Despite travelling cross country more than I can count, one of the very few places I hadn’t previously visited was Arugam Bay. I was invited to Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing Hotels for 2 nights during my tour as their brand ambassador, driving directly from the hill country in Nuwara Eliya where they have 4 more beautiful hotels/villas. It was a convenient route, taking just 4 1/2 hours which would otherwise be around 8 hours in one stretch from Colombo.
It’s a scenic drive through Ella, Bandarawela and other local villages, with photo opportunities around every corner including the breathtaking Hindu temple Seetha Amman and Ravana Falls.
When travelling from place to place, I recommend leaving as early as possible in the morning- you can sleep in the car and it saves precious hours in the day. Most hotels (including Jetwing) provide breakfast as a takeaway if you request at reception the night before. Otherwise ask your driver to stop somewhere along the way.
Peacefully located at the coastal edge of a residential area in Pottuvil, Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing is approximately 10 minutes North of Arugam Bay. It’s incredibly calm and quiet, with the new Jetwing Surf (20 luxury beach cabanas) next door. As a cultural vulture with a love for all things local, I prefer staying a short distance from the main tourist spots.
Day 1 was mostly spent relaxing in the beach house. I was treated to a full seafood BBQ with fish, crab, lobster, calamari and prawns from the local market. Having spent my childhood in England patiently awaiting summer BBQ’s, watching the food sizzle away before tucking in is all part of the experience. This is not fancy dining but wholesome, hearty local food with the freshest seafood in town.
Around 4pm when the heat and humidity began to subside, I set out on a ‘tuk tuk safari’ to the local lagoon. Despite an off-road start, we were soon cruising on the smooth main road through the countryside.
Swiftly turning 10 minutes later, the landscape shifted to a wide expanse of emerald green paddy fields, crowned with a dreamy late afternoon sky.
The fields and nearby lagoon are home to a plethora of birds and other wildlife. On our safari we came across a local fisherman catching his evening meal with a single net, a troop of monkeys, a huge crocodile on the other side of the stream, a pair of elephants (in the distance) and a local Hindu kovil with a tree in the garden shaped like an elephant.
As the tuk tuk’s engine switched off, I felt an instant rush of beauty and peace, with 360° views and sounds of unrefined nature.
After admiring a spectacular dramatic sunset from the balcony of Kottukal Beach House, I decided an evening unwinding on the sofa with a lion beer and private viewing of Top Gun from their extensive DVD collection was in order. As someone who appreciates simple home comforts, nothing quite beats the perks of a cosy villa.
My highlight however was sunrise the next morning. It’s not easy to drag yourself out of bed at 5:15am whilst the sky is still jet black, yet as I watched the colours rise majestically into the sky, I imagined what a shame it would be to not witness this magical event at least once during my stay. The east coast is no doubt the best spot in Sri Lanka for sunrises.
Arugam Bay itself is a buzzing little tourist town, on a longer stretch of road than I had anticipated, hosting an array of guesthouses, surfer shops and cafes.
Although I only visited for a couple of hours, one part of the beach was calm enough to paddle/swim and the main wave point (around the corner of the bay) is good for surfing which is apparently best early morning- you might have guessed, I’m not a surfer!
In the opposite direction of Kottukal Beach House, there’s another surf spot called Whisky Point which is especially popular for beginners.
There’s a third beach nearby too where I encountered a cluster of fishermen preparing small fish in their boats beside a pretty little lagoon.
After another lion beer and movie night (this time is was The Italian Job) I rose out of bed for the second time in the darkness to catch the sunrise from Arugam Bay.
As it was a Sunday, I arrived to find the Saturday night beach party only just coming to an end at 5:30am, with the surreal parallel of fishermen lining the beaches just meters away, skillfully casting their nets into the shore.
I look back at my stay at Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing with great fondness. The staff made my experience extremely personal, the rooms were large & comfortable, local homecooked food delicious (I had rice and curry for dinner both evenings) and the interesting nearby sights nicely balanced my time between relaxing and experiencing.