Sri Lanka’s Exotic Island ParadiseBy Private Islands Magazine • Nov 14th, 2008 • Category: Island Travel
At the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka’s coast sits a small, lush island, with a luxurious mansion offering the ultimate in gracious colonial living. Discover the unique history of this pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Rarely has a country had such an evocative series of names as the beautiful nation now called Sri Lanka, or “sacred island”. Inspired by the verdant forests and perfect beaches, it was known as “Tenerism” in Arabic, meaning “isle of delight”, and the heroic nature of the country’s early warriors led neighbouring India to refer to it as the “place of lions”, a term from which the British Colonial name of Ceylon was derived. After a fortuitous discovery, the Persians called it “Serendib”, giving rise to the concept of serendipity. But it was ancient Greek geographers who gave the island the name of “Taprobane”- or “copper-colored”, after the bronze-hued beaches on which early mariners first landed- and a worldwide reputation as a hidden paradise.
Few could resist the descriptions in ancient Greek texts of the island as a place of perfect beauty and societal peace, where the citizens lived in harmony and industry amid tropical gardens and idyllic seas. But the exact location of “Taprobane” became obscured through key mapping errors, prompting thousands of quixotic adventurers to chase the dream of this fabled land. Much like the mythical city of Atlantis, its whereabouts were fiercely debated for centuries, with Sumatra, Madagascar and even the Maldives raised as contenders. When it was finally settled that the long-sought Taprobane was indeed the gorgeous isle to India’s south, it’s difficult to believe that any true paradise-seekers were disappointed.
A similar hunt for an earthly Eden inspired the creation of Taprobane Island, one of Sri Lanka’s most renowned luxury destinations. The horrors of the Great War had spawned an escapist, utopian mindset in many of Europe’s young elite, including Maurice de Mauny-Talvande, a descendant of a Napoleonic general and self-styled French aristocrat. In the 1920’s, the “Count” left behind London’s polite society for more exotic realms, to find what he described as “the one spot which, by its sublime beauty, would fulfill my dreams and hold me there for life.” During a Sri Lankan trip with the heir to the Lipton Tea empire, he waded to sit and gaze at the sea from the little island’s hilltop, and looked no further. And this must indeed have been the sublime spot he had dreamed of, since he stayed on the island until his death 30 years later, perfecting the mansion, hosting grand parties, and penning a well-received book about his island gardens.
Set along the country’s famous South Coast, just 30 minutes from the provincial capital of Galle, the small, thickly forested island perches 100 metres from the soft mainland beaches, so close that guests may choose to wade through the warm knee-high tide, or ride elephant-back to the island’s cliff-side dock. Facing out onto the turquoise Indian Ocean and with the lush South Coast jungles at its back, the island’s octagonal, 5-bedroom stone mansion has spectacular views in every direction- the sea views are particularly romantic, since not a single speck of land can be found between Taprobane and the Antarctic. Combining European colonial architecture with the languid, open style found in the tropics, the home has played host to heads of state, famous authors, and some of the world’s most prominent business elite.
Taprobane Island has an undeniable air of the exotic, from its unusual origins to the stunning, remote location. If you’d like to experience it for yourself, rates start in the off-season at US $7000 per week for the exclusive island rental.
For more information or to book your stay, please see: http://www.privateislandsonline.com/taprobane-island.htm
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