A close comparison to physically jumping into an interactive video game the escape rooms in Colombo have taken the local entertainment industry abuzz. This week we delve into the inner workings of those mysterious four walls and hope to uncover what has Colombo humming about this latest fad. Located down Bethesda Place in Bambalapitiya, ‘Escape [...]


For the mystery buffs and escape artistes

Could you get out in time from Ari’s secret attic ? Tarini Pilappitiya catches up with the brains behind Colombo’s latest experience – Escape Colombo

A close comparison to physically jumping into an interactive video game the escape rooms in Colombo have taken the local entertainment industry abuzz. This week we delve into the inner workings of those mysterious four walls and hope to uncover what has Colombo humming about this latest fad.


Located down Bethesda Place in Bambalapitiya, ‘Escape Colombo’, rumored to be the first official escape room established in Sri Lanka in July 2017, is the brainchild of Nilshana Jayamaha. She and her husband Dileepa De Silva currently reside abroad and have handed over the management of the room to their friends Shanika Perera and Nigel Cassell – a couple who also own their own PR and Event Management company.

The rather ordinary looking room is filled with fascinating mechanisms and calls for a team of 2 to 8 players to book an available time slot in order to play. On arrival the teams are briefed, handed a walkie talkie, a clipboard, pen and an intriguing story and are then proceeded to be locked inside a room. Each team is given a total of 60 minutes where they must hunt clues and solve puzzles in order to find a way out.

All the puzzles in the rooms are linked to a story line. The concept of the room revolves around “Mr. Ari’s Secret Attic,” Mr. Ari being an enigmatic art collector of sorts.

Shanika or Nigel are situated outside the room and will be the team’s eyes and ears carefully monitoring their progress through CCTV cameras. Throughout the course of the game they will hand out 2 clues (the walkie talkie used for this matter).

“Nilshana and Dileepa are escape room buffs,” Shanika laughs recalling having taken part in an escape room herself when they visited Malaysia a couple of years back.

We converse with Shanika and Nigel in the sunny ‘briefing room’ of the house, where teams are given instructions by the organizers before they head in.

The genius of the room is held in high esteem, with ‘Escape Colombo’ receiving a rave of reviews by word of mouth and social media. The novelty of the experience isn’t lost on the enthusiastic groups who still visit with Shanika informing us that many teams still get stumped from the sheer “Complexity of the room”.

“The response has been great” Nigel grins, sharing that ‘Escape Colombo’ has attracted a variety of teams from corporates, families to friends etc. With no standard age group the organisers recommend that participants be at least 14 years and over (owing to the complexity of the puzzles). The hype at ‘Escape Colombo’ has also reached the ears of many tourists who pay a visit to the room to try their hand at understanding Mr. Ari’s antics.


“It’s a great team building exercise,” Nigel shares adding that some companies bring larger groups of teams who are then broken up into 2 or 3 groups. “We ask for half an hour between groups of this volume,” Shanika says adding “this is mainly to prepare for the next team and re-organize the room to its initial position.” Roughly open from 10 am to 6 pm Shanika and Nigel happily inform us that timings are flexible depending on the team’s situation. However, “Bookings must be made 24 hours in advance at least” Shanika affirms.

Shanika and Nigel unanimously agree that watching the teams compete and the hubbub that goes on within those four walls are as entertaining as the game itself. The lucky teams who complete the escape with the best time are given a slot on the prestigious black board dubbed the “Wall of Fame”.

For the losing teams the response is usually “Haiyoo why didn’t we see that!” Nigel chuckles adding win or lose “We try to give them a positive atmosphere to compete in.” Their successful localized escape room has received much patronage from their foreign guests who have compared the intricately organized concept to those of international standards.

“We couldn’t even imagine doing a non-franchise concept here in Sri Lanka” Shanika shares recalling the time Nilshana put forth the idea. The husband and wife reveal that Investing their time and effort into a relatively new venture in the entertainment industry was an initial risk they were willing to take. When asked what motivated them to keep managing Escape Colombo Nigel is matter of fact in his response “Everything that has been done in the country by our industry is similar in nature,” he says, “Being an event management company being competitive you either bring down a popular artist, host an event etc”. What ultimately won them over was the novelty of the concept and the ‘think outside the box’ situation.

“It’s always nice to see different people working together,” Shanika shares whether its teams of mothers and daughters, coworkers etc. Nigel adds that teams should understand the importance of each member and utilize each ones skills. Even the resident jokester is essential with Nigel shrugging “This game can get intense and in those 60 minutes you need someone to crack the ice.”

“They never know what to except,” Shanika delightedly says that her favorite moment is when people immediately enter the room and are baffled. The room has roughly an average of 100 visitors a month with the couple getting calls for bookings months in advance.

Keys or clues ? -Pix by Athula Devapriya

Possibly at the tail end of this year the organizing team are hoping to say their final farewell to Mr. Ari’s room and start designing a new room. Hoping to attract larger audiences and new demographics, the team at ‘Escape Colombo’ was even approached by a school who wished to combine their syllabus into the room’s concept allowing students a more practical hands on school lesson.

“This is a great team building exercise and something to keep people active,” Nigel shares with Shanika adding “I’m really happy that people have been open to this homegrown escape room and are challenging themselves,” adding that many take it in the stride of an amazing race- esque escape room. The only advice the couple is willing to divulge to future teams is “Sometimes things are in the most obvious places” they enigmatically state “Look closely”.

For more information check out their Facebook page –
facebook.com/escapecolombo/ Teams of 2 will be charged
Rs. 1500 per head, whereas teams of 3 and above will be priced at Rs. 1000 per person. You can find escape Colombo at 15/1, Bethesda Place, Bambalapitiya.

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