THE TRIP: KITESURFING IN KALPITIYA, SRI LANKA.

5-2-19

When you’re thinking about possible kitesurf destinations, Sri Lanka might not be one of your first thoughts.. Neither was it ours. Because I broke my foot, we had to cancel our November holiday to Brazil and book another one for January. After 3 days of research, Sri Lanka turned out to be the best option for us. I’m not happy about breaking my foot, but if that had not happened we would not have been to Sri Lanka and if I’m honest… I sure as hell wouldn’t want to have missed this trip!! Sri Lanka, you became my number one kitesurf destination! <3 Read further to know more about Chris’s (my boyfriend) and my experience in Kalpitiya from the 11th until the 23rd of January.

 

Flight, transfer, accommodation

We flew with Qatar Airways and departed from Amsterdam at 15:15 to Doha (a 6:20 hour flight) with a connection time of 2:05 hours for our flight form Doha to Colombo (a 5:10 hour flight) where we arrived at 9:20. I haven’t traveled much with airplanes yet, but if every flight would be like this one I wouldn’t mind flying at all! We booked an economy flight but apparently it also included good foods on every flight, drinks (even alcoholics), blankets, pillows and an entertainment system on which you could play games against each other and watch the latest movies! Only Qatar Airways flies to Doha, which makes a transfer at Doha very smooth and well-organized. What I also really like about Qatar Airways is you can take your sporting equipment with you instead of your checked baggage. Yet.. If you want to bring an extra bag, it will cost you. A lot. So make sure you’ll stay within your baggage allowance. Also, your hand baggage shouldn’t weigh more than 7 kilograms and yes, they really weighed our hand baggage.     

For Sri Lanka you need a visa/ETA, which we applied for digitally through the official website: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/. An employer of the airport of Colombo asked if we had a digital visa and sent us in a line where we waited for an hour, easy-peasy… only to find out we had to get back in line because we hadn’t filled in a small #%$#@* form which you could find on a desk with a very, very small sign on it. Yaaaaay. So we filled in the form, got back in line and finally managed to get through immigration.   

We booked everything upfront and I had asked our accommodation contact to get us a transfer, who was waiting for us at Colombo. Although I had informed them about the board bags we would bring, our driver didn’t have the right car to fit them in.. But no problem, he made a few calls and got us a van! 

The drive from Colombo airport to Kalpitiya took us +/- 4.5 hours. At first it was super scary! Driving on the other side of the road, missing other vehicles by inches… After a few heart attacks we noticed that none of the cars had damages (!?), so we figured we would be fine and let our driver work his magic. Our driver made sure we got to a secured bank when I asked him for an ATM and bought some fresh coconuts for us (unfortunately with straws). After a while our driver stopped his car and asked for the coconuts we had finished. I took out the straws and gave the coconuts to our chauffeur, which he threw outside. Before I knew what was happening he grabbed the straws out of my hands, threw them also outside and drove away… Apparently my face was hilarious as my boyfriend almost cried of laughter while looking at me. We were wide awake again and started to notice all the plastic that was literally everywhere… Sri Lanka you are beautiful, but please take care of your plastic, it doesn’t charm you at all. Anyway, we saw some beautiful nature too and I bet we would have seen more if we hadn’t fallen asleep.

We stayed at the Kalpitiya Beach Hostel (KBH) in Kudawa (a part of Kalpitiya), where we booked a private room. The KBH has basically three houses with sleeping rooms (including mosquito nets), kitchens, bathrooms, verandas and free drinking water. It’s a very awesome hostel: Cozy, very welcoming and pretty cheap. The KBH has bicycles you can use, scooters you can rent and a lot of board games! The managers and volunteers will do everything they can to make your stay more pleasant. Every day in this hostel ended with playing games or chatting and drinking with everyone. A 2 minute walk from the KBH brings you to the beach! Within 5 minutes from the hostel you’ll find a supermarket, a food/market place and a grocery shop. A 10 to 15 minute walk will bring you to Kitesurfing Lanka, which has a very affordable and great quality kite repair shop (Yes, we found that out the hard way). 

