Hotels

Camellia Resort & Spa – Sigiriya

The Camellia Resort & Spa was a decent hotel, with a good location to Sigiriya Citadel and Lion Rock. My only complaint was with the room. The AC was a little too small and took a while to col the room down.

Queenswood Cottage Hotel – Nuwara Eliya

The Queenswood Cottage Hotel is especially well-suited for families or traveling parties of 3-5 people and reasonably priced. The rooms are comfortable – there was a queen-sized bed on the first floor and two twin-sized beds in the loft upstairs. The staff is also friendly, and dinner and breakfast were delicious. The hotel was reasonably priced, as well, especially when compared to the other hotels in the area.

Sri Lanka EcoTours – Yala

We had reserved luxury tents inside Yala a little over a month before our trip. Yet, they canceled our reservation without any explanation within 36 hours. It was very stressful to find out that our reservation had been cancelled and that there was a possibility of us not being able to go on a game drive. I found that especially upsetting as I had gotten a lens especially for the wildlife in Yala. Because of my experience, I’d recommend to avoid Sri Lanka EcoTours.

Traveller’s Home – Tissa

We were lucky that there were a couple of rooms available at Traveller’s Home in Tissa after we found out that Sri Lanka EcoTours cancelled our reservation. They were inexpensive but comfortable, and had an in-house safari tour so that we could go to Yala the next morning. It only took about 45 minutes and we were set with our room and the tour.

The dinner there was ok – I would’ve preferred to go out to eat somewhere else, but we were already very tired and we had to prep for the safari and also go to sleep early enough to wake up at 4AM.

The one snag that we had was the cash only policy. We were pretty short on cash, but we were able to get what we needed out of a nearby ATM, on a 2nd attempt (the first ATM was rejecting all foreign ATMs).

I will say this – the hotel owner/manager, Rani, went above and beyond for us. On top of being very accommodating with respect to the room and the safari, she helped me out of a bind.

I had brought a bean bag to use with my ultra zoom lens, which is so heavy that you have to use a bean to get steady shots, particularly of wildlife. Any lens bean bag needs to be filled with something like rice or sunflower seeds so that the bag flexibly wraps around and keeps the camera/lens steady. I had decided before the trip that it would simply be more prudent to buy rice locally, and I did, in Kandy. The only problem was that I got 1kg and that wasn’t enough. I also didn’t find out about this until 9PM the night before the safari. Oops.

The rice that I got only filled up a quarter of the bag. So, I asked Rani if I could use some rice from their kitchen to fill up the bag. She happily obliged, and definitely saved the day.

Liyanage Resort

Calling the Liyanage Resort a “resort” is a massive overstatement. The rooms are more like a hostel room’s with a private bathroom. The one redeeming quality is the location – it is within walking distance to Parrot Rock and Mirissa Beach.

Unfortunately, all the hotels in Mirissa currently are like that. There’s a big chain hotel (I can’t remember if it’s a Marriott or a Hilton) being built there, but the location is not great.

Villa Republic Galle – Galle

Villa Republic is a wonderfully luxurious, and a welcome change after the last few hotels that we stayed at. Since there were three of us, we had to book a suite (which made a bit more expensive than the other rooms, but still reasonably priced). The beds were extremely comfortable, and we had our own private entrance, with a balcony and a patio.

The cuisine was pricey, so we didn’t have dinner there, but the breakfast (included with the room) was one of the most delicious meals I have ever had. (It was certainly the most delicious Sri Lankan cuisine dishes).

It was honestly one hotel in my whole trip (to both Sri Lanka and Myanmar) that I wanted to spend more time at, and will probably return to in the future. I don’t think my words could do it justice, so I’ll leave pictures here.

 

Tour

Tea Tours – Mackwoods Tea Factory

Mackwoods Tea Factory has tours for visitors to see their factory, like most of the other tea factories in the area. My problem with Mackwoods, though, is that they treat certain people with extreme disrespect (they are extremely proud that they played host to British Royalty a couple of years ago).

My experience was that I arrived on-site, outside of where the tours begin at 8:30AM. Since tours don’t start until 9, I was photographing the hills outside. All of a sudden, at 8:47, I was told by an employee (who wasn’t the tea factory guide) that a tour had started, at the request of a group’s tour guide who said that his British clients were in a hurry, but that I was welcome to join them. I spent a few seconds swapping out my lens, and running towards the group. I was chastised for being late, and when I pointed out that they were starting at unscheduled times, her response was “that’s not our problem”. I was also yelled at for “not keeping up with the group”  because I took pictures as the group started walking towards the next part of the tour. Normally, I’d understand – tours don’t like it when people linger, but when the group was there, my view of whatever was being shown was obstructed and so I tried to be polite and take pictures within 15 seconds of the walk to the next area.

At the end of the tour, my mother asked why the factory’s tea processing machines weren’t running, and the tour guide said that none of the tea factories run their machines “during the holidays”. We took this at face value, but found it 100% false when we visited Bluefield Tea Factory.

Because of their attitude towards normal (and non_British) people, I would say to avoid this tea factory.

Tea Tours – Bluefield Tea Factory

I would highly recommend visiting Blue Field Tea Factory. Their tours run every 20 minutes, and are thorough. The tour guide is also extremely patient and knowledgeable (he certainly didn’t berate the few late people). The tours showed the tea processing machines running, and we saw the different types of teas that they produce. On top of their tours being better, I also appreciated the complimentary samples of their teas before purchasing them. Additionally, they have a well-priced cafeteria which was helpful, since there were no other restaurants nearby (and we were in a rush to get to Tissa).

Yala Safari/Game Drive with Traveller’s Hotel

Most of my review is under the hotel section for Traveller’s Hotel. However, the game drive that they provided is worth mentioning. Things that make

Whale Watching with Geet

I would strongly recommend using Whale Watching with Geet as your whale watching tour operator in Mirissa. On my tour, the folks there were knowledgeable about where the whale would potentially surface by using their experience and GPS. Our boat was the first to spot the blue whale that I saw that day, and using GPS, they were able to predict where the whale would end up when it came up for air the rest of the morning. Additionally, they followed protocol about not getting too close to the whale. This is important to me, as it should be to everyone. Aside from the fact that it’s only right to give animals some space, especially on their turf, antagonizing a whale can lead to disastrous results for the offender. Furthermore, Whale Watching with Geet was very good with passenger well-being and safety. Not only did they hand out sea sick pills free of charge before we started from the docks, they also brought us back promptly after receiving the call that the waters were too choppy to continue.

 

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