to Udawalawe national part to see wild elephants (highly recommended!).
One must-do excursion, which is encouraged by the staff, is a visit to the local ÀNI Art Academy. Described as being ‘two sides of the same project’, ÀNI Private Resorts support the art academy which is run by a non-profit organization. and provides full scholarships for students to immerse themselves in a syllabus by artist Anthony J. Waichulis education in the arts.
Located amongst lush green rice fields and forests on one hectare of land the ÀNI Sri Lanka Art Academy welcomes visitors to learn more about the programme and to observe the students’ lessons and work. The talent on display in the workrooms by the students was awesome and truly inspiring. A visit is a fascinating way to learn more about how profits of your ÀNI Sri Lanka holiday are being put to good use within the local community.
As with every aspect of your stay, the menu during your stay can be customised to suit the group and the occasion. During my stay Executive Chef Cyril and his team presented delicious and creative meals of Sri Lankan curries, platters of Sushi, Asian dishes and delicate fish dishes. I was grateful that Cyril generously shared some of the recipes with me so I can (at least attempt to) recreate these amazing meals at home.
The stand out meal, for me, was a delicious beach barbeque with local fish and lobster and fresh salads, all perfectly cooked and served. As a farewell dinner, which followed a traditional Sri Lankan fire dance performance, it was an extremely memorable end to the stay (and made me never want to leave).
As any The Luxury Travel Bible reader knows, it’s the service that makes a holiday memorable and for all the stunning views, beautiful style and design, amazing food and exciting excursions, it’s the service and the staff that make a resort special. Because of its wonderful staff, ÀNI Sri Lanka is special.
The service at ÀNI was personable and professional, it is relaxed yet highly organised, it was detailed while spontaneous, it was outstanding and also understated - all at the same time. I could go on and on about how impressed I was with every aspect of the service and staff. The passion for their guests and the closeness of the team was evident from the moment I arrived, with everyone working like a well oiled machine for the collective goal of ensuring everyone has a wonderful time.
ÀNI should be, and is, extremely proud of the personalised service delivered by the team. ÀNI Private Resorts owner Tim Reynolds told TLTB, ‘To me, when the staff get it perfect, is when they give someone what they need right before they even know they wanted it’.
It’s extremely cliché to say but as I waved goodbye to the staff who had looked after me so well and left for the airport it genuinely felt like I was saying goodbye to people who had become friends It’s no wonder that ÀNI Private Resorts get so many returning guests each year.
|Check in: Dickwella, Kondeniya Road, Dikwella, Southern Province 81200 |
|Ultimate Luxury: The Privacy - You’ll forget that anyone outside of your party even exists |
|Most Indulgent Moment: A spa treatment each day of the holiday – yes please!|
|The Little Things: Staff who know what you need before you do. |
|Junior Luxies: The resort's all yours so of course the whole family is welcome! Kid friendly activities and baby sitting is available and they will love the water slide!|
|Dent in the platinum: |
|Luxury Link: www.aniprivateresorts.com|
The Luxury Travel Bible travelled from London to Sri Lanka on Qatar Airways, which was awarded the ‘World’s Best Airline’ in 2021 for an unprecedented sixth time by Skytrax. Book your tickets now via www.qatarairways.com
Read more about Qatar Airways’ Award-winning QSuite Here.
Sarah Bryans 25/03/2022