Travellers may come for Sri Lanka’s endless amount of dazzling white beaches, timeless ruins and lush greenery, but they stay for the country’s charming hospitality and mouth-watering cuisine. Taking you to the very heart of Sri Lanka’s local culture, is our award-winning guide, Roshan Fernando. As it is the season of giving, we’d like to shine a special spotlight on Roshan’s heart-warming story of how he helped a local family, from the outskirts of Girithale, rebuild their lives by setting up the Kalu farmhouse.
For over 20 years, Roshan has been leading the way when it comes to immersive travel experiences, but an important part of his job as a guide, Roshan stresses, is seeing how he as an individual can give back to his local community. Awarded the Responsible Tourism Award for playing an instrumental role in building 11 houses in the wake of Sri Lanka’s catastrophic tsunami back in 2007, Roshan had a chance encounter with Kalu and his family while guiding tours in Sri Lanka.
Kalu, his wife Chandra and their three young daughters were struggling. Before they met Roshan, Kalu said, “We used to walk between 6-7km a day in search for paid work in the surrounding communities”, not knowing whether he would earn enough money to feed his family for the week. With the help of Roshan, who used his own personal funds and the money he received from winning the Exodus Leader of the Year Award, the family were able to build a new home and create a sustainable business which has provided an invaluable source of income for Kalu and his family.
From a small mud hut in Giritale, just outside the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, the Kalu farmhouse has been rebuilt into a modern house with electricity, running water and cooking utensils, so Kalu and Chandra could start building their business of creating authentic Sri Lankan meals, exclusively for Exodus Travellers. Our Exodus team leaders and Roshan ensured they had the training and equipment they needed to set up their own, entrepreneurial business.
Taking travellers firmly off the tourist trail, the Kalu family farmhouse dining experience is something totally unique, giving travellers that raw, authentic Sri Lankan welcome. Supporting this business from the grassroots up is something Roshan is particularly passionate about, and Kalu was quick to comment, “We actually didn’t have a place to live before this job, but Roshan gave us enough money so we could build a place to live and have a better life”. He continues, “I’ve put all my effort into this so that my family don’t need to worry anymore.”
For the past 10 years, Roshan, alongside six of our other dedicated Exodus guides, continue to take groups of travellers to the Kalu Farmhouse on our Discover Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka: Wonders & Wildlife – Premium Adventure for an authentic village lunch, where most of the produce is locally grown in their surrounding gardens.
Some might say, that jackfruit curry (also known as, “Ambul Polos” in Sinhalese), is a Kalu family speciality. This traditional, aromatic Sri Lankan dish is made with fresh, creamy coconut milk, jackfruit and a perfect blend of Kalu-grown curry leaves and spices, which includes coriander, turmeric, garlic cloves and cinnamon – the rest is Chandra’s secret recipe past down from her mother over many generations. Other prominent dishes you’ll find in their authentic buffet are steaming hot plates of coconut Dhal curry, Sri Lankan fish curry and chicken curry with roasted cashew nuts. Visitors can also smell curry directly from the source, as Kalu grows curry leaves in the forests surrounding his farmhouse, claiming that, “even when it’s raining, our guests walk around the garden with smiling faces.”
But it’s not only how they cook this delicious local cuisine that makes this experience truly authentic; it lies in mastering the art of rubbing elbows with fellow travellers, swapping tales over oak tables and hearing stories about Kalu’s family – those are the things that will leave an indelible imprint on your memory.
As Kalu kindly puts it, “Our door is always open to anyone who wants to visit in the future”. So, there you have it. You may have come for the sites, but it’s Sri Lanka’s warm hospitality and generosity that will end up capturing your heart.