Interview with Vickum: the Beauty of Santa–Peacefully laid at the heart of Kandy, Sri Lanka, Santani unravels an ultimate experience from the breathtaking view of the rejuvenating activities they offer. But what is the real secret of the success of the first unique wellness resort? Read on as we fascinate ourselves to the beauty of nature and luxury living in Santani.
SOULSCAPE interviewed Vickum Nawagamuwage, co-founder of Santani, to discover the beauty of the award-winning & eco-friendly wellness resort in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
You don’t have aircon at your resort. What was your reason behind that?
We didn’t want aircondition for two reasons with one being eco friendly and the other being wellness related. Typically, air conditioning and heating takes up about 70% of energy usage of a typical high end resorts. By doing away with A/C, we are have automatically reduced our carbon footprint by about 70% compared to standard hotels. However, we purposely choose a location that is at 2800 feet elevation, and designed the hotel for natural ventilation allowing for a really comfortable stay.
Secondly, we spend most of our time in air-conditioned spaces that has the most polluted air as it does not get replenished. It is vital we clear out our lungs regularly as a result of this and even in the ancient practice of Panchakarma, one of the cleanses if for the respiratory system. At Santani, we have some of the purest air you can find anywhere in the world and not having A/C and breathing this natural air helps you cleanse the respiratory system naturally.
What was your inspiration to run an Eco-friendly resort?
We believe the whole sustainability/conservation discussion is flawed. It is entered on the environment and the burden of that is put on the humans. However, humans themselves are not in a sustainable situation today. We are so stressed with no work life balance, and we don’t know what it means to be sustained. As a wellness resort we focus on human sustainability and we believe when the humans understand what it means to be sustained, it will naturally flow down to the rest of the environment. We have created Santani to be one of the most eco friendly hotels of the world so that by the time our guests are sustained, they start to appreciate the value of sustaining the environment and actively learn about and appreciate sustainable practices. They leave Santani with much better appreciation for sustainability having experienced sustenance themselves.
Where do you get your produce from? Do you grow everything onsite?
We have a greenhouse and farm onsite and most of our vegetables are gown onsite and are organic. We also have over 20 varieties of spices naturally growing on site that we use in our cooking. Also, multiple fruit trees are growing on site naturally from mangos to avocados, to rambutan etc that we use in our cuisine. Rest of fruits are vegetable are all locally sourced from the surrounding areas. Our fish is directly purchased from the fisherman market by our own Chef and are the freshest. Meat items and other specific ingredients are imported.
How is the food at the resort formulated?
We are the only wellness resort in the world to provide fine dining experience and as in a fine dinning experience, we have a theme for our cuisine. Our cuisine is based on “Rasa Haya” or Six Tastes. These six tastes are like the primary colours and forms all other tastes. The six tastes are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, pungent and astringent.
The reasoning for adopting rasa haya is also to address a common anomaly in the wellness world. The whole nutritional discussion that is really important to wellness is based on nutrients and we specify that we need 10 mg of Calcium and 20 mg of this amino acids etc etc. However we can’t feel any of the nutrients and there is no way to get a feedback that we had 10 mg of calcium or any of that. However we feel tastes and our cravings are not based on nutrient but tastes. Its when we don’t get one of these base tastes on a regular basis that we end up having cravings and start nibbling and end up getting fat and unhealthy.
However, once you learn about the six tastes and combines them in our meals on a regular basis, we won’t have any cravings and we feel satisfied with small portions as well. Also, each taste has corresponding nutrients associated with is such as sour is always associated with Vitamin C. When you have the six tastes complimented, nutrition naturally occurs.
Why does Ayurveda play a big part at your resort? Is it for everyone?
Ayurveda is for everyone and everything we know today as wellness and thats why Ayurveda plays a big role at Santani. The modern wellness primarily originated with the modern yoga movement and cleansing and detoxing regimes from the west. However, these are Ayurveda practices that originated 5000 years ago in Himalayas. In fact most modern wellness practices such as juicing and colon hydrotherapy etc are half-baked manifestations of ancient practices and can be quite harmful.
Tell us about the Ayurvedic treatments you offer.
Today we do yoga, detoxes, cleanses etc, which forms the core of modern wellness saying we are stressed, and we have so much toxins as we eat processed foods, chemicals in the air and water we drink, etc, etc. However, as mentioned above cleansing and detoxing is the core of Ayurveda and Ayurveda started 5000 years ago in Himalayas. So did Yoga. However, 5000 years ago in himalayas, there was no stress as we know it today and there were no toxins at all. Our reasoning for modern wellness is all mixed up nonsense.
However, there is another reason why yoga and cleansing and detoxing came to be which is universal and it happened 5000 years ago and its happening now and will happen as we exist as living beings. That reason is aging. Yoga, Ayurveda came in to being to better manage the aging process. That is why Ayurveda and its core of detoxing and cleansing is for everyone and its not about an oily massage that matters but understanding why its done. Then you have so many options including western practices. Ex. One of the key reasoning for hot oil massages with oil pouring or hot pouches is to stimulate sweating. So is the reasoning for sauna or steam from Europe or sweat lodges of Americas. However juicing is not and is not sustainable. We can go deep in to what happens in the aging process that creates the need for detoxing and cleansing and yoga etc, which we do at Santani but I will let our guests experience it at Santani. However, it can be approached similar to a facial and why we do facials.
When you ask people when they did a facial last, typically with in 3 month they have done a facial and typically 3 – 5 facials a year. They do it to take away the affects of aging on the skin/face. However, if you ask anyone if they have ever done a “facial” for their heart or liver or lungs or kidneys, the answer is never. However, the skin is an organ and so are all these internal organs. Just like the skin ages, the heart the liver, the kidneys, etc ages but we don’t do anything about it until its too late. Ayurveda and REAL wellness is about giving that facial to these internal organs and it should be done by every one.
We offer multitude of programs that combines both Ayurveda and western practices but based on above philosophy that is sustainable and helps lifestyle change without enforcing strict and non sustainable regimes such as juicing or forcing people to go on vegetarian diets etc. Our key packages include detoxing and cleansing, weight loss, rejuvenation and balance, personal dosha ayurveda and simple spa gateways. From a treatment point of view, we have all western treatment such as deep tissue to lomi lomi and ayurveda treatments to thai massage etc and has steam, sauna, hydrotherapy with thermal salt baths etc.
You recently got an award by Tatler Magazine, tell us about that!
The tatler spa award reflects the game changing approach we have taken and the contribution we have made to the wellness industry in really answering what is wellness and bust most of the myths and fad that is todays wellness. It is really significant as we are the only new brand (less than a year old) to win a Tatler award in the history of Tatler. Also, this is the only Tatler award winner in Sri Lanka. Santani is also the only Sri lankan resort to be selected to both CNTs hot list and T+Ls It list as one of the best new resorts of the world.
What else sets Santani apart from other resorts in Sri Lanka?
As for Sri Lanka, there simply is no other similar resort and we have also set ourselves apart by having one of the best setting, most unique and thought out architecture in the country and having the best dining experience in Sri Lanka.