Yvonne & Brendan

Wales, August 2018

First and foremost we would like to thank you for organising a wonderful holiday in Sri Lanka. This was not a style of holiday we would usually organise but we have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and everything was well organised. Overall, we are very pleased with Tikalanka. Our driver was brilliant and very helpful. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, with lovely, friendly people. However, unspoiled it is not, even during our stay in the jungle and the eco places, we found plastic and rubbish wherever we went. We found that disturbing, even more so on the beaches where I collected bags full of plastic every time we went for a walk (at least twice each day). This is very sad.

In this feedback for you we have decided to go through the itinerary day by day/or by accommodation/ venue.

Our flight with Emirates was very pleasant and the changeover at Dubai, although a bit rushed, easy to do. [Economy Class - London Heathrow]

On arrival in Colombo we were met by our driver/guide/translator/trouble-shooter. [Sateesh]  He was very polite and his English good. (100% better than my knowledge of sinhali!)

Our first night and last night stay at Villa Araliya, Negombo was lovely, very clean, friendly and a lovely swimming pool.

We then stayed 3 nights at the Polwaththa Eco Lodges in Kandy. This was as described, very eco, basic but clean. The staff very helpful.  The food plentiful and good.  Our guide for the jungle walks (Charles) was particularly helpful and knowledgeable. We had near enough continuous rain for our first 5 days in Sri Lanka.  Due to this the solar panels did not work and we had no hot water in our lodge. Charles made sure that the water was heated in a barrel and we could have a shower in another lodge.

Our next two night stay at the Royal River Resort in Kitulgala was amazing. The views, the raging river underneath our windows and the dug- out swimming pool. Again the staff were lovely, although it seemed that the whole show there was run by just three young men who lived on site.

This boutique place needs a bit of TLC but it is very charming, I am sure it would look and smell a lot better if it had not been raining for so long.

In the guestbook there were many references to the lovely food and in particularly the great curry this hotel serves. Unfortunately we did not get to choose from this a la carte menu and instead had only three choices of very western food for both meals. The food was good, but a real shame we did not get to have a choice. Again, the staff were very helpful and polite.

On 18th August we were meant to go on our very much anticipated White water rafting trip. This was cancelled due to the dam being opened that morning. Although we totally understand this is a safety issue and could not be helped, we felt that on our arrival on the afternoon of the 17th, rather than taking the forest walk we could have gone rafting then as there were plenty of rafts on the water. The staff at the resort where we waited several hours did not seem to be too helpful to our guide who tried hard to organise something. These two days had a lot of waiting / sitting around. Our driver spend a fair bit of time on the phone to organise an alternative on another day in another resort, which was a water safari, which did not really make up for the adrenaline potential activity of rafting, nor was that our kind of outing!

We did walk to a cave but I do not believe that it was the Belilena cave as there was no evidence of any remains, or even information, you could not go in there either. I am not sure if the driver even knew what we were doing that day, but we had a nice short walk to a cave style temple.

The next leg of our journey was the train ride to Ella, we started in the rain and as we went towards the plains, the sun arrived and for the first time on this holiday did we get some sunshine!  This train journey was lovely and certainly recommended. Our next stay was at Clove Tree Cottage, this was a great place on the tea plantation. We went to visit the tea plantation’s small scale factory, and did the tour and took part in the tea tasting event! Highly recommended! The hosts here were amazing, the food superb and the view from our cottage was breath-taking. We walked most of the routes displayed in our welcome pack and went swimming in the waterfall splash pool. Really rather nice. We walked up Ella Rock, from our cottage which was a lovely climb through forest passed a monastery until we arrived at the top were it was packed with tourist. The path down was very busy (lots of litter!) but a great experience to walk for a fair few miles on a railway track with a passing train! The son of our host at Clove Tree Cottage came to collect us from Ella town with his on tuk tuk! He was great, we rather spend the money on the people we stayed with. He took us down the backroads making it a spectacular journey home. This is a place I would like to visit again as the tea estate is becoming a cooperative  run by the locals, the children attend an after school English class and they are keen to make their country a sustainable, future-proof and beautiful tourist destination as well as a great place to live. The owner is also keen to start French lessons for the people who work and live on the estate to ensure all can communicate with the majority of visitors who stay.

Our next stay was 5 nights at Kudakalliya [Arugam Bay], an amazing place, with the ocean on one side and the river with the elephants and crocodiles, eagles, monkeys on the other. Breakfast here was the best and most plentiful we have ever had! The rooms were clean and the view from our balcony one in a million.

However, our only big gripe is about this wonderful place. Its beautiful position meant it was an 8 km round trip walk on the beach (which we did everyday quite happily to go surfing and swimming and enjoy a cocktail or two and Wi-Fi and telephone reception!). Because we did not want to walk on the beach after dark ,we chose to stay at the lodge for our dinner as we were asked by our hosts if we wanted. We were not given a menu just suggestions made of what we could eat and then we agreed a style of food. As the hosts were so accommodating we assumed this was normal and we had great dinners prepared for us in a most wonderful setting of the veranda overlooking the river and the elephants grazing! However when we settled our bill at the end for these dinners we were shocked to find out is was 24300rp!! The first night BBQ was over 8000R nearly 2.5 x as expensive as anywhere else we had dinner! We were understandable upset about this, but it felt rude to argue the case there, and we feel that it should be pointed out to future guests that the food here is very, very expensive!

Our next accommodation was a tree house at Saraii Village [Tissamaharama]. A lovely concept of a tree house and we had a lovely night’s stay.  No hot water in the shower, some extra guests in our toilet (frogs) and some lovely homemade soap for us to try!

We also had a massage, which was lovely. It does feel somewhat contrived here, trying too hard to be authentic, it does not work. Food here was ok, not great, staff friendly but not over helpful.Of all the places this felt the most commercial. It stated that the pool had no chemicals in, this is not correct, if anything the mixture of chemicals was wrong and too much of it and I was feeling unwell after each swim (we have over 20 years of experience in the leisure industry…..) Our jeep safari in Bundala Park was interesting and the guide was knowledgeable, his English adequate.

On day 17 we stayed at Apa Villa Illuketia [Galle], what a find!  This is what I had been hoping for to experience! A traditional plantation owner’s house. So sumptuous, tranquil and the swimming pool at the end of the garden was a gem! From the pool you could witness the quarrelling monkeys! We stayed for dinner on the first evening and had dinner in Galle town the second night. Our driver dropped and collected us. He had wanted to guide us round, but we needed some exploring on our own!

Our return journey to UK was good , even the delays and the near missing of our connecting flight was managed by the staff of Dubai airport with special people guiding us to a nearby bus to take us across the terminals.!!

Another sore point was the amount of tipping! This was explained to us after we booked and paid with your, the driver alone was an extra £100, the individual tipping of everyone who provided a service began to become a rather troublesome, unpleasant experience for us. Any one person was not a lot of tip, 50 p for a bag etc etc, but it does all add up over the period of 20 days with two bags carried in and out, any guide, driver, waiter etc…….

We are aware this is a long and very detailed review. We had a marvellous holiday and already have recommended Tikalanka to several of our friends. We hope that the points raised in our review will be dealt with.

If you would like any more information with regards to our comments, in particularly our stay at Kudakalliya we are more than happy for you to contact us. We have kept the receipts for this stay.

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