Imagine yourself in the most basic cabana, no air-conditioning, no fan even, but the breeze makes it chill at night. And in the daytime, you are in the middle of an ocean of sand, bordering a real beach. You are away from everything else, in your paradise, with a bunch of great friends, mouthwatering seafood, and a cabana you do not want to leave. Well, that place is real, and it is the Vayu Resort Mannar.
Vayu Resort is again one of those places we came across Instagram. When we saw the pictures (I think it was Dinee who showed me the first picture of it), I was like, “Is this in Sri Lanka? Are you sure?” it was that strange. And when she told me that “it is and it is in Mannar,” I was like “sure it is beyond our budget.”
Long story short, it was way below our average budget, (I still think they were running the place for charity, as it was that cheap), and we wasted no time to book the venue. We traveled in April/May 2018, and the prices have gone up since. But full disclosure, we were not offered any special rate for doing this review.
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The Vayu Resort is in Mannar, and more precisely, in Thalaimannar. Mannar is one of the least developed districts in Sri Lanka, in the northwestern corner of the island. It is the largest island belonging to Sri Lanka, now connected to the mainland by a bridge. There is also a separate railway line connecting it to the beach.
Thalaimannar is at the western end of Mannar. The location of this resort is at the starting point of Adam’s bridge, of which we will tell a little bit more to the latter half of this review. Thalaimannar was not on the tourist map for a long time; only a few birdwatchers came here if any at all. But recently, kite surfing was started in the area, and that is how Vayu Resort came to be. It is mainly a kite surfing base but has many more to it.
Why Vayu Resort Mannar
So why Vayu Resort? The two most obvious answers were that this was so unique and so out of place that we wanted to see this for ourselves. And the second reason was that since it was the non-kite surfing season and since not many knew of the place by then, we got an insane deal. And if you know us at least the tiny bit, we do not let a deal like that to waste.
However, on a serious note, Mannar had long been on our wish list. What sort of bird watchers are we if we haven’t been to Mannar at least once? (We were at Hambantota at this time, and the Mannar was on the other end of the country, with a travel time of over 8 hours!) One thing or another, we were always finding reasons to delay this trip, and even when we finally made it to Mannar for the stay in the Vayu Resort, most of the migrant birds, including the flamingos, had left already.
Usually, we travel just the two of us, but this was one of those trips we went as a group. Two other couples were traveling with us, with one kid. And we went in an SUV (as I remember a CRV), a seven-seater, but a bit too crowded for seven people. The whole trip was three nights, and on the first night, we stayed at The Backwaters in Eluwankulama, at the southern border of Wilpattu, and you can read the review of the place here.
After our first night in Eluwankulama, the plan was to get to Mannar through the Wilpattu national park, but the bridge at Eluwankulama was under few feet of water. So, we had to make a last-minute change and travel around the Wilpattu park, which added more time and distance to the trip. The overall journey from Colombo to Mannar takes about six hours, and from the Mannar town in the eastern end of the island, it takes close to another one hour to get to the Vayu resort on its western end.
Unless you plan to take the Wilpattu road, you do not need a four-wheel drive. The highway up to Mannar is in excellent condition, and after the Thalaimannar village, there is a gravel road, which is also in a decent state.
For you to get an idea of all the transport options available to you, we recommend you to go through the post here.
As mentioned before, Vayu Resort is a base for kite surfing. Therefore, this is not the most luxurious establishment you will come across. If you are really after luxuries, there is a better option in the middle of the Mannar island (The Palmyrah House, from which we had lunch on our second day), which is also owned by the same person as the Vayu Resort.
By the time we went there, there were six beach bungalows, six garden bungalows, and around eight tents. The beach bungalows were all located on the wide sandy beach (away from the ocean) and away from one another. The garden bungalows were next to one another in a row, and we didn’t see the tents.
Then on the entrance to the property, there is this common area, which serves as both the lobby as well as the restaurant. The kitchen is in the same building, and there was some open area on the upper flow, which was a yoga area or a pub in the season and not in use by the time we were there.
You can get a better idea of the setting by watching this video.
Accommodation at Vayu Resort Mannar
We stayed at three beach bungalows. These were wooden bungalows, built with some elevation from the ground. As mentioned at the beginning, there was no air conditioning, no fans, and had massive windows and a door that opened towards the ocean. Even though these are called beach bungalows, they are not by the sea. The beach is wide, the widest we have yet seen anywhere in Sri Lanka, and the cottages are well away from the coastline.
Another thing we found strange about this place was that there was no housekeeping for the time you stayed there. There was a broom. So, you could sweep out all the sand you bring when you return from the beach. For some, this might seem a little odd or find it a negative thing, but we do not mind just sweeping our room, and we found it more liberating and down to earth.
But the real highlight of the room is nothing but the bathroom. The bathroom is by far the most loved part of this place for us. There was this massive yet rustic bathroom, opened by a door to the back of the bedroom. The shape was in a half-circle, and it had no roof. We had a few open bathrooms before, but this was like the most rustic and exquisite thing we ever had. The shower had very high water pressure, and with the scorching heat in Mannar during the daytime, we spend almost all the time under that shower.
At night we kept the windows open, and the breeze was intense, we had to cover ourselves with additional sheets to escape the cold. We took a stroll down the beach in the middle of the night and just sat there listening to the waves crashing under the moonlight, and it was just magical. It’s kind of reminds you how the most basic things in life bring you the most pleasures and seriously question our ways of living in the modern world.
When it comes to food, I eat anything the humans would eat. The food is like the last thing I would think about when I am selecting a hotel or planning a trip. But Dinee is the total opposite of that. She is like the food expert (like! This is not going to go well for me, as she is literally a food expert – is a clinical nutritionist after all!), and food plays a significant role when she judges a hotel.
And the expert was impressed; I was impressed (I am not that hard to impress anyway, still) the seafood these chefs made was simply mouthwatering. I am not sure whether it’s the vibe of the place or the company we had, but the food was excellent.
Staff and service
It is a little strange to comment on the team here. To put it in the simplest terms, the staff at Vayu Resort Mannar is not your typical hotel staff. They do not come after you, asking you whether you need something else or you are feeling comfortable. But they are friendly, professional and were full of energy, that you also feel excited to be around them.
If we do not mention Mr. Dilsiri, it would be a huge shortcoming of this review. He is the manager of the property, as well as one of the pioneer kite surfers in Sri Lanka. We did all the initial communications through emails with him. He reserved the place for us without any advance payment, and we had no trouble with the reservation when we got there. Unfortunately, we could not meet him in person, as he was at Kalpitiya during our stay. He was overlooking the preparations at Kitesurfing Sri Lanka, their main property. The whole Kalpitiya area was getting ready for the kite surfing season starting from May.
Things to do at Vayu Resort Mannar
If you come here from May to September, you can go kite surfing in the nearby waters. The Vayu Resort arrange everything for you, and this is the high season for this property. If you come during the other half of the year, October to April, then it is the bird watching season. Hundreds of thousands of migrant birds come to Mannar during this time, and Adam’s bridge, as well as the Urumale beach next to Vayu resort, are well-known birding locations.
If you are a kitesurfer, we recommend you to read the blog post by Patricia Pagenel, which includes a 20-minute interview podcast with Mr. Dilsiri, in which he explains a lot about the struggles of building this place in one of the most remote locations in Sri Lanka.
During our stay, we did a morning walk along Adam’s bridge, which was a real highlight. We were a little late to begin, as an ideal starting time would have been around 6 AM or even before (the sun comes up quite early in these parts). Since we were late to begin, we had to turn back halfway as the sun got too hot for us to walk. Otherwise, it is possible to walk up to the first island.
We did some birdwatching in the area, saw a few rare birds, even though we missed the birding season. In the daytime, we visited the Mannar town, walked around the Mannar fort, visited the Baobab tree, and the Doric Bungalow just outside the Mannar island.
Did you know that Adam’s Bridge is a national park in Sri Lanka?
For us, non-kitesurfers, the real treasure of the Vayu Resort, is Adam’s bridge. It is a unique landscape, a large sand bund that expends a few miles towards India. Then there are several small islands, which vary in size throughout the year. As a result, people call these the dancing islands.
These dancing islands are the remnants of a submerged sand bund that connected India to Sri Lanka. Legend has it that this was human-made, when the Indian king Rama invaded then Lanka kingdom of King Ravana, in search of his abducted wife, Princess Seetha. The legend is in Ramayanaya. However, no one knows for sure to this day.
Best time to visit Vayu Resort Mannar
The best time to visit depends on your interests. If you are a kitesurfer, you have to come from May to August. If you are a birdwatcher or wildlife photographer, come from late November to early April. For those who seek a place to relax and be away from their busy lives, anytime is a good time in Mannar.
The prices vary by the season. And usually, the prices are high during the kite surfing season. Occasionally these yoga retreats are happening, and they book the whole property for an entire month at times (this happened to me when I tried to book a room in the birdwatching season in early 2019).
Overall, we are impressed with the experience we had. It was a simple, rustic, and a brand-new experience for us. We would have loved to have gone a month earlier and seen the migrant birds, but we do not have any regrets. We can highly recommend this place to anyone happy to go through the seven-hour drive from Colombo to get here.
If you want to book this place, we highly recommend you to contact the hotel directly through their website here.