In a cool climate quite similar to the central hills lies Wijaya Holiday Resorts set up in early 2000s is extremely popular for recreation and holiday making and has created its own niche in gem-related tourism.
“Gems have been part and parcel of Sri Lankan culture for the last two and half millennia. The most revered historic annals – the Mahavamsa tells us that Lord Buddha too arrived in Sri Lanka to resolve a dispute between sibling Kings Chulodara and Mahodara over a throne studded with gems. The province in which this resort is located and where majority of gem related activities takes place is historically known as ‘Sabaragamuwa’ after the world-renowned Ceylon Blue Sapphires (and Rubies to a lesser extent). Sapphire Gamuwa became Sabaragamuwa,” said Chairman of Wijaya Holiday Resorts and Christina Gems, Pinsiri Wijepala.
“Even though gems are brining lot of much-needed foreign exchange into the country, it is lamentable that very few Sri Lankans wear gems and know about gems. So by visiting our resort one can gain valuable insights into gems,” he added.
“In our in-house gem museum, guests can have a thorough idea on gems, from gem excavation to gem cutting demonstrations in order to experience the making of finest gem-studded jewelries with exclusive designs. We also arrange tours to traditional mines where guests can witness the excavation of gems. In addition guests have the opportunity buy gems or gem-studded jewelry ranging from blue sapphires to rubies,” Wijepala said.
The resort which is not far from Colombo, is located in Epitalwela, Kiriella in the border of Ratnapura and Kalutara Districts and is special in so many ways. According to Wijepala another specialty is its cool climate and natural environment. “When you wake up early in the morning you are able to see the mist just like in Nuwara Eliya. When you take a walk in the mountain you will find yourself in an atmosphere similar to Sinharaja Rainforest as you will come across different species of endemic birds, fish, butterflies and other animals. Then you can take dip in our natural swimming pools beneath our own Thalagahahena Waterfall,” Mr. Wijepala said with much pride.
“I purchased this 50 acre land originally for gem mining and then realized this land has immense potential for a gem industry related resort,” he added.
Manager of Wijaya Holiday Resorts, S. L. Dissanayake said the hotel caters to all segments of tourists and guests.
“Our hotel is extremely popular among from nature lovers to families to the elderly who just want to relax in a cool and peaceful environment. We offer four types of accommodation namely, Superior, Standard, Eco Rooms and Camping. WHR offers an ideal day outing for school children and we also cater to corporate outbound training and team building outings. Adventure seekers can have adrenalin rush in our newly-developed adventure park. We have kids play area as well with a special pool for children,” Dissanayake said.
“We also offer excursions to Dumbara Graphite Mines, Nedun Rajamaha Viharaya-Kiriella, the historic Ratnapura Maha Saman Devalaya, Pahiyangala Cave, Balangoda Cave (Kithulgala Beli Lena) and Bata Domba Lena (Kuruwita), Bopath Ella, Patthini Temple,” Dissanayake claimed.
Another specialty is the organic food that is served in the hotel. “We grow our own organic fruits and vegetables which are very popular among our guests,” he said.
“Gems are a major part of foreign exchange for the country and we are proud to be part of this initiative. We have built a reputation over the years, supplying to some of the world’s elite designer brands. My lifelong ambition is to popularize gem tourism in Sri Lanka,” Wijepala said, who has won many accolades including the Gold Award from the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) Export Award in 1999, Sri Lanka Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 2000, Silver Award from the NCE Export Awards in 2001, the International Award for Technology and Quality 2002 by Geneva, Switzerland.