#1 Address in the Indian Ocean


With only one or two days left in January I’ve just realised it’s been a year since my  Sri Lankan sojourn and I never did get around to writing the posts I promised about all the incredible places and things we experienced there.

Perhaps a teeny, weeny part of my resistance was self-serving-I don’t want toooo many people going there-just you guys 🙂

(Oh oh. Was I being a Holiday Destination Hoarder?!)

img-index Taprobane.com

But I think the main reason was I’m just so damn in love with the place that I wanted every post to be perfect.

Then I remembered my old resolution that “DONE is a whole lot better than perfect” (Was that it?? Something to that effect anyway)

So, with no further time to waste, let’s take a quick visit back to Taprobane Island.

L1090993Located in the Indian Ocean, just a stone’s throw off the southern tip of Sri Lanka in Weligama Bay.

Sri Lanka - from Galle Fort to 30km south.The famous stick fishermen of Weligama Bay

L1080726and yours truly, also in Weligama, waaay too many years ago to admit to.

Taprobane Island mimics the shape of Sri Lanka but measures a mere 2 1/2 acres. It was built in 1922 by the Count de Maunay-Talvande who grandly presided over this last, tiny tear-drop of land before the South Pole, for almost 30 years. After Maunay’s death in the late 40’s, the house fell into a state of neglect until the American writer Paul Bowles came upon it. It was love at first sight and it was here that he wrote “The Spider House”.

In reading a biography about Bowles and his wife Jane several years ago I learned that as enchanted as he was with his tiny slice of Sri Lankan heaven, Jane simply abhorred it. She was a woman blessed with neither good health nor disposition at this stage of her life and deeply feared the swarms of huge bats that routinely descended upon the island each dusk. While Paul enjoyed the peace and inspiration Taprobane offered him, Jane would be plotting her escapes.

Not to mention her girlfriend was back in Morocco waiting for her, but that’s another story.

jane-y-paul-bowlesI want to go back to Morocco now

L1090994The octagonal open air design allows the tropical breezes to flow through the house. The black doors you see flanking the terrace lead to bedrooms

L1100013This was Paul Bowle’s bedroom. Much of the original furnishings and paintings are still there. Don’t you just love the doors?!

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 8.40.00 AMMoi, in one of the other bedrooms enjoying a dreamy, sultry breeze on a very hot & humid day.

L1100017One of the things we loved about much of the architecture we encountered in Sri Lanka were the wonderful ways in which seating areas are incorporated into walls and floors.

L1100030Like this.

Note the gorgeous patina on the cool, smooth concrete floors- something we also saw a lot of and such a great choice in a hot climate.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 8.36.34 AMTaking late afternoon tea at Taprobane.Uh… no bats ’til dusk right???

(ps. I told you it was humid!)

L1100015The steps leading down to the ocean where the house staff told us the present owner and his mother had been swimming when the Tsunami struck.

Miraculously, they both survived but much of the lower part of the house was damaged and the swimming pool was completely swept away.

L1100018A new infinity pool has been built in a higher location on the property. Here you can see how close the beach of Weligama is to the island.

L1100044The tropical gardens surrounding the house are brimming with eye-popping bouganvilla

Yes, I did post this pic of us leaving the island last year…

L1000537Remember that the tide does rise in the afternoon in Weligama Bay!

For More information about  Taprobane read HERE

L1100012A photo hanging in the house.

(Please note, we did not stay on the island, we just visited and took tea and the tour one unforgettable afternoon)

Happy Travels!




  1. Slim what a romantic spot to get away from our everyday lives! I am amazed at the beauty!
    PS The humidly looks like it made your skin luminous!

    2013 Artists Series

    • No more sun exposure for me Linda (my pole fishing days are OVER!)
      There was also talk of riding elephants that day (no elephant hide against bare skin for moi, thank you very much!)

  2. Beautiful, beautiful! One of my goals this year is similar to what you posted: “Better to do it today, than to do it perfectly never.” And in that light, I’m in a rush to de-cluttter my work-space (lofty goal) and I’m pretty sure my husband is lurking around (lovingly) to encourage me to stay on task (he-who-never-gives-up-on-thinking-I’m-a-minimalist). However, I just wanted to say (quickly and maybe imperfectly) how often I wish to thank you for bringing such creative wonder to my inbox, and how often I am too busy to do so. Thank you for putting such amazing effort into your posts and pictures today and everyday!

  3. Slim,
    I am always amazed by the jaw-dropping beauty of some the tropical spots you visit. I think I’d be a whiner in that humidity. Still, I’m happy to hear the house withstood the tsunami. That was a thought that immediately popped into my brain when I began to read your post. Bats wouldn’t bother me but tsunami’s scare the bejeezus out of me at this point.
    I enjoy my armchair tours with you.

