Been twice to this hotel which speaks for itself. The one downside is that the journey from the airport to the hotel itself takes about 3- 4 hours and when you're tired it seems to go on forever. When you arrive, that is soon forgotten.
We were greeted with a cold drink and sat in the lovely lounge terrace overlooking the grounds while our booking in was processed. We were soon on our way to our room. The two times we have been we have had one of the bungalows at the back of the main building. These are basic but have lovely private gardens which we love. There are loads of chipmunks running around and are cheeky enough to come and pinch crumbs from plates etc.
The main building is set out in a courtyard design with the restuarant/pools/gardens in the middle. No-one sits on the beach which is sandy but rather on the grass by the beach on the sun loungers. In the morning, pick your spot and the chair man will put your lounger where you want it and bring over your mattress. It does get extremely hot so by the afternoon there's always a rush for a space under the trees. For those of a timid nature, we all ran about like headless chickens one day when a giant snake hung down from one of the trees.
The pools are lovely. There is one nearer the beach and another by the side of the restuarant. Just the place to swim and cool off. The sea I must admit can be quite rough at times, and I really recommend taking note of the warning flags. A local drowned a few weeks before we went the second time.
One of the things we enjoyed was waiting for the turtle eggs to hatch. One of the ground boys, marked out where the eggs were laid and the day they were due to hatch. When they hatched they were kept in a pool for a few days and then the guests were asked to carry them to the sea when the tide was right to send them on their way.
If you are expecting heaps of entertainment you may be a bit disappointed. There was croquet, boules, a cooking demo, how to put on a sari display, a bingo night or two and a few disco nights. There where also a couple of nights where local dancers came in but nothing on a large scale. The local town is too far to go really at night as well.
You must go on a trip with the beach boys. I can really recommend them. We have done two trips with them. One to the elephant orphanage/Kandy/tea plantation/orchid House etc and one when we did Sigyria/Dambulla/Elephant riding. They'll tailor make your trip and are really half the price of the tour guides. They do normally prefer a minimum of 4 people for a trip though.
Food is great. I'm really picky but believe me if you can't find something you like then you are really fussy. There are a mixture of local dishes and every night they did a different theme. As a pudding enthusiast, their bread and butter pudding was to die for. The pudding chef apparently came 3rd in the Asian finals. Tea at four around the pool is a chance to try out loads of cakes.
If you want to walk off some of this food, then there are further up the beach small shops where its really worth bartering.
We saw a few brides/grooms riding on the elephants at the hotel and the gardens where the ceremony took place were very pretty.
I do know that one bride had a disaster with her dress and the local ladies saved the day by making a beautiful sari type dress for her and we all agreed it looked beautiful and absolutely original. The beach boys helped out by getting the flowers and so if you find you've forgotten something, get them to help out, they really will.
Can't think of much else to say, other than the room boys make up designs on our bed every day, with flowers and petals.
I also should mention the beach beggars, I know some people are really intimidated by them and it puts them off and you may feel that you are pestered on the beach but as long as you are firm and say no, they do not hassle you like they seem to in the tourist spots, or in Africa.
We made friends with the Sari ladies. They are really poor and their beach saris are so cheap we brought loads. They will look at the colour of your swim wear and bring out the colours to correspond. If you're like me, the temptation is too much and you're talking a couple of quid each. Because we've been back twice, we've reached the stage where the second time we went back, the ladies remembered us and brought their children down to see us. They also gave us a gift of local tea which touched us so much as they have so little. A tip is take some bags of cheap assorted lollypops in your suitcase to give to the children, they really do appreciate it.
We're going back next year and can't wait. Hope you have as good a time as us.
My partner & I were very moved by it!
We are writing a shopping list of goodies to take as we speak, I have been told they are grateful to recieve T-shirts, colouring pens & paper amongst other things. For people who have so little they give so much, it makes me feel very humble!!! We are looking forward to the trip very much especially having read yr post!
Thank you so much for the obvious time and trouble you have gone to with yr story, are you going to the Neptune for a 3rd time then? I have to say there is a lot to be said for a smaller family run establishment than some of the bigger hotel chains dotted around the planet! We too are booked into a bungalow in the grounds along with a group of 10 friends & family coming along to see us marry. We only have 6 days there (including our wedding day) before flying onto Villu Reef, Maldives for a further week. The elephant orphanage is right at the top of our list of things to see, can you recommend the absolute must see's, as we are limited for time?
Once again thankyou for such a wonderfiul insight!
Maybe we can compare notes next year?
Have a good christmas!
