Julie & John

England, January/February 2019

What did you like most about Sri Lanka?

Variety - culture, wildlife, scenery etc.

What did you like least about Sri Lanka?

Some locations overly "touristy" e.g. Ella and Galle.

What is your opinion of your accommodation in Sri Lanka?

Very good.

What is your opinion of your chauffeur guide in Sri Lanka?

Nihal was excellent, very good driver, meticulous attention to detail. 

What is your opinion of your flights to and from Sri Lanka?

Qatar [Airways - Economy Class - London Gatwick] - OK but Dreamliner aircraft uncomfotable. 

Any other comments?

It was brilliant. How you put it all together in such a short time during peak season is a marvel. And I asked for a guide who knew his wildlife - and Nihal was absolutely spot on. He taught us so much about the culture and the wildlife. The safaris were excellent with drivers who just stopped and let us quietly take it all in, listen to the birds feeding in the ponds, and of course when you are still and quiet, all sorts of things come to you, eg elephants in Bundala. Some jeeps were being driven fast and I don't suppose their passengers saw anything. And the lodges had Sri Lankan food.

I have much to praise, but given that you are busy compiling itineraries, could I just warn that the Jetwing Cottage [The Cottage by Jetwing] in Nuwara Eliya is not your best choice. I don't think Jetwing maintain their standards there. The room was cold and damp and the small heater took the two days we were there to make a difference - i.e. the room had not been properly aired before we arrived. I found the hand basin encrusted with scum, the overflow surrounded by black slime, the back where it joins the wall is a bit black and mouldy, the toilet was clean around the seat but inside at the bottom it looked like a public loo (sort of black) - and nothing Domestos and a brush couldn't have handled. I asked for a cloth and cleaning materials to tackle the basin myself - and the Concierge did come and do the handbasin for me. And the glass shelf above the basin was broken and sloping so nothing would stay on it and it kept slipping out of the bracket. The Concierge said the Maintenance staff hadn't fixed it and did prop it up with a bit of cardboard. Then there was the thick grey layer of dust under the wardrobe, the blind that did not work, the rather stained carpet. I say all this because I would like Tikalanka to maintain their standards and not get caught out. Later, when I write the rest of my feedback, you will see huge praise for all the other lodges. [This is the response that we received from Mr Hiran Cooray, Chairman of Jetwing Hotels: "Thanks for copying me in. Looks like we’ve let ourselves, you and much valued guests down. Terribly sorry, and we are ashamed. Those little details is what we’ve done well and this time we’ve failed. Please extend our apologies to the guests. I am copying our operations team to follow up. Yes John, if we have one unhappy guest out of 1000, we cannot be happy. Hence we follow every negative comment. Thanks again for your understanding and confidence in us."]

Would you please pass our thanks to Mr Pathi and to Nihal for the trouble they took in getting us tickets on the train back from Ella to Nuwara Eliya, it was much appreciated. And to Mr Pathi for sharing some of his Johnnie Walker Black Label with me.

It was interesting hearing from Nihal and the other chauffeur guides of how you visit twice a year and they seemed proud to work for Tikalanka. Handovers between the guides in Galle were well handled.

The itinerary was full, nothing skimped, and we were able to express preferences, eg stop or go on so we could have tailor it within the schedule given.

Nihal was excellent. For example we needed to buy a data SIM when we arrived and he organised that at the airport, changing money when we needed was also organised, etc. He was always knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but really came into his own at the wildlife reserves, helping John with photography.

Lodges were a very high standard (except as previously commented on Jetwing Cottage [The Cottage by Jetwing]) and I would have been happy to stay in them for much longer than the one or two nights. After a long journey from the UK, arriving at Kassapa Lion's Rock [Sigiriya] was pretty mind-blowing in the positive sense. And the magic of the fire flies all over the trees and bushes behind our cottage at Hantara Udawalawe.

Early morning safaris are worth it.

There is an interesting path opposite Kassapa Lion's Rock - suggestion - "wildlife" walk either early morning or evening as part of the stay.

Hanthana House [Kandy] - lovely - enjoyed birds and wild boar seen from the balcony.

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