Think locally, act globally
By Dimithri Wijesinghe
Photos: Lalith Perera
Located lagoon-side surrounded by tropical greenery, the Seth Dev Chalets Kalpitiya offers lush open spaces coupled with unspoiled privacy for its guests.
Having started in March, the project feels as though it’s been blessed; there’s a reason why –despite all of its brilliant attractions, Kalpitiya has remained rather invisible on the tourism radar, and one major factor is the scarcity of water.
Speaking to Biz Services CEO Solicitor Ranga Perera who happens to be the owner of the property, he provided that one of their major concerns has been water and that it has been a major proponent as to why larger hospitality projects have not come up in the Kalpitiya area. Most hotels in the area tend to offer 10 to 15 rooms maximum, any larger and they are simply unable to accommodate.
However, just in time for Seth Dev to begin operations, a small project came up in collaboration with some local charities to provide water to some of the villages; they then agreed to provide water for the project. Ranga added that they also rely on some suppliers who provide water in bowsers.
Seth Dev offers spacious chalets, suitable for families, honeymooners, or even solo travellers. All equipped with the necessary amenities, the chalets are also designed quite beautifully. With an open concept bathroom for each chalet, most structures are made of “Illuk” which allows the chalets to be cooled naturally. Ranga and his team are hopeful that Seth Dev may soon become iconic to Kalpitiya.
At present, Kalpitiya remains unchartered territory. It is an area less travelled for Sri Lankans, the reason being that it is a peninsula. It is somewhat a dead end, and people don’t simply drive past the city unless they come with the intention of visiting.
Round tours in Sri Lanka have been done the same way during the last 50 years. Since their inception in 1978, people arriving at the airport will head straight to Negombo, visit the cultural triangle – Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, and Habarana – and then go to Kandy via Mathale. They then go to Nuwara Eliya, following which they will visit Udawalve or Yala.
Things are changing up a bit now; the new trend is to bring guests straight to Kalpitiya because the road connection is good and it’s only a two-hour drive from the airport. If not, Kalpitiya will remain an area that many will not visit, and it’s a loss to the industry.
If you look at Kalpitiya as a destination, it’s very unique – much like Sri Lanka’s other tourist attractions, it too offers a uniquely diverse list of excursions. When considering dolphin watching, Mirissa and Trincomalee have always been the go-to spots in Sri Lanka. But Kalpitiya is actually a better spot for that; dolphins are more abundant near the lagoon. It is also adjacent to one of the biggest coral reefs in Sri Lanka, the Bar Reef – one of the last remaining live coral reefs in the country.
This destination is also bursting with culture. It’s Kuveni’s land and there is much history tied to it. In order to get a sense of it all, Seth Dev offers guided tours in collaboration with a local company. It comprises a walking exploration of Kalpitiya Fort, the Dutch Reformed Church, the 600-year-old Bo tree believed to have been planted by Prince Sapumal, and the archeological ruins believed to be remnants of Kuveni’s palaces.
A cultural bequest
In addition to the cultural excursions, the hotel also offers local experiences like visiting the fish market, fisheries being a major industry in the area as Kalpitiya produces a quarter of Sri Lanka’s fish harvest. Since the hotel is on the beach, guests will be given the opportunity to accompany the executive chef to go pick out the catch of the day when the fisherman bring in the day’s catch. The hotel also arranges two home tours of families of different ethnicities where the guests will get a glimpse of the lives of the locals.
Wilpattu is also in the vicinity. There’s a convenient 15-minute boat ride to Wilpattu straight from the beachfront of the hotel. The ride is gorgeously scenic and takes you straight to the Eluwankulama Wilpattu entrance.
The property’s alternative director Sathurshika Ragu spoke about the importance of small-scale businesses in areas such as Kalpitiya, providing that mass tourism values down an industry and it does not support the local community. However, what exist in Kalpitiya are small pockets of F&B outlets and hotels, attempting draw in a crowd sufficient to earn a living and show the world the beauty of their land. When establishing big hotels, people tend to bring staff and suppliers from Colombo. But in small-scale projects, the locals are truly benefited considering how they are more dependent on local people and local suppliers.
Speaking frankly about the destination and what’s become of it since the Easter terror attacks, Ranga said: “What we have to say is that we shouldn’t give up. At the very least, locals can travel the island and take it upon themselves to contribute to the industry. Kite surfing is a great sport and it is progressively becoming more popular amongst locals; and then there’s the fact that people are sick of Down South. It’s beautiful, true, but it’s time for a change of scenery.”
Considering our experience at Seth Dev, we can confirm that it was worth our stay, and 20 km of untouched beaches was a sight for sore eyes. Kalpitiya is definitely the destination to beat and we are hopeful that it’ll soon be the hottest ticket in the island.
Facebook : Sethdev Lagoon Chalets Kalpitiya
Address: Kudawa Road, Sethawadiya, Kalpitiya
Contact: 032 2 260210