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James Jayasundera

Founder & Managing Director

James Jayasundera 1

James was brought up in Rome, the son of a Sri Lankan diplomat father and an English mother, and has been travelling in style all his life. His childhood summers were spent enjoying grand tours of Sri Lanka and India. Both countries completely stole his heart and from a young age he was organising cultural tours of the region for his friends. He soon began organising tours for their friends and family, and their friends and family. Ampersand is a natural extension of that early desire to share this incredible region with others.

Although he loves his comfort he is not blinded by 5-star luxuries. It is that indefinable quality that makes something special which he is always on the look-out for; those small details that elevate a travel experience from the ordinary to the unforgettable. His tours are luxurious… often exquisitely so! But this is not at the expense of cultural exploration. He believes you can have both.

Travel has always been James’s passion. Whilst at school he won a scholarship from the Savoy Hotel in London and went on to university in Scotland to study Hotel and Tourism Management. On graduation he moved to Namibia and was a member of the founding team that launched and ran Wolwedans Safari Camp and later Wolwedans Lodge. He switched career for a stint in the City before founding Ampersand Travel in 2003.

James has explored every corner of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia over the last 40 years, but his two great loves still remain India and Sri Lanka.

QUICK Q&A WITH JAMES

My most luxurious experience…
One persons concept of heaven can be another’s concept of hell, but this is the luxury experience that I have loved the most... 
I was on a walking safari in Namibia in the middle of desert, hundreds of miles from the closest village. I was camping under the stars in a dip in the dunes, but sleeping in a proper bed with a bedside table, rug and oil lamp – it had been transported there to create this completely surreal experience. In the morning I was woken up by the camp chef with a delicious cup of tea and a canvas wash basin filled with hot steaming water to wash and shave. The water had been boiled downwind so that I would not be bothered by the smoke from the fire, and carried several hundred meters across incredibly soft sand so that it could be placed at the foot of my bed. It was so thoughtful, indulgent and pampering – I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a luxury more.

The most spectacular property I have stayed in
The Peninsula Shanghai is one of the most thoughtfully designed hotels I have ever encountered. It combines great design with a deep understanding of what the luxury traveller wants, which is remarkably rare. Every single comfort has been thought of – it really is an extraordinary hotel. Alila Villas Uluwatu in Baliis another favourite, and has the most exhilarating effect on me. But, my most recent favourite is Ballyfin in Ireland; both exquisite and luxurious, I found the whole experience utterly astonishing. 
There are certain places that have such a strong energy, the feeling cannot be translated into mere words… they have to be experienced first-hand!

My most memorable dining experience…
Bhairo, the rooftop restaurant at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. I was having a romatic dinner and completely forgot that it was Diwali. We had a 6 hour firework display. Surrounded by the lake with the City Palace and fireworks reflected in the dark waters was something straight out of a dream.

The most adventurous thing I have done…
I once drunk rice wine out of a human skull at Taksang Monastery in Paro, Bhutan. We were attending a chanting session and at the end of it the head monk offered us this wine and it seemed rude to refuse!

The spot I go back to again and again…
Mumbai, Colombo & Bangkok – I love the energy in these cities plus they feel like a second home as I have my favourite friends, hotels (the Taj Mahal Palace, the Galle Face Hotel and the Metropolitan) and restaurants (Sea Lounge, The Gallery and Nahm) which I love going back to.

For a romantic trip, I would recommend…
I like to feel as if I am at the edge of the world, therefore I would recommend Nihi Sumba Island on the island of Sumba, Indonesia, or for something a little different head to Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar which completely non commercial and captures the essence of India.

For a family holiday, I would recommend…
Sri Lanka – it is where I used to holiday as a child with adventurous parents who took me everywhere. Nothing was considered too dangerous or too difficult. We had the most extraordinary adventures including being charged by tuskers in the jungle and swimming in rivers with crocodiles. We all survived and it taught me and my three sisters to be daring and fearless when travelling.

If money were no object, I would head for…
The Himalayas to go heli-skiing.

One place you must see before you die…
Something that takes your breath way and makes you feel lucky to be alive – for me that was the Chateau Plains in Namib Rand Nature Reserve, Namibia.

James's Favourites

DESTINATION

Summerville Bungalow , Tea Trails , Sri Lanka (7) SRI LANKA

This mango-shaped Indian Ocean island is a bountiful and spirited nation, overflowing with natural wonders, abundant wildlife, sumptuous cuisine, ancient UNESCO World Heritage sites and a rich cultural legacy – from the cool colonial Tea Country and Cultural Triangle in the country’s interior, to the curvaceous caramel sands on the coast. The 17th century Dutch walled fort town of Galle...

HOTEL

NORTH INDIA - Ahilya Fort AHILYA FORT

Ahilya Fort, perched high overlooking the Narmada River, is the most enchanting place to stay. It is the cosy and quirky home of Richard Holkar, whose father was the Maharaja of Indore, and he is the driving force behind Ahilya, passionate about the region's crafts and traditions. The building has been beautifully restored with pale old stone floors, ancient shuttered doors, carved arches and unusual bathrooms…

ITINERARY

South Africa James Jayasunderas Farm Simonsberg CLASSIC SOUTH AFRICA

If you want to soak up the most spectacular stretch of South Africa’s coastline and spot the Big Five in the bush, but also enjoy top-notch luxury, fine food and delectable wines, this classic South African itinerary is a perfect fit. It offers all the highlights – cosmopolitan Cape Town, the pretty garden route and the world-famous Kruger – all bound together with luxurious stays in lavish hotels...

James's Photo Album

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