THE CORAL GARDENS OF PIGEON ISLAND
The most famous person ever to spend a night on Pigeon Island was probably the Victorian cricketer Alfred Inglis, who, as a babe in arms, was aboard the P&O Line steamer Ava when it was shipwrecked off Nilaveli on 16 February 1858.There were no casualties; passengers and crew made off by lifeboat and spent the night on the island, from where they were rescued in the morning. £250,000 in coin also went down with the ship, but most of it was retrieved by divers.
Wrecks on and around Pigeon Island were common during the age of sail and the early steamship era. This rocky, lushly overgrown outcrop, barely a kilometre offshore and only a few minutes by boat from Jungle Beach by Uga Escapes, lies in shallow water, surrounded by powdery white beaches and colourful coral reefs. It boasts no permanent human habitation; the only residents are a colony of blue rock pigeons, whose genetic isolation has made them a protected biodiversity resource, though visually they can be a disappointment – only an expert can tell them apart from ordinary city pigeons. The other flora and fauna of Pigeon Island, however, are typical of small islands off the coast of Sri Lanka –another way of saying that the place is a tropical wonderland in microcosm.
Britain’s Royal Navy, which had a huge base at nearby Trincomalee during the colonial era, used Pigeon Island for target practice; but since the British departed in 1957, the island has remained undisturbed apart from occasional visits by sightseers, nature lovers and scientists. A morning or late afternoon at Pigeon Island is a great experience, particularly for snorkelers, rock-scramblers and lovers of coral reefs and marine life.
Visiting: Boat excursions from Jungle Beach are easily arranged; just check with Reception for availability and the best times to visit, which depend on the tides and the weather.
ULAGALLA WINS A GOLDEN PANTHER AWARD FOR ‘BEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL’ 2017
Ulagalla, one of Uga Escapes’ renowned boutique properties, took away a Golden Panther Award for ‘Best Boutique Hotel’ 2017 at an awards ceremony held in Germany. Located within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle, Ulagalla dates back 150 years, where it first originated as a chieftain’s mansion. Today, the property is a spectacular luxury hotel, known not only for its superiority, but also its timeless character and personality. With 20 exceedingly private, ecologically-built villas that have been artfully positioned throughout 58 acres of sprawling land, Ulagalla stands out for blending in with its lush surroundings. The main feature is without a doubt the solar farm, responsible for generating over half of the property’s energy requirements. And as the hotel is deeply committed to sustainable business practices, this is just one part of its expansive, environmentally-friendly ethos. They also have their own organic garden and rice paddy fields.
Ulagalla is conveniently situated in close proximity to some of the country’s most significant tourist attractions, such as the ancient kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya Rock. Complete with an underground spa that effortlessly rivals others of its kind, it is easy to see why the hotel is a premier choice amongst travellers, bagging the 2016 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence and 2017 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice award as well. What is more, Ulagalla’s indulgent private plunge pools, sun decks and sumptuous king-sized four poster beds coupled with impeccable service, are further proof of its exceptional facilities, which are also qualifying traits for such a title as ‘Best Boutique Hotel.’
The Golden Panther Award is a prestigious recognition in the world of hospitality, and aims to recognise, and reward outstanding luxury hotels worldwide for their services. The ceremony was an intimate affair with sophistication and poise infused into every element of the proceedings. Ulagalla is proud to have been appreciated for its efforts, and looks forward to making further waves within the industry.