Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kalpitiya

Having read that the NYTimes recommended Kalpitiya as a top place to visit in 2013, we decided to make it a destination while in Colombo this year. Not surprisingly the recommendation was spot-on and our stay at Dolphin Beach Resort in this part of Sri Lanka was too wonderful not to share. We experienced three of the most unforgettable days and nights during this trip. We had amazing up-close encounters with wildlife; dolphins and whales in the Indian Ocean and leopards, deer, alligators, and birds in nearby (one hour drive) Wilpattu National Park. Our needs were catered to in every way by the hotel staff. And unique to this resort we enjoyed highly romantic, outdoor accommodation in a Moroccan-style tent atop polished concrete foundation. Our dedicated servers Bandhara and Isuru were extremely attentive to all of us and fast friends with our toddler.  Additionally Manura, the property manager was a thorough and fantastic host.

We arrived the end of April, the beginning of the off-season. Occupancy was low and personal attention was correspondingly high. We had reserved a one bedroom tent, but moved to a two bedroom for no additional cost so our daughter could have our own room. Rates are on a per person basis, not based on the number of rooms of the tent. The food was outstanding and varied from Italian to Thai-like curries to Sri Lankan cuisine. We did have one problem with our tent - an ant infestation in one of the flaps - that was immediately addressed. We were offered another tent but opted to remove the problem flap and stay where we were. Note: If you do not like insects, frogs or geckos, you might not enjoy staying in this type of outdoor/open-air resort.

Our first morning, Manura failed to wake us, as requested, for the dolphin tour. Initially I was annoyed but then I learned he had decided not to disturb our sleep as the weather was not conducive to spotting dolphins. He was particularly conscientious of us having a toddler and wanting it to be a positive experience. The second morning we did go on the tour and saw some dolphins and whales(!) which was fantastic. Then on our third morning, which Manura had told us upon our arrival, would be the best from a weather perspective we went again and saw hundreds of dolphins. During peak season thousands of dolphins are seen daily. His consideration of our needs with a young child were greatly appreciated. This level of pro-active customer service was above and beyond what we are accustomed to in the US and truly light years apart from anything else in Sri Lanka.

While Dolphin Beach Resort stands apart, it would be negligent to fail to mention some of the downfalls of the area. First, the hotel is located in the midst of a stretch of windmills. While this somewhat marred the landscape, in support of sustainable, clean, independent energy, we were not bothered. However, the Chinese-built coal plant destroying the otherwise picturesque panorama farther down the peninsula was less forgivable. And then of course there is the trash all over the beach. Trash disposal along the beaches, while typical throughout the island, is something that is hard to overlook.

In spite of this, whether you live in Sri Lanka or plan to travel to Sri Lanka, Kalapitiya and the Dolphin Beach Resort, in particular are well worth a visit.

Know Before You Go:
  • The resort serves beer and wine but does not have a liquor license. You are welcome to bring your own.
  • Dolphin Tours have a higher charge if you are not staying at the hotel. They also have a wildlife reserve charge. Sri Lankan citizen/resident rates are lower than foreign rates but valid ID is required. They are best/only in the morning. Prepare to wake up early.
  • The infinity pool is not on-site but at the sister hotel, a 15 minute walk or 5 minute tuk-tuk ride (free of charge) down the beach.

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