Trincomalee -on the north east coast of Sri Lanka is a place of soft white sand, turquoise blue waters, sperm whales and dolphins. Not for the faint hearted, it took us 6.5 hours to drive from Colombo via the picturesque Habarana route, some of it through thickly wooded areas -where you could see monkeys swaying on tipsy branches, some stretches uncomfortably pot holed.
Chaaya Blu has been recently renovated by local architect Channa Daswatte, a pupil of the famous Geoffrey Bawa. Bawa's influence on Channa is very evident in the minimalist, chic retro style. White washed floors, walls and furniture mingle with blue denim cladding and bursts of bright orange to reflect white sands, sparkling blue ocean and the sunset orange that are Trinco's highlights. One of the best resorts on the East Coast, Chaaya Blu is located on the white sands of Uppuveli. Owned and managed by John Keells Hotels, Chaaya has 81 rooms -43 superior rooms, 36 beach chalets and 2 suites. We picked a chalet on the ground floor from where our verandah stretched out on the beach and the calm blue waters.
Walking on the beach towards a spectacular sunset we could see Pigeon Island -famous for its vibrant coral life and exotic reef fish. An early morning start for a spot of snorkeling and then heading out to deep sea to catch a glimpse of the Sperm whales, Dolphins and Blue whales was on the cards. We had made sure to make it in the season, which extends from March to October, to increase our chances at spotting these magnificent creatures.
There were two dining options; the main restaurant The Captains Deck and The Crab, the sea food restaurant. We picked the seafood one on the beach. The crabs were fresh and simply delicious.
43 superior rooms, 36 beach chalets and two suites make up the Chaaya accommodation alternatives.
We chose a beach chalet. The view was incredible. The chalets are constructed in units of four, two on top, two beneath. All the rooms have been designed to have either a private balcony or a verandah. As we opted for the ground floor we gained the beach as our extended verandah. Sitting on the soft sand early morning was such pure pleasure. We also loved the blue and white mosaic bed head. The lighting was low key, making bed time reading tiresome. Sheer white curtains, crisp white cotton bedding; the white furniture and white washed walls created an immaculate, spacious and stylish haven.
Each room has either a double bed or twin beds, lounge chairs, a work desk, AC, ceiling fan, Cable tv, IDD telephone, mini bar and tea and coffee facilities, hair dryer, room service and laundry service. All the ensuite bathrooms have hot water. Our room, like all the beach chalets had fluffy fresh bathrobes and slippers. We enjoyed the DVD player as we had taken a few of our favourite movies along.
The two suites are spacious and have separate sitting areas that open out onto private balconies. Apart from all the features that the beach chalets have they also have bath tubs.
The hotel is totally geared for water babies of all ages. The infinity pool is every pool lovers' dream. The water sports center offers a challenge to the experienced, adventurous enthusiast but can accommodate beginners too. There is also a gym and play area for the children.
The two restaurants give you a variety of choice, formal or more casual.The sea food is especially divine with the day's catch making it to your plate fresh from the boat.
The Captains Deck serves a Sri Lankan and International buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food sometimes lacks flavour possibly catering for a milder European palate, but the breakfast table is really something to look forward to.
The two bars are well stocked and offer alcohol, non alcoholic beverages and delicious fresh fruit juices. The thick fresh pineapple is a personal favourite.
The Crab - the specialty seafood restaurant, is located on the beach and is an open air beach hut where your feet sink into soft sand. To the sound of the ocean and a magnificent view you can enjoy unbelievably fresh sea food expertly flavoured. Do not miss the crabs. If you can handle spicy ask for either Sri Lankan style curry or Singaporean style. But baked crab is hard to resist too.
The well equipped Water Sport Center offers so many exciting alternatives; Padi Certified diving courses, snorkeling excursions, underwater photography, wakeboarding., wind surfing, canoeing, deep sea fishing to just name a few. The highlight for us was the trip to Pigeon Island to snorkel. The amazing vivid colours -such a variety of reef life explodes out at you. To top it off we were able to go out deeper to see dolphins and whales. We didn't manage to spot a blue whale,but the thrill of seeing dolphins and sperm whales made up for it. The boat fees are nominal. It is recommended that you go with the boats organized by the hotel rather than negotiating a cheaper ride from one of the fishing boats in the vicinity . It is much safer especially if you have children.
If you are keen to learn more about the local marine life you should watch the film that is shown by the sport center instructor.
To observe local life take a short stroll along the beach and you will find yourself at a hindu kovil and just beyond, a quaint fishing village. There is a shallow stream to cross so make sure it's low tide and take care if you are with children.
Not to be missed is a trip to Fort Fredrick -a fort built in 1624. It was the garrisoned sea port of the Dutch, the Portuguese and the English in turn. At its crescent is Swami Rock -a place with the most incredible view of the ocean -with a sheer 360ft drop into the sea.
Hindu Devotees flock to Tirukoneswaram Temple at the pinnacle of Swami Rock. Bright cloth ribbons in multi colours gaily fluttering in the wind are symbols of vows made and wishes whispered to divine beings. Coconuts smashed on the rocks are symbolic of prayers for fertility and children. Right along the walk to the top of the rock you will find little huts selling local wares and delicacies. Try the muskat, a local variety of sweets somewhat like Turkish delight. If you are brave get one of the little gypsy women with beetle stained teeth to read your palm. You might be intrigued by how accurate they can be on certain fact, how do they do that????