Other things I can think of is that if you want some cheaper gifts, if you go out of the hotel and turn right, cross over the road and about 100 metres or so there is a Government shop which is a sort of co-operative where the locals sell their wares. Its not very big but is sometimes a bit cheaper that other places and there's no pressure. A really good buy was a buffalo leather travel bag decorated with elephants which we bartered for and got for £25. We saw just plain leather ones in the shops here for well over £70. We ended up buying two and will need to buy some more for friends who want one as well. We got these at the beach shops, to the right along the hotel beach.
Jewellry is really good value. I buy a ring every time I go, especially gems. And I've valued them here and not been diddled. Last time we went we asked the beach boys to take us to a reasonably priced local jeweller and we were met outside the reception and escorted in a tuk-tuk (an experience to treasure forever, assuming you survive the experience) not far up the road. Rings are beautiful, designs so original and you can design one yourself and well like I say I get one every time.
The Elephant Orphanage is really nice and a must, but it is the tourist place everyone goes to. Sigiriya is wonderful and a must do although if you aren't there long it may not be possible. To climb right up to the top of the rock is definetely not for the faint hearted.
Another lovely trip and very local which we enjoyed was we got the beach boys to take us by boat from the beach up the river. It was really cheap and a nice relaxing morning. We saw some interesting birds and lizards and came across an elephant at another hotel being washed. We stopped the boat and asked to help and me and my friend got in the water, were handed a bit of coconut husk and allowed to clean it while he laid on his side in the river. A great experience.
Most of the staff are men. They all seem really nice, and yes cynical ole me of course they will be cos they want they're tip. But hey wages aren't great. Visit the downstair cocktail bar after a day on the beach about 5.00ish and get Willie Carson (yes, he really does look like him) to make you a cocktail. He does some gorgeous ones and even the non-alcoholic ones are great. If you ask him nicely and for a small fee he'll even organise some hot cashew nuts to eat with them.
Big warning. It does get incredibly hot and you can burn very easily. There were definetely some very red bodied brides and grooms caught out by the sun. So lashings of high factor, some shade so you go that lovely caramel colour rather than the hot lobster look.
I've never been to the Maldives, although I've flown over it and it looks gorgeous.
Of course we love this place but there's no guarantee you will to, as we're all different. But I really really hope you do love it and especially because of how special it will be for you. The nice thing also was that there was a good mixture of ages from young couples to older couples which is really nice as well.
Have a super super time in Sri Lanka, I really do wish you both all my very best wishes and will think of you in February. Post some pictures when you get back.
We spent months trying to work out exactly where we wanted to tie the knot, the option we chose seemed perfect with plenty for our guests to see & do whilst in Sri Lanka but also allowing us to get away to the idyllic pace of the Maldivian islands.
Two of you have come up with the same 2 must see's, Pennuwela & Sigiriyaso I am quite happily going to make those my priority whilst out there. we also recieve a wedding gift of a safari boat trip from the Neptune, so I have plenty to look forward to.
I will be looking out for 'Willie' the barman to see what specialities he can produce for me, to sum up I simply cannot wait & I will post some pics when we get back to remind you what you have to look forward to when you go backnext Christmas!
I expect things are looking a little dodgy for you now for Feb due to the terrible disaster Tsunami that has struck Asia.
We have been to this hotel several times since 1998 and loved it, the staff are especially what makes this place No.1 for us. So you can imagine how uspet we are and desperately in need of news of our friends at the Neptune. I have emailed them for news and will hopefully have some news very soon.
Good luck for whatever you decide to do and I'm so sorry that you may miss out on this beautiful, beautiful hotel and country.
I have heard so many nice reports about the Sri Lankans. It is an absolute tragedy that these people who already have so little are enduring such suffering and my heart goes out to them. I feel very humbled by these people and their amazing strength. They are very much in my thoughts at this sad time, I hope & pray they can start to rebuild their lives without even further hardship!
It is with great sadness that we have had to rearrange our wedding in Mombassa, Kenya but I would like to think that in the future I will have the opportunity of encountering these wonderful people for myself!
May I also add that I hope you hear from your friends there very soon and that are ok.
Like Sapphire I've been very worried about our wonderful Neptune hotel and staff and all the locals who became our friends. I have been on the web site for the chain of hotels and all the guests and staff at the hotel are safe although there is much ground floor damage but they do hope to reopen in about 3/4 months. Although we are going to Thailand in late February (luckily touring and staying at the coast not affected) we wish we could visit Sri Lanka instead and take a working holiday helping out in whatever small way we can.
Still on to your disrupted plans, I mentioned you to my hubbie over the holidays when we heard of the disaster and did wonder what the outcome would be. I have been to Kenya 3 times and love it as well but in a totally different way. We have stayed at Diani Beach (South Mombasa) and if you want any tips let me know. Absolutely do a safari into the Masai Mara. A little bit expensive, and its best to fly up there, but beats the roads ones from Mombasa.
As I said, let me know if you want any gen on Kenya.
Thanks for yr msg!
