Shangri-La Hambantota Sri Lanka
Inside the stunning Shangri-La Hambantota resort Sri Lanka: The luxury retreat the cast of Made In Chelsea (and occasional Spice Girls) go to escape the drama of the King's Road.
The cast of Made In Chelsea are normally whisked away a couple of times per season to escape the trials and tribulations of their drama-laden lives in London. And across the show's eight-year lifespan, past luxury locales have included everywhere from Venice, to Los Angeles to Lapland.
In the most recent season, a select few were treated to a stay at possibly the finest location yet: Shangri-La's Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa on the southern shores of Sri Lanka.
Nestled on the meridional coast of the South Asian island, the resort has also seen an array of A-list musicians, accomplished actors and notable politicians touch down via chopper on the golf course-cum-helipad (Spice Girl Melanie C being one of them).
Located four hours from the island's airport, Colombo, this haven is truly 'out of the way'. The stunningly scenic route from Colombo to the southern coast simply provides more of an opportunity to witness what Sri Lanka has to offer: from the jungle-lined roads to the quaint fishing towns, visitors will get their first glimpses at the majestic Indian Ocean, along with spear-fisherman poised and ready to harpoon their suppers.
Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa itself is located down a track, away from any main road, lined with a regiment of leaning palms, overlooking a lagoon on one side and the vast Ocean on the other.
The resort is cutely segregated into themed areas - from turtles to elephants -and offers up rooms which correspond to each, spread across a sizable yet intimate hotel.
The hotel is truly attuned to the nature that engulfs it: the resort offers early-morning safaris to the local National Parks - Yala, Udawalawe, Lunugamvehera and Bundala - where elephants will stroll alongside your jeep as they take in the cooler air before retreating into the denser trees to escape the beating sun.
The very river safari that Harry Baron and Melissa Tattam took is led by a local expert, who must simply have a sixth sense. Sailing along on a river boat, your guide knows where and when to spot the most indigene forms of bird life - from tropical kingfishers to parakeets to owls.
It's here you're likely to spot a crocodile, monkeys, roosting bats and wild pigs as you're taken to the river mouth, where the waters meet the roaring Indian Ocean, before you're sailed back to the dock with a fresh coconut to drink from.
The hotel itself is luxury at its finest: the building lines an 18-hole golf course (the only resort course in the country) which allows sportsmen and women alike the chance to practice their swings while soaking up the stunning surroundings.
This course, in itself, is a miniature tour of Sri Lanka. Some holes look out over the lagoon, some span the shoreline of the Ocean, some are lined with swaying palms and some are simply glorious sun traps, filled with even more wildlife. You'll play amid a sapphire quarry and sand dunes - all designed at the hand of world-renowned golf architect, Rodney Wright.
Post game, there's one of the Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa's eateries and bars - the club house-style restaurant in which a cocktail and a steak won't go amiss. But perhaps even more exquisite are Bojunhala or Sera.
The former allows the intrepid culinary explorer to taste the most delectable native cuisine and freshest seafood dishes for miles. And the latter offers you an Ocean-side southeast Asian menu with perhaps the most phenomenal coconut-mango crème brûlée on Earth.
This eatery is adorned with hanging pots of trailing tropical vines, giving the diner an experience worthy of the deepest jungles on the island.
Upstairs you'll find an open-air lounge, lit with giant tiki torches, a gentle throb of chilled musical vibes pumping through as you wind down for the evening.
Daytime at the resort is just as awe-inspiring, with its three main pools - one for families, one which wouldn't look out of place next to an Egyptian pyramid with its steep triangular monument, and one which stretches out toward the Ocean and practically melts into the horizon.
Around the pools are loungers, with attentive staff on hand to serve you whatever cocktail or snack you might wish; but furthermore, this resort offers a plethora of nooks, tucked here and there around the grounds, which allow you added places to escape.
There are swinging benches, day beds and wicker cocoons, all poised for you to spend time alone or with a loved one, soaking up the tropical climes.
The beach is a little wild and untamed, in the most glorious way: a stroll along the sands, looking out to the vast continuum that is the Indian Ocean, lets a wash of perspective enrapture you, making it impossible for your cares not to slip away.
And the spa at the Hambantota resort offers up yet another enclosed pocket of privacy, which will truly leave you melting. This stunning part of the hotel leads you into a waiting area, where you'll be served a tea of your choosing, as you wait in a comfy robe.
You'll be offered a selection of scented oils before going off for your treatment. After this, the staff will guide you down some steps to the relaxation area - an island of comfy seating, overlooking a lily-pad adorned pond and surrounded by tropical fauna.
It is impossible not to leave the CHI Ayurveda Spa feeling rejuvenated and one of the facility's Ayurveda treatments will both cleanse your entire body and remove any embedded toxins that have traveled with you from your day-to-day routine.
And the ingredients used in the treatments are plucked from the ancient Spice Route that the resort is located upon - so the wonderment of the region will literally cleanse you to your core.
Shangri-La Hambantota spans 58 hectares - this gives it a proud status as the largest resort in Sri Lanka. There are 300 spacious rooms, including 21 suites, all of which overlook lush gardens.
If it's an anchorage away from the humdrum or the treadmill of normal life you're looking for, this southeast Asian delight is a must for your 'places to go' list.