There our some hot contenders for 'most romantic hotel' in Sri Lanka - the other half would go for the Queens in Kandy, or the Oriental in Colombo (something about those old colonial buildings), but I think it's hard to beat the location and the rooms in the Garden Beach. It's just a short walk down the beach to the turtle sanctuary, and holding a day old turtle makes you feel squishy and sentimental anyway. Then there's the amazing view west across the Indian Ocean as the sun sets in a red-gold sky behind the palm trees. The staff will set up a candle-lit table for dinner in the garden. And if you're lucky enough to be in the two-storey suite with the four-poster bed, the setting for a romantic interlude is complete. Complete the experience by travelling by train either to stations about 8 miles north or south of Kosgoda (the Colombo - Galle train doesn't actually stop at Kosgoda station) and get a tuk-tuk to the hotel. Oh yes, and you can choose full board - and the food is good too - for a very competititive price - but that's not romantic - just practical.
Talgahapitiya Rd Kosgoda
I thought I would put up a few thoughts about volunteering holidays in general and specifically Sri Lanka with i-to-i.
I spent four weeks doing a volunteering holiday at Kosgoda, working on Tsunami relief projects.
In a nutshell, here are the pros and cons:
Pros: you get to meet local people as a guest rather than a tourist; immerse a little in local life; work on projects which do benefit people; spend time (relatively) safely in an unfamiliar country and not have to worry about finding accommodation companions and activities; you will meet amazing people and, possibly; add to others' lives.
Cons: you do not 'really' benefit local people or projects very much at all; the projects are usually under-resourced and of dubious value to the local community; you will pay an awful lot of money for the convenience factor, of which very little goes to the community you stay with; you need to be aware that you're doing this more for you than for the benefit of the communities you visit; you may come away feeling a little jaded about the 'ethical' aspects of your trip.
Having said that, you can increase your chances of finding a trip which substantially contributes to local projects by doing your homework - ask for written information on the proportion of the holiday fee which goes to the local community, ask for details of the feedback from the local community leaders as to the success of the projects, ask other volunteers what they thought, ask for advice from charities and NGOs.
I want to wrap it up by saying that I had an amazing time in Sri Lanka, the people, food, country and experience were all wonderful.
I do not think that I contributed very much at all to anything worthwhile, but what can you expect from a four-week trip?
If I were doing it again, I would make much more effort to find local organisations to arrange my trip with, and pay them directly. Booking through an intermediary such as i-to-i means you have no control over what goes to the communities you're trying to help.
i-to-i certainly make the process simple, but you do then compromise on the actual value of your volunteering efforts and hard-earned cash.
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