  4. Fabulous! I had to google map your island, to get a better idea where in the world you went. Wow! Thanks for sharing the beauty and BTW, you look fantastic in these pic’s (as usual)

  5. Wow!! Your vacation photos are so much better (and warmer) than the cold, grey view outside my Seattle window. Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. i think you are going to need to go again real soon – they are promoting Sri Lanka soo much right now – well in the UK anyway. Every boutique hotel owner is buying up land…Hope you checked out the Aman hotels? Fab photo of you on the fishermen poles

  7. GLAD to see you paid your internet invoice and are back and posting 🙂 1.Paul and Jane look like the happiest couple EVER! (what the heck Jane, bats in your belfry?, well, Paul does have a case of having a big head, hrmmmm, ego, so I am sure that explains EVERTHING) 2. That cobalt blue is CRAZY! 3. Your hair looks great, come on, who are we kidding here?! it’s like an ad for ovation hair cell therapy! uh-huh, yep. 4. I love concrete floors, I love concrete and when I am HOT, which has been the last 15 years, I like to lay naked on my concrete floors. and lastly numero 5. I could not even begin to freaking imagine swimming and seeing that tsunami upon me and SURVIVING!!!! Now, THAT my friend, would make one either start drinking or stop drinking.

  8. I was hooked til you mentioned the tsunami!!! OY!!! How terrifiying would THAT be??? The spot is like a slice of heaven. YOU look gorgeous, your hair is beautiful and I wish I had it:):) Thanks so much for sharing this, I had never heard of it. XO, Pinky

  9. I, with Kathryn would like to thank you Slim for all the lovely, interesting, funny, inspiring, informative, gorgeous posts that you put out there for us. It’s like finding a good book, only a shorter read.
    V x

  10. Sliiiimmmmmm! This is my favourite post ever.

    I think I told you that when Rick Stein did his Far Eastern cooking series he went here had lunch and talked to the owner and I have always luffed it, it’s just so gorgeous.

    You look lovely.

    But I loathe bats especially when there are hundreds of them screeching and spreading disease at dusk, so that makes me feel slightly ill…

    You are lucky to be Living the Dream. The red bikini snap is excellent too xxxxxx

  11. You are the best travel guide/teacher! I learned so much in this post about a place I knew nothing about. Thank you! It looks absolutely gorgeous. And speaking of gorgeous, you look amazing ~ both in the earlier shot and now!

  12. I was lucky enough to stay in Weligama in 2004 and scheduled my visit to see Taprobane Island. I only managed to look at it from the beach, so it was wonderful to see your photographs of the beautiful interiors and surrounds.

  13. What a beautiful post – I can understand why you delayed it – just to savor those memories a little longer before sharing….. Janelle – do tell more about the house in Zanzibar, I am intrigued……

  14. Wow, what a great background story about the house. Really makes
    you appreciate the whole human side to such an amazing house in a unique location.
    Love the cobalt blue textiles with the dark mahogany wood and shiny
    concrete floor patina. Elegant in a tropical sort of way. Your photos are
    just so sharp and vibrant too.

  15. Love it, Slim! Yet another one to add to the bucket list. Thank you for sharing, although I understand why you’d want to keep it to yourself. Also, you look damn good for someone melting in the humidity! Perfect hair for that weather- mine would have occupied two zip codes! 😉

  16. I think one quote is ‘perfection is the enemy of the good’…and it snares all of us at some point or another (or many points) in blogtopia…but your breezy post went beyond the realm of good into perfection land, and for a split second could feel the sun on my face and smell the ocean…well , that may be pushing it, but I imagined I did…super nice either way!
    When we were visiting friends on the Gold Coast, we’d sip wine every night on the very high rooftop of their condo, and wait for the fruit bats to take flight at dusk…it was an amazing sight, they actually live in the city trees all day and just come out at night…hundreds of them, it was fascinating…5ft wing spans, one made my hubs take a flying leap when it did a surprise fly-by up the side of the building…priceless!
    Thanks for sharing for such a ‘perfect’ experience with us…
    xo J~

  17. Seriously Slim I don’t doubt you’d like to keep this little piece of heaven on earth a secret…
    such beauty, I can only imagine the sounds of the sea and the bats swooping by at dusk.

  18. Slim

    So beautiful. We gazed and gazed at Taprobane from the beach back in the early 80’s. It looked like an enchanted island from a tropical fairy tale. But it was private and not accessible to visits back then, much to our disappointment (think it was empty – and a bit neglected). So it’s wonderful at last to see what it’s really like now it’s well cared for. Wonderful pictures. Our small son rode an elephant along the Weligama beach and loved it.

    The bats are just about everywhere in Sri Lanka and very creepy. In Colombo around the time the sun goes down the crows and the bats exchange places in the big trees along the main roads, the crows shrieking raucously, the thousands of bats rising in hideous clouds in the darkening sky. The locals always wielded open umbrellas to protect themselves from the hard rain of droppings! Also, the sun goes down so fast and at the same time each day since Sri Lanka is really close to the equator. At a quarter past six you can still just see enough to play tennis on the Colombo Swimming Club courts, by 6.30 it’s too dark!

    Such a wonderful tale that the owner and his mother survived the tsunami. It must have been terrifying – and a miracle.

    Look forward to more posts of Sri Lanka. Best wishes, Pamela

  19. What a beautiful place. Thank you for such a lovely story and wonderful photos – a very special reminder of why travel is so good for the soul. It’s also really nice to see photos of you. It makes the blog so much more personal. (You look great, by the way!)

  20. These photos are absolutely beautiful and I’m sure don’t do the experience much justice. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing! The water looks absolutely beautiful. Kinda scary thinking about the tsunami, but I would go there in a second.

  21. I told you so……..many many blogs ago that you should be a travel writer because you write such interesting (to women anyway) things about where you visit. Men who write travel books just aren’t into the decor, colors, human interest type things that we are interested in. Plus your tremendous photography skills to accompany your travel books which no one to my knowledge is doing. Think you should do this NOW so you will have great justification to revisit this little piece of paradise . Thanks for sharing your exciting life with those of us who have not so exciting lives!!!

  22. Slim, Adored this. Amazing place and home. I just loved the old photo of you and the new ones. You remind me of young Lauren Hutton with your hair and safari style! The last pic is so neat with you gals in the water. So glad this survived the tsunami.

  23. On the list… I have wanderlust this year… and I don’t think reading about Sri Lanka is helping…:) xv

  24. Slim! I think that I mentioned this last year but Remi photographed Tabrobane years ago, when they were first opening it up to the public. At the time, the managing director said that he was welcome to come back and stay anytime as they were so happy with his photos (http://www.remibenali.com/luxury-leisure-taprobane/)…and of course, we never have. *Me thumping my head violently against the keyboard*

    I would say that Taprobane is up there for one of my all time greatest wish lists of dream places…still to visit!

    PS. You look beautiful, radiant, then and now…

  25. Do you know what type of water purification system they used? What an amazing place to see. Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure. I want to hang out and fish with the stick fisherman:)

    • Dear Mr Plumber
      When we lived in Sri Lanka in the 80s they didn’t have any sophisticated water purification systems. We had a special stand alone porcelain water filter in our house. After filtering to remove particles, the water had to be boiled for 20 minutes to kill off the nasty bacteria. You also couldn’t eat lettuce and almost all fruit and vegetables had to be soaked in Milton before eating. At that time and probably still now, there were diseases like cholera, typhoid, paratyphoid, giadia and many others that were not waterborne – like dengue, malaria, filaria, rabies, polio, TB, leprosy etc. Not nice to think about but if you lived there you needed to take the correct precautions to avoid getting very very sick. In many ways it was a tropical paradise but it came with lots of bugs and diseases and very serious political and social problems.
      Despite all of the above it’s a beautiful country, we had great friends there and we loved our two years. Best wishes, Pamela

  26. Slim what a gorgeous place,, i do understand Jane’s difficulty all that humidity can be wearing but what a paradise.

    I do know what you mean about swarms of people visiting I feel that way about Myanamr ..or are we elitist snobs?

    • Speaking for myself (and I imagine you as well!) it’s not about elitism or snobbishness but rather the natural desire to protect something or somewhere that you love. As relatively unscathed (tourism-wise) destinations like Bhutan, Sri Lanka and now Myanmar open up and become more popular, it’s pretty horrid to imagine them being pock-marked with McDonald’s & Starbucks et al, but such is the inevitable nature of increased tourism and thus the desire to keep untouched destinations on the down-low.

  27. Famous British TV chef Rick Stein visited several years ago and interviewed the owner of this paradise island (see Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey DVD). The owner (oops, I can’t remember this name) seemed to have a lovely colonial air about himself, his lifestyle and general outlook on life – would have loved to have a drink and chat with him in real life actually. They also features some amazing Sri Lankan cooking by the in house chef, yes, who buys local produce everyday from the mainland wet markets.

    He did speak about the day the Tsunami arrived; he was out having a swim by the island and was swept all the way across the bay and ended up on the mainland clinging to the very top of the palm trees far from shore. He spoke of his disbelief in witnessing a totally emptied out bay as the waves swept past the island. It sounded like someone had pumped the bay dry of all its seawater. Bloody terrifying if you ask me. And he was lucky to survive as well. He must have good karma around him.

    As an aside he mentioned something about Sir Thomas Lipton either staying on the island or owning it for a period of time. Sir Thomas, as you know was the founder of Lipton Tea.

    Enjoy life and have a great day. Cold and damp here in Melbourne, Australia. But hey, its Friday!


  28. I am so excited for this post. We are going to Sri Lanka this summer and I have been revisiting your Sri Lanka posts from last year. We are going to Tea Trails and also Tangalle and Galle. It looks amazing,I can’t wait!

Would love to hear from you!