“Pieces of eight, pieces of eight” is an expression one might expect from a pirate’s parrot but not a cheeky green parakeet in the middle of an ancient lake reservoir, Siyabala Weva, surrounded until 1983 by Tamarind trees. The lake is the original training ground for the King’s soldiers and a water supply that fed the ancient paddy fields. “Give me a kiss, chutemanike” he cries out and I learn, over sweet tea, that the chatty parakeet’s name, Manike, is known to come from the olden days and literally means, when used by a husband referring to his wife, ‘very lovely and special.’
I am surprised, as I suck on fruit-dipped in chilli and a little bit of sugar, that it is a parrot talking and leaving little space for her owner to explain more about this enchanting jungle area. P.W Nimal, who lives on the best bit of the lake, helps with the water buffalo crossing in front of the hotel just before sunset, and lives an idyllic life off the produce of the surrounding area. He gets rice from the paddy fields, jungle fruits and more than 60 wild, as well as home grown, herbs and spices, which his wife uses in her cooking to create a symphony of tastes in their daily rice and curry.
The leftovers are eaten by Manike who is rather partial to rice and, between mouthfuls, is happy to give anyone a free Singhalese lesson as long as he gets lots of kisses from his owner, Nimal, at the end and, well, another handful of rice. This is one bird that has learnt that henpecking gets you pretty much everything you want including living next door to a exciting new five star nature resort, Jetwing Lake whose official opening is this week. When the bird is asleep which is rare, Nimal puts his head right up to the bird’s cheek when he wakes up for a kiss, with no fear of having it pecked. In fact, it is obvious that the bird adores his owner, being happy to trim his beard and give him a head massage with his well-manicured claws, used from time to time to steal his wife’s safety pins and a Singhalese lesson to hotel guests wishing to brush up on the local lingo. The parrot only got upset if his tail was tweaked or, like a small child, if he was ignored, which put his tail totally out of joint.
The gem of a hotel naturalist Bandara or amazing General Manager of Jetwing Lake Indika can organise for you to meet the areas celebrity bird and set up many other unique experiences that will make you want to stay longer and return sooner.