Savour Sri Lanka: sights, sunshine and beaches – away from the crowds

Sri Lanka is on the brink of a tourism boom with hotel chains rushing to open luxury resorts. But venture off the beaten track a little and you will find deserted shores, natural beauty and little-visited temples

The beach at Gurupokuna on Sri Lanka’s south coast is wild and empty. Look up and down its length and you’re unlikely to see another person. The waves here are wild, too. Too wild to swim in for eight months of the year. They crash and pound so angrily that you can hear their roar at least half a mile inland. At night it felt like our hut, which was just metres from the surf, was about to be engulfed by the ocean. The fact that the original huts were swallowed by the sea in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami gave a slight edge to our first night at Mamboz Beach Cabanas.

But all angst evaporated with the morning sunshine. Mamboz is a very simple place: just four huts on stilts in the sand, a few hammocks strung under palm trees, and a back gate that opens directly on to that beach. Arriving with my partner and six-year-old son, I felt like we’d stumbled across an exotic little club: exclusive because of its spectacular and remote setting, but friendly and welcoming thanks to the easy charm of its owner, American Matthew Gale. Over dinner of tuna steaks and banana leaf curry, one couple told us they’d come for three days but were now into their eighth. “We can’t leave.”

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