Mystical Retreat Helping Fuel Sri Lankas Tourism Renaissance

An untamed paradise, Koggala Lake, one of Sri Lanka’s largest, is home to a bird sanctuary, mangrove hammocks, and islands fragrant with spices, studded with coconut and jackfruit trees, and graced with Buddhist temples. Now, it is also home to an eco-resort and spa unlike any other: the new, Kurulu Bay, which opened its doors in November 2022.

Kurulu is Sinhalese for “bird,” as over a hundred avian species soar above the property. But the private sanctuary isn’t just a dream for nature-lovers. Seekers adore enjoy the on-site yoga and meditation classes and retreats, sybarites flock to the spa, and surfers embrace the waves of the south coast. And everyone raves about the sea-to-table cuisine. It all adds up to the ideal destination, a blend of unspoiled nature, unparalleled service, and unforgettable beauty.


The 14 suites and cottages of Kurulu Bay are scattered along the banks of Koggala Lake, amid the bamboo and frangipani trees that grace the nature reserve. Serenity envelopes the resort, from the Yoga Shala overlooking the lake to the poolside spa—but the property is just a 13-minute drive, or short tuk tuk ride to the buzzing town of Ahangama, a surfer’s paradise. One and two-bedroom villas, raised tree houses, local cottages and garden suites each have their own personality—and are named for the flora and fauna that inhabit the lagoon. But each dwelling takes style cues from The Kurulu House, the only pre-existing structure on the property, which was designed by Sri Lankan architect Channa Daswatte, a disciple of the famed tropical designer Geoffrey Bawa. While The Kurulu House showcases a fusion of 1960s Florida architecture and tropical Bawa modernism, the contemporary rooms and suites were designed by A00, an award-winning architecture firm based in Shanghai. The three-bedroom house can be rented as a private space, but is primarily used to host events and retreats. 


Prawns with poached eggs and organic greens on brioche. Lagoon crab pasta. Seared yellowfin tuna with balsamic miso. These are just a few of the signature dishes that exemplify The Kitchen at Kurulu Bay. The all-day menu is highly local, featuring organic greens, avocados, and eggs, and seafood including langoustine and Mahi Mahi.


Founded by Shahzad Malik, the mastermind behind the Fort Printers Hotel in Galle Fort, the UNESCO site in Colombo, Kurulu Bay is a part of what promises to be a new dawn for hospitality in Sri Lanka. “Kurulu Bay was set to open in early 2021, but with Covid first, followed by the crisis in the country, the whole process got delayed,” Malik explains. “The past few years have affected everyone on the island, putting a lot of people into hardship.” But Malik faced the challenge with the kind of serenity that Kurulu Bay inspires. “There is not much more you could do than to meet the challenges with acceptance,” he says. “Accepting that things won’t go to plan and staying positive in the face of the difficulties.” Today, every booking at Kurulu Bay represents not just a new experience for the visitor, but a new beginning for the island. 


Will you island-hop within the lagoon, visiting spice gardens, learning about Sri Lankan cinnamon production, venerating Buddhist temples with ancient wall paintings? Or walk to Kabalana beach to swim or surf? Maybe you’ll attend the daily yoga and meditation classes, or you planned ahead and booked a personalized yoga or Ayurveda retreat? Perhaps you’re relaxing by one of the two pools, listening to the birds calling to each other from the trees. Or recharging with a holistic treatment at the spa. Whatever you choose, you’ll see what makes Kurulu Bay so special: While other resorts offer an escape from daily life, Kurulu Bay represents an escape to something—a deeper understanding of yourself, and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you.