We too are going to Diani beach staying at the Southern Palms, it really does look amazing and I am looking forward to it very much. Which hotel did you stay in?
We go on Feb 7th & marry on Valentines day before heading to Zanzibar Breezes Beach Resort for a week.
Read a few comments about 'beach boys', did you have any problems & how did you tackle them?
We plan to play it by ear & see how much a 2 day safari would cost out there, I would love to do a balloon safari at dawn, I imagine it to be out of this world & how romantic following it up with a Champagne breakfast! A little out of reach maybe as we would initially have to pay for the safari trip, but you never know!
I definately have my eye on the dolphin dhow tour in the nearby national marine park as I am fascinated by them and it would certainly be a highlight for me as I believe you can swim with them, and in open sea, which is exactly where they should be!
Changing the subject, I myself would love to be able to do something to actually make a real difference to somebody by going out to the affected areas and helping, but its not so easy when you're mr or mrs average with bills to pay and a job you need to do to pay them! I am so pleased
that the staff you have befriended are safe you must be relieved.
I hope yr trip to Thailand is nice, another place high up on my 'would love to visit list', I am 37 & have barely ventured out of Europe and there is so much to see!!!
You'll probably arrive in Mombasa early morning. You will drive thru Mombasa which is a real culture shock. Worse than anything seen around Colombo. There are people sleeping rough, dirt, poverty - not nice. Eventually you will cross the river by a ferry which takes about 5 minutes to cross and again is quite an experience, then the onward journey takes about 1.5 hours ish.
Diani Beach extends quite a long way and I've never stayed at Southern Palms but have stayed at both the Diani Sea Lodge and Hotel Kazkazi. These were some way apart and the beach differed at both. At the Kazkazi there were more rocks near the hotel but these were further out near the Sea Lodge.
Both hotels were very good in different ways and I think all hotels along there are of a good standard. Again no one actually sits on the beach but sit within the grounds or round the pools. For those who venture in the water, the beach boys here can be a real pain in the butt.
Even now after several trips we still get pestered and ripped off all I can say is you should be absolutely determinded not to buy anything, do not be tempted back to their hut, do not be sucked in by their what's your name , I'm your'e new best friend type gambit, don't fall for the if I get your name, I'll carve you a wonderful keyring free of charge but you'll have to come and collect it and while you're there buy some total crap at highly extortionate prices.
On the other hand we found that if we do go and buy some of this highly overpriced stuff and absolutely resolve to pay as little as possible for the smallest thing, then after that we did not get pestered so sometimes its better to bite the bullet.
Warning, my hubbie is a truely awful barterer, so if you have doubts about your other half do the bartering yourself. I'm much tougher than Mark And believe me the prices they quote will be at least 8 or 9 times their real value so you must barter.
I have an amazingly discoloured wooden salad fork and spoon which my hubbie negoiated at the amazing price of wait for it, are you ready yes the equivalent of £32. When I nearly divorced him on the spot, he said he wanted to help the local economy. Yeh right!!!!
Still the boys are really the only negative point. If you get the chance go to the Shakatak disco, its really good. The local ladies of the night frequent this place and its amusing to see some of their outfits. I saw one on our last visit who looked like an advert for bacofoil. This is a really multicultural place, westerners mix with locals, mix with masai etc and we all danced together and had a great time and didn't feel threatened at all.
We visited the Born Free Charity "The Colobus Monkey Trust" which is in Diani Beach, ask at your hotel for directions. It was free to get in and is where they put the rope bridges across the main road to stop the monkeys getting killed. You will hopefully see loads of these gorgeous monkeys in the trees as they have white long hair and white beards and move in troupes often with their babies in tow. At the trust they will give you a tour of their monkeys and other animals locally. If you go do get there early, we went about 9.15 which was great, the monkeys were awake and it was still fairly comfortable heat wise. We were told the monkey slept around 10.00 and certainly about then they suddenly collapsed on branches, hands hanging it was amazing.
I've been on a Dolphin Dhow and it was a beautiful trip but unfortunately we did not see any dolphins and although they try to sell this we have heard lots of people don't see them either.
It cost us about £375 each to fly up to the Masai Mara for a two-night stay in a tented camp, complete with 4-poster bed, hot water bottle and hippos outside in the river making a noise all night, Ah bliss.
We were lucky to see Mount Kilimanjaro as the weather was very clear. We had 3 game drives, the best being the early morning ones. The first morning we were woke up at 5.30 with tea and biscuits, took a picnic breakfast out and were lucky enough to see a kill, along with all the big five. We have been to Tsavo South and Shimba but they just do not compare to the Mara.
We found the Kenyans nice people but not so gentle as the Sri Lankans. Having said that we've been there 3 times so I know you'll enjoy yourself. You'll have to tell me about all the places when you get back.
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