Embracing the Sands of Kalkudah – Jerome Mathieu, Director of Karpaha Sands

The French Hotelier, Jerome Mathieu, entered the Hospitality industry by opening two French restaurants in Kabul and within the French Army Camp on Jalalabad Road. In 2009, he arrived in Sri Lanka to explore business opportunities in the pristine beach on Sri Lanka’s East coast, Kalkudah, and later, on the advice of his Sri Lankan friend, whom he refers to as “Serendipity in Serendipity,” he began to build his dream hotel, Karpaha Sands, and in 2018, he and his long-time friend opened the luxury boutique hotel.

Jerome previously worked for the Football World Cup 98 Organizing Committee, which he describes as “a lot of stress but also a lot of fun!” Following a five-year career at Air France (Revenue Management), he has taken a six-month sabbatical to join a humanitarian mission in Afghanistan. During his five-year stay, he spent two years working in NGOs.

Built on 12-acre land, Karpaha Sands is a luxury boutique hotel with 17 tented suites that offer guests a one-of-a-kind ‘glamping’ experience on Sri Lanka’s most beautiful beach, in private luxury tents surrounded by tranquil and greenery. It exudes a cool and arty vibe, nestled in an old coconut plantation, with an emphasis on nature, local produce, sustainability, a small environmental footprint, and supporting the local community. Being the only hotel on the 15km long Kalkudah Beach, secluded in the middle of virgin greenery, their goal is to provide the guests an unforgettable experience of a hidden paradise in the heart of pristine Kalkudah Bay, with all the privileges and high standards of a luxury hotel but the authenticity, intimacy and uniqueness of a boutique hotel.

According to Jerome, the luxury boutique hotel is an ideal getaway for those who enjoy nature, the beach, and privacy.

“We offer a one-of-a-kind experience in Sri Lanka, with 250m of beachfront and 17 tented suites on 12 acres – each with at least 55 SQM of internal space, a terrace, a bathtub, and an outdoor shower. Our goal is to provide the customer with an experience that blends with nature while protecting our guests’ privacy – the suites are separated by a large distance.

“Moreover, the Kalkudah Bay is the best-preserved beach I’ve seen in Sri Lanka, with the fantastic Madelle net fishing activity every day and Eastern Province Kabbadi teams training in front of Karpaha Sands on occasion. We also provide some very intimate and one-of-a-kind experiences, such as our beach BBQ on the beach or our cinema under the stars, among many others.

“Guests often compare the experience at Karpaha Sands to that of the Maldives. It’s also been compared to a Robinson Crusoe adventure (but with AC!!!). Besides, there are numerous art pieces throughout the hotel, both indoors and outdoors, making it a unique and interesting find in the country.”

The Hotelier further divulged that the hotel has one of the best cuisines in the island.

Furthermore, Jerome stated that the hotel provides Ayurvedic spa treatments that are relaxing, rejuvenating, and soothing. “We offer traditional Ayurvedic massages on their own or in combination with other treatments such as Kizhi (herb stamps) or Hot Stones. We are working on a wellness package that will include nutrition and yoga, among other things.”

Karpaha Sands is a strong supporter of the Green Economy, as the luxury tents are made from natural materials. “The hotel was designed as a low-environmental-footprint resort, with low density and light structures made of natural materials as much as possible, including a lot of natural stone and wood, and no trees or vegetation were harmed during construction.”

He continued: “We bottle our own treated water for guests in our branded glass bottles and use glass straws to avoid single-use straws, so there is almost no plastic in the hotel. We have our own water and sewage treatment plants, and we recycle all greywater for irrigation.”

In addition to its plant nursery, the Co-founder stated that they produce their own compost for gardening activities and have their own vegetable, fruit, spice, and herb garden. And because the hotel is located on an old coconut plantation, the majority of their coconuts come from their own coconut trees.

Finally, Jerome stated that it has been a difficult time since the hotel’s opening due to the Easter attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic. “We opened in 2018, suffered from the Easter attacks a year later, and then the pandemic, we couldn’t have been luckier as new hoteliers!”

However, he confidently concluded by stating that plans are on board to add more suites when tourism restarts.

“We will expand the hotel, but we will not go beyond approximately 35 suites in order to maintain the hotel’s spirit. We’ll look into Karpaha Heights and Karpaha Wild later.

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