I had a 3 week package at this hotel with Mercury Direct, who obviously failed to inspect the property properly, as it was incredibly run-down and shabby, and had unrepaired broken windows etc. from a big storm a few weeks before. The so-called "refurbished deluxe rooms" were spacious and clean with new blinds and modern air-con, but they failed to provide anywhere for guests to hang or store their clothes, except a wooden rail with a few hangers on it. I immediately asked for another room and was given an unrefurbished one, very clean and perfectly satisfactory as it had an enormous built-in wardrobe. There are TVs in the rooms but they only show local stations, and the so-called mini-bar is just a noisy old fridge.
I loved the beach, with its colourful fishing boats and many more moored offshore, but the water was badly polluted with diesel, so swimming resulted in sore eyes, sore throat and eventually chest congestion. However there is another beach half a mile along the lane which is unpolluted. The offshore reef is just a swim away, there is some live coral but you need to swim with a local guide who will show you where it is. I found the locals very helpful, particularly a young man named Lalith Manjula (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), who speaks excellent English and is a mine of information, and can take you to places of interest without trying to rip you off.
The hotel food was excellent, particularly the Sri Lankan specialities (try the delicous dhall curry and string hoppers at breakfast), but as I was on all-inclusive, I have no idea of the cost of meals and drinks. Staff were pleasant and helpful, except for the very rude, aggressive manager, who had a vendetta against me as I broke the hotel rules! I used a computer my first day but was charged Rs.500 for an hour, when the price in a local internet cafe is only Rs.50-100. Wi-fi is available but no doubt at a high price!
If you are planning to do whale-watching, then I recommend the best operator, Raja and the Whales (www.rajaandthewhales.com). Raja the captain is conducting research into blue whales and knows exactly where to find them, unlike the other operators who just try to follow his boat. On my two trips I saw many blue whales, as well as orca, two kinds of dolphins and green turtles. It's an unforgettable experience, particularly the sound of blue whales breathing!
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