By Naveed Rozais
When one thinks of Jaffna, images of the iconic Nallur Kovil, palms swaying in the wind, and old-world charm spring to mind.
Fox Jaffna is an example of the old-world charm of Jaffna coming together with world-class hospitality to create a truly memorable travel experience. A stunning boutique hotel operated by Fox Resorts, the hospitality arm of The Capital Maharaja Organisation, Fox Jaffna evokes a sense of comfort and tranquillity, from the moment you walk through its doors.
The heart of Fox Jaffna is an ancestral home with a rich history, at times turbulent. Over 200 years old, during the three-decade civil war, the property was seized by both the LTTE forces and the Sri Lankan Military. The LTTE used the property as their intelligence headquarters and built three concrete bunkers within the property itself, which at one time, led to strategic points in Jaffna, but have since been sealed off and repurposed to add to the Fox Jaffna experience. Government forces too used the premises as their intelligence headquarters, once they regained control of the Northern peninsula. It was returned to its owners at the end of the conflict and has been lovingly restored to create what is now Fox Jaffna.
Spread out over an expansive and immaculately-manicured garden, Fox Jaffna consists of the ancestral villa which greets its guests, the large storerooms of old that have been restored and converted into a spacious dining room and clusters of modern villas built to create beautifully appointed rooms with enchanting views across the pool and gardens.
The Sunday Morning Brunch visited Fox Jaffna on a recent trip to the North, indulging in the warm and friendly hospitality provided by the Fox Jaffna team. Our tour of the hotel included a walk through the villa and its four deluxe rooms and an intriguing tour of the last remaining bunkers at the Fox Jaffna property.
Interestingly, these last two bunkers have been converted into a unique art gallery and a history museum, turning reminders of a turbulent past into an interesting tribute to Sri Lanka’s art and the vibrant history of Jaffna
The art gallery, named ‘The Bunker’, which is under the main house, showcases never-before seen works of Sri Lanka’s eminent masters including those of the famed ’43 Group. This underground (literally) art gallery showcases reproductions of Sri Lankan paintings from the private collection The Capital Maharaja Organisation and Fox Resorts Chairman R. Mahendran. The collection features the work of prolific artists like George Keyt, David Paynter, Justin Deraniyagala among many others. Sri Lankan art plays an important part at Fox Jaffna, with art from these renowned artists adorning the halls of the public areas, gallery and the bedrooms.
The history museum, named ‘The Vault’ which is located under the dining room, tells a visual history of Jaffna and its landmarks, dating from prehistoric times through to the civil war era, becoming a resource of sorts on things to see and do in Jaffna. The museum also is home to numerous historic artefacts from the Peninsula, each telling the story of what came before.
Speaking on the opening of the museum, Fox Resorts CEO Chris Quyn shared that “Jaffna is a hidden gem in terms of history, with significant heritage sites and multicultural elements long predating the civil war. Our vision in opening this museum was to showcase the diversity of Jaffna and the rich heritage of Sri Lanka”
Fox Jaffna consists of a total of 28 rooms, with four deluxe rooms, located in the ancestral villa and 24 superior rooms located in the gardens overlooking the pool and the dining room. The pool at Fox Jaffna is the best-rated pool in the district and is its own little refreshing oasis within the tranquillity of the Fox Jaffna gardens.
The rooms at Fox Jaffna are beautifully appointed, with each room having its own sitting area, the most luxurious queen bed, a minibar, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, and conveniently placed sockets for your electronics. Fox Jaffna’s deluxe and superior rooms all offer the same amenities, with the difference between the two, being that the deluxe rooms are located in the ancestral and come with slightly larger bathroom space, while the superior gardens are located across the gardens and boast beautiful views overlooking the pool.
Fox Jaffna’s multicuisine restaurant specialising local delicacies like Jaffna style crab curry, mutton “porial”, “vendiya kolumbu”, “kool” soup and an array of fresh seafood prepared in the delicate, classic style that best captures its natural flavour. Our personal favourites were the fluffy yet crispy dosas and Fox Jaffna’s truly spectacular prawn curry.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fox Resorts Head of Sales and Marketing Sadhana Vikrantha spoke on the impacts of tourism in Jaffna, sharing that “In general, we are seeing less travel at present, because of closed borders preventing business travellers and international NGO travellers from overseas coming through. But others are compensating for this, with locals and locally-based NGO travellers travelling within Sri Lanka more.
“Fox Jaffna is always ready to welcome guests,” Vikrantha shared, “all precautionary measures are being strictly followed to create a safe and relaxing space for our guests ”
PHOTOS Saman Abesiriwardana