 

Weather

We haven’t had a day where the temperature wasn’t around the 30 degrees Celsius! It was hot! We both brought a neoprene shorty, but after our first session we switched to normal swimwear. I wish I had brought some lycra shirts though! The sun is super strong in Sri Lanka. I am one who doesn’t get sunburned easily (even if I forget sunscreen), but I forgot to put on sunscreen on my second day kitesurfing in Sri Lanka and ended up with a second degree sunburn (in the Netherlands also known as a 3rd to 4th degree SUNburn).

We have been told that Sri Lanka knows two dominant wind periods: from May till September, where the wind will come from the South and from December till March where the wind will come from the North-East. The winter season is perfect for freeride, freestyle & wakestyle. The wind would slowly pick up during the day. From 10:00 you can mostly spot 13 to 15 meter kites who get switched for 9 to 13 meter kites after 13:00. I’m around 60 kilo’s, I’ve used my 13 meter kite three times during our vacation, which I switched for my 9 meter kite later on. I’ve used my 9 meter kite for the rest of the days, but could have used the 7 meter kite on two of those days. Some of the other hostel visitors referred to the wind as gusty.. though the wind should be steadier than in the other season. We’ve had 2 days where it shortly drizzled, whenever this happend the wind would disappear, but come back very quickly after it stopped raining.

Between 18:00 and 19:00 it became dark. The temperatures would also be a lot cooler, so I was very happy to have my sweater with me! There is something extra that comes with the dark: Mosquitos! I think this is the first vacation where I really needed DEET.

 

Kitespots

The sea

With the winter wind direction (North-East) it is possible to kite on the sea, you’ll get a nice side-on shore to sideshore wind. Because of this direction we were able to do a couple downwinders from the Kalpitiya Lagoon to the KBH! The water has a lot of small waves with chop in between. If you like to jump to the right you can use the waves as kickers! 😊 My boyfriend and I both ride with boots so we didn’t notice it ourselves, but the current would be pretty strong according to other kite surfers. Swimmers wouldn’t go where they couldn’t stand and the spot wasn’t recommended to unexperienced kitesurfers.

Kalpitiya Lagoon

On the beach you’ll find a lot of fishermen huts with kite organizations where you can rent equipment, get lessons or just simply drop off your stuff and chill. Most of these organizations also have FREE rescue boats as the wind is side-off shore, just make sure to say ‘Hi’ before you get on the water. We got a very warm welcome from the kite caddies from the Horizon, who are stationed in one of the first huts. They helped us with launching, landing, watched over our stuff and were very interested in our equipment & Chris his tricks. They kitesurfed for less than a year, yet they performed unhooked kiteloops and a bunch of other tricks! The Kalpitiya Lagoon is pretty big, so we had a lot of room for tricks! The water is a bit choppy and somehow we needed to work much harder to get upwind than usual on a lagoon. Some say there is a small current others say it was because of the gusty wind. Oh and by the way, watch out for very sharp shells in the water. There is an agreement with the fishermen that it’s allowed to kite from 10:00 to 17:00 on the lagoon.

KSL lagoon

So I guess this place doesn’t really have a name… It’s a very, very, very small lagoon between the sea and Kitesurfing Lanka, so we called it the KSL lagoon. It has butterflat water with no current which makes it perfect for wakestyle! Unfortunately the spot is very small, 12 people make it crowded and it has a lot of shallow places, so it’s definitely not beginner friendly. If you would find yourself in the middle of the lagoon and crash your kite, it would probably end up in the bushes so there’s only a small margin for errors.

Dreamspot

We thought this place would be flat, like in our dreams… Apparently we don’t have the same dreams as the people who named this spot. The wind was sideshore and the water was choppy. Kind of the same as the Kalpitiya Lagoon, but with no other people, so it would be a pretty nice location if you wanted to have your private kitesurf session. The only way to get to Dreamspot is with a boat, which will also be your rescue boat, it costed us €60,- in total.

Vella Island

This actually is a dreamspot! It costed us €85,- in total (after stopping at Dreamspot), but we got mirrorflat water in return! Truly wakestyle heaven! The wind is off-shore so the boat that brings you there will also be your rescue boat. The wind wasn’t as strong as at the Kalpitiya Lagoon and also pretty gusty. I’ve switched multiple times between my 13 meter kite and my 9 meter kite. There was another group of kiters, which disappeared after an hour or two, the rest of the day we had to share the island with just the fishermen… and dogs. There was a group of 10 dogs on the island. I’m used to big dogs so I don’t mind them so much.. but they acted on the border between playful and aggressive, they tried to get as close to you as possible. One of them bit Chris softly in his ass while he was walking upwind. We were able to laugh about it but you probably should be aware of this, especially if you don’t like dogs.

 

Locals

The Sri Lankan people were very friendly, honest and grateful. Our hostel manager had already informed us about the cab and tuk-tuk prices, but whenever we asked our drivers what the price of our trip would be they never tried to get more money. In my opinion these people are the most tourist-friendly people I’ve ever seen. Most of them won’t try to convince you, force you or lie to you, but if they like you they will do everything they can for you. When you’re walking the streets it’s very normal to say ‘Hi’ to everyone you cross paths with. In the bigger city’s people will be more to themselves but still very friendly and helpful if you talk to them.

 

Food

If you’re not into spicy foods it’s a Russian roulette to eat. ‘It’s a pretty spicy’ turned into not so spicy at all and ‘Just a little bit spicy’ would burn our mouths. Even if we bought 4 of the same snacks at the same place, 2 of them would turn out to be not spicy while the other 2 would be the complete opposite.

There were several tuk-tuks driving around with different tunes (fur Elise, Nightrider, A-team and more) who sold different kind of foods & drinks in the neighborhood of the KBH. There are also a few restaurants where we’ve dined and had breakfast:

The little lady

I have no clue how her small food shop was called, but it was two corners away of the KBH. The lady who run the place had 3 very cute kids who are very interested in strangers. Her shop has 2 low tables, so there isn’t room for more than 6 people. She makes lovely sweet pancakes, roti, a spicy chicken curry and a non-spicy green curry, these are the only dishes she makes. Our dinner costed us 500 LKR (€ 2,50) in total.

The Eagles

You can find this restaurant on Google Maps! It’s run by a family (a dad, mother and daughter). We’ve heard a lot of good stories about this place. When we came to dine the dad explained us his wife and daughter were off to the hospital and he could only cook us some rice dishes from the menu. Nevertheless, the food was very good! We both went for a ‘Mixed Seafood’  and had a lot of rice with greens, crab, shrimps and tuna. We paid 1500 LKR (€7,50) in total.

The dad told us he officially isn’t open in the morning, but if we would like it he would make us breakfast for 500 LKR per person. We took his offer and had a lot of food for breakfast including smoothies, pancakes, rice, noodles, sweets, a fruit salad, coffee, tea, drinking water, curry’s and a lot more! It was great, but maybe we should have told him Chris can’t handle spicy food.. as there were some pretty spicy side dishes included.

Horizon

At the Kalpitiya Lagoon you could order lunch from the menu before 11:30 at the Horizon fisherman hut. It would be delivered to you on the beach by 13:30. The dishes prices go from 450 LKR up to 1200 LKR. All dishes include a small 200 ml bottle of coke, water, sprite or ginger beer and a few fries or a bit of rice. We’ve had lunch at the Horizon’s fisherman hut 5 times.

Near The Eagles you’ll also find the Horizon Resort with it’s own restaurant. Apparently they should have a menu, but we didn’t get one. We had to choose between cuttlefish or another fish. I had the cuttlefish and Chris the other one, we ended up with a bill of 6000 LKR (€30,-) which is a lot for Sri Lankan terms and diarrhea.  

Mom’s kitchen

BEST PLACE EVER! Multiple times we’ve had dinner at this restaurant. It’s very cozy and has delicious dishes! The boy who works there is very kind and served as you would expect in a very good European restaurant. Yes, he’s the son of the mom who’s kitchen it is. He’ll ask how spicy you want your dish to be and checks on you multiple times during your dinner to make sure everything is alright. Not spicy is truly not spicy and a bit spicy is exactly that! With your dish you will get rice and 4 to 6 side dishes. Refills are no problem and without extra charge! Even with cocktails our bill ended up to be 3000 LKR for the both of us.

Mom’s here

Not to be mistaken with Mom’s Kitchen, but also a nice restaurant. They have a very diverse menu and was as far as we knew the only place where you could eat European dishes like ‘Grilled Chicken