We came across the Silva Tree resort while looking for great vacation ideas for our AirBnb round-up. I read 'treehouse in the jungle, 10 minutes from the beach' and literally booked it on the spot. No regrets. It's an amazing place to get away with a bunch of friends, but it runs on fans and no A/Cs so it can get sweltering hot in the afternoons - good time to dip in the tub or go for a swim at Jungle Beach nearby.
The photographs on this review are taken by our friend Pavithra Jovan de Mello.
The treehouse is in the thicket of forest that leads to the ocean in Unawatuna. You can easily get lost while trying to get there via narrow rickety roads, so your best bet is to call Mrs Ira, the caretaker, and get directions while you're on your way. It's about a 10 minute drive from town, and we alternated between the treehouse and the Galle fort for meals. There's a designated tuk-tuk driver you can call up to the treehouse who usually charges Rs. 500 to go to Galle fort.
You can contact the Silva Tree people directly, but we did it through AirBnB, which makes things quite simple. You can log into the site through your Facebook account, book your dates and pay online. The owner who lives abroad then messages you a greeting instantly, and will later email you a useful set of notes about the treehouse including the contact details of its current caretaker Mrs Ira.
First of all, how many livable treehouses are there in Sri Lanka? I honestly don't know. But this alone was enough to win us over. It's not really a house in a tree, but a large glass house with three levels, cosily nestled between trees. The ground floor is closed up and not used by guests, the first floor has three large, comfy double rooms, and the top floor has a large lounging space with a small kitchenette. The whole thing is very simply and logically structured using glass, metal and wood.
There's a huge forest clearing out back where you can wander through, sit on a rock, and enjoy the trees rustling above you. However, watch out for the monkeys - they are huge and black with white wips of hair around the ears (Janith says they're Sri Lankan leaf monkeys, but I have my doubts since these just look cute on the internet), and they swing around quite madly in the trees, make angry noises and stare at you. I personally got scared and ran away from two monkeys consecutively.
The best sections of the house are the balconies. When it gets hot and humid in the afternoons (the only glitch), the rooms are the worst place to be - just head out to the balcony and lie down. It's cooler here, you get bright green trees all around, the occasional monkey, and a beautiful view of the sky and the Una ocean in the distance. The place is perfect in the evenings but does get quite hot in the afternoon so be sure to bring sun hats, sunglasses and whatever you can find to help you with the heat (wish I had a portable A/C-helmet), but I didn't mind it too much - felt relaxed at the end of it like I came out of a sauna.
Another favourite part of the house is the bathtub on the second floor. You get a clear view through the glass of the clouds and trees around you while you lounge in your tub (bring your own bath salts though).
The place also happens to be animal-friendly, if you want to bring your pets with you.
This is a bed & breakfast place. It's a six-person house, and you'll pay about Rs. 6600 per head per night, which is superb. However, only breakfast is included in the cost, so if you're staying for more than one night you might end up spending on meals especially if you're lunching at the typically expensive Galle fort. Breakfast here is simple and good - we asked for pol sambol, bread and eggs.
We had our other meals at Sugar and Pedlars Inn Cafe, our favourite stopovers at the fort. Alternatively you can ask Mrs Ira to cook your lunch and dinner too, but it will cost you Rs. 800 each for a simple Sri Lankan rice and curry which is not value for money. A great idea is to bring your own food supplies from the town - you can use the stove and fridge in the kitchenette on the top floor lounge. The kitchenette already has a decent supply of tea and milk. We went shopping at the Keells in town and brought in plenty of fruits, nutella, milkmaid and peanut butter, and used Mrs Ira's blender to make some creative drinks.
Unawatuna and Galle are just neighbors so getting here is simple thanks to the Southern expressway. Get on the Galle expressway bus from the Maharagama bus station, and you'll enter Galle in about an hour. Get off when the bus reaches the ocean, the Magalle beach stretch with its line of fishing boats, and take a Rs. 500 tuk ride from here to the Silva Tree in Unawatuna.
Silva Tree is an awesome way to spend a long weekend. It's very affordable if you figure out your food, it's hot but eco-friendly and amazing in the evenings, and mostly it's a calm, quiet, green space to just get away from it all. If you're looking for a place to stay with a group of friends in Una, this is one place we'd recommend considering.
When you get into Galle and reach the ocean, turn left towards Unawatuna and keep going till you reach the Cement Plant. Opposite the Cement Plant is Rumassala Road, aka the Jungle Beach road, go down till you see a sign at the top of a lane that says 'Peace Pagoda' - it's towards the end of this lane.