Villa Maggona is about a 60-minute drive from the celebrated 17th century Dutch Fort town of Galle. Acclaimed as one of the best-preserved Dutch forts in Asia, (a UNESCO world heritage site since 1988) Galle’s appeal was recently enhanced by a much needed facelift: new restaurants, cafes and trendy shops plus a scenic expressway that has cut travel time by more than half have put Galle at the top of the list of “must visit” places.
The best way to discover Galle is to walk: a sunrise or sunset stroll on the massive ramparts with its 11 bastions is a must. Wander through the narrow streets and peak into the past -- some of the houses still bear their old names and facades. Giant old trees particularly on Church Street and around the Law Courts Square greatly enhance this experience.
Just 30 minutes from Villa Maggona is Lunuganga, the celebrated country home and gardens of Sri Lanka’s best known architect, Geoffrey Bawa. Set in a 12-acre, rolling wilderness that cleverly combines the feel of a grand Italian garden with Bawa’s “tamed rain-forest” attitude to landscape, it is full of serendipitous experiences that Bawa carefully crafted for his pleasure. Visitors can spend hours browsing the extensive gardens, enjoying its innumerable surprises and secrets.
Equally celebrated is Brief, the forerunner to Lunuganga created by Geoffrey’s older brother, Bevis Bawa. Brief is a delightful gardener’s garden -- lush, intimate and exuberant -- a series of small gardens, each with a separate feel but seamlessly blending into each other and interspersed with sculpture, large gargoyles and large terracotta and Chinese glazed pots.
Numerous varieties of turtles that live in the waters of the Indian Ocean come ashore on the west coast. of Sri Lanka to lay their eggs in laboriously excavated nests or pits that they close up and leave, secure in the knowledge that their new offspring are hot-wired to find their way home. Unfortunately not all make it. Predators may get them before they even set out. Several conservation projects are in place to help them survive. The hatchery at Induruwa is one such project and is worth a visit
Parts of this vast Buddhist temple complex dates to the 18th century and is worth a visit particularly on a full moon day: hundreds of devotees from the surrounding towns and villages, all dressed in white, gather here to meditate or offer flowers to the numerous images of the Buddha.
High on a rock in Beruwala, is the white Ketchimalai mosque in a picturesque setting of tall palm trees. There are many tales about the origin of the mosque: popular belief is that it marks the spot where the first Arab traders landed. Another is that during the 12th century a boat came ashore with members of the royal family of Hadramouth, Yemen which included Sultan Ashraff Waliullah, his five brothers and a sister.
About 80 minutes drive from Villa Maggona, just past Galle is Mirissa, the internationally-renowned spot in the Indian Ocean where it is possible to see blue whales in concentrations rarely seen elsewhere. The blue whales, including young whale calves gather here to feed between the months of November and April. During this period large boats leave Mirissa at 6.30 am. In addition to blue whales, there have been sightings of killer whales and numerous dolphins.
Bentota is renowned as the water sport capital of Sri Lanka with operators in the area actively promoting water sports: speed boat and jet ski riding, wind surfing, boogie boarding, water skiing and kite surfing are among the sports enjoyed here. Some offer deep sea diving and fishing. Leisurely boat trips along River Bentota are popular too.
Sri Lanka is the blue sapphire capital of the world and is home to more than 100 varieties of gemstones. The country’s most lively gemstone trading centre is in Beruwela in the area called the China Fort Street market, which is just off the Galle Road in Beruwela, a 10-minute drive from Villa Maggona. The Beruwela gem market operates daily from about 10.30 am to 3.30 pm and is closed on Fridays.