Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RTA 2010 Finalist Site Visit: Heritance Kandalama

[To perch] - The noun befits birds gently and gracefully sitting on tree branches, covered with lushes of green for shade. That’s once upon a time for the tiny village of Kandalama, 20 kilometres from Dambulla, a small town in Sri Lanka. Blessed with rich biodiversity many of which endemic to Sri Lanka, this region serves as a perfect spot for nature lovers.

An [idea] - This word calls for an intention to create, and often times, accompanied with a representative image. The idea back in 1992 was to create a seamless hotel that blends into the natural surroundings. Many surrounding villagers did not think this idea was congruent with the blessings Kandalama had, but the designers, innovators and entrepreneurs behind Heritance Kandalama, a now well recognized hotel had a plan, a plan to prove the sceptics wrong.

Since its inception in 1992 for construction, Heritance Kandalama had a very close stake to sustainability ensuring that from its development to operations, the area’s biodiversity and community must be preserved. Among many awards the hotel has won, it is also the first LEED certified hotel to be recognized outside of USA.

As though emerging out from the lush of nature, the Heritance Kandalama building was aligned to fit the profile of the craggy land. Instead of blasting stones or removing trees, they elevated the Dambulla and Sigiriya on stilts in order to eliminate any ecological impact.

Situated in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle’s heartland, Heritance Kandalama is flanked by two UNESCO world heritage sites – the 1st Century BC Dambulla Cave Temple and the 5th Century AD Sigiriya Rock Fortress. The hotel is surrounded by rocky outcrops, lush forests, and overlooks the glistening Kandalama Tank.

With its commitment to sustainability, Heritance went one step further in setting up an Eco Park as a tool for wildlife and environment education. This is where waste from the hotel is being sorted and waste water treated. The Eco Park also has a unit for making paper out of elephant dung and waste paper and a nursery to cultivate indigenous seedlings. Over the years, this facility has also evolved into an animal rehabilitation centre where wildlife is rescued, cared for and prep for the wild.

After 16 years, the hotel is not only conserving the environment, they are giving back to local communities and playing the role of a change agent in the country. Its doors are constantly open for the occasional sceptic, curious researchers, students and tasteful travellers who seek a different kind of travel experience.

This idea became a vision and turned into reality. Heritance Kandalama, not just a pride of Sri Lanka, but soon to be an example to the world.

By: Terence Ooi & Deborah Chan (Dambulla, Sri Lanka: 10 – 13 September, 2010)

Special Note: Heritance Kandalama is one of the finalists for the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Large Accommodation). For more v-blogs on Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards, please visit our Wild Asia Channel.

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