Paul & Ruth

England, August/September 2014

What did you like most about Sri Lanka?

The diversity of the country.

What did you like least about Sri Lanka?

The expectation that British tip but not other countries!

What is your opinion of your accommodation in Sri Lanka?

98 Acres [Resort, Ella] - Amazing! Would have loved to have stayed there longer.

Ratnakara (our private villa) - Truly fantastic!

Deco on 44 [Galle] - Well situated and friendly staff.

Kulu Safaris [Yala] - Very good staff. Pradeep superb host /guide - food good.

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

See below.

Any other comments?

I thought I would give you a brief review of our recent holiday with your company in Sri Lanka.

You may recall I called you after receiving your quotation, to ask why you were so much more expensive than your competitors. You explained and reassured me, that every aspect of your itinerary and your guides were the best. Unfortunately based on our recent experience and our previous holidays we are somewhat disappointed.

Our holiday started by being greeted by your guide [Kapila] and taken in a standard family car to a café, after being told after a few minutes into the journey that he had a fever and was feeling very unwell! He was unable to continue to take us further as he needed blood tests but to worry as he had his brother [Yapa] to take over who was a guide and so there would be no problem. At one stage he said his head was as hot as a hot plate and rested his head on the steering wheel! Well, you can imagine our reaction, we were worried we were in a car with him and may have caught whatever he had, thankfully this was not the case, but I do not believe that this is the kind of reception one expects. [Kapila was ill, unbeknownst to Tikalanka. After visiting hospital, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and has been off work since. John met up with him in Kandy in October 2014 and, thankfully, he is well on the road to recovery. This was an unfortunate incident as an introduction to the tour but extremely difficult for Tikalanka to manage since Kapila fell ill unexpectedly.]

His brother did his best but offered little commentary only offering information when questioned. Unfortunately one day, he informed us that he had lost his money so asked us for a 'sub' which of course we did. He called in at the bank the next day and paid us back. However, on arrival at 98 Acres [Resort, Ella], he asked for yet another sub!!!! Strange to say the least as he had already called in at the bank that day.
Another disappointment was our visit to Sigiriya Rock. The itinerary clearly stated that we would have an early morning start to visit the Sigiriya Rock to see the sunrise but he said he would pick us up at 8.00am, it was only when my wife looked at the itinerary that evening that we realised the mistake. He informed us that we were staying too far away to make the sunrise and when he has done the sunrise trip before he has stayed a lot closer!!!

On arrival at the rock your guide asked if it was alright by us if another guide took us up as he had a long drive. He had arranged for another friend/guide to take us up the rock! Well what could we say he guaranteed us he was good! So we started the climb and before we knew what was happening my wife and I had 4 people helping us up the steps, we tried to push them away but they were persistent! At no time were we warned about this and told this may happen and that they would expect a tip! Initially we offered them 100 rubies [rupees] tip after several times asking both guides how much? They were visibly upset by this and in the end we gave them 1000 rubies and thought that this was £10. Unfortunately we made this mistake at other times as I am not very good at maths with the conversion rates! [Yapa was arranged as the substitute guide. His request for overnight loans was unacceptable and this behaviour is not condoned by Tikalanka. We have not received a satisfactory response from Yapa so Tikalanka can only apologise for his actions unreservedly. As a guide, he has received positive comments from past customers, as noted in our online feedback pages. However, Tikalanka will ensure that Yapa understands that he must never request money from customers, the itinerary must be adhered to at all times and his participation in activities is a fundamental part of his job. Thank you for bringing these points to our attention.]

Our next disappointment was that there were no train tickets available, your partner [Pathi] said that you always tell clients this is possible, but you only stated it may not be possible to get into the observation carriage only. We were informed by your partner that not to worry as we would not miss much and offered complimentary tea and chocolate cake. He said we may be able to get tickets at the Ella station and do the second part by train. Your guide however made it quite clear to us that it was very unlikely we would get tickets and we would have to queue for a very long time! We were given lunch as a way of making up for not getting on the train. [Observation Carriage tickets are limited in number and difficult to book particularly during the high season. It is unfortunate that our office in Sri Lanka was unable to purchase tickets for you and Tikalanka is sorry that you missed the opportunity of a train journey.]

Another disappointment was in the safari in Minneriya National Park where we were hoping to see 400 or so elephants, we saw just 4! Obviously this is not in your control as we were told the weather was the reason for this, however, there were so many jeeps around, we were told that up to 350 jeeps per day entered the park! Something we did not expect as we had informed you we did not want this as our past experiences had been somewhat different! Once again we apologise for the tip which we once again converted wrong! We did see 4 elephants which was more than some people saw.

We had an amazing time at our organised stay in Matara when we were picked up by your original guide Kapila he was much better than his brother and it was a shame he was not with us for the whole experience. Our time in Yala park was a positive experience with our guide and the people from Kulu Safaris looking after us so well. Unfortunately it was marred with the fact that the park closed on Sept 1st and had done for the past few years! Yet we were booked in there to have a morning safari? Kulu Safaris made up for it by giving us a longer drive out one morning but if you knew there was a potential for it to be closed why were we not informed of this as it was still put in our itinerary! [There is a respite closure of Yala West National Park on an annual basis in September/October, although the dates are not fixed. In fact, in 2011, the park did not close at all. Kulu Safaris is our chosen wildlife camping specialist in Yala and knowledge of park closures ultimately is the responsibility of Kulu Safaris since it provided the safari camp. If you were unable to complete a jeep safari due to closure of Yala, then Kulu Safaris should have offered you an alternative jeep safari in Bundala National Park, which is close by and has been offered as an alternative to past customers of ours.]

We have never ever written to a company after our experience of a holiday to share our disappointment! We have always gone with a company that has helped us produce an itinerary together that is tailor made to our interests and past experiences. We have usually written to say thank you for such a great experience and passed this on to our friends. It is with sadness that this holiday was a disappointment in places. [Tikalanka responded to this letter in good faith and sent a goodwill gesture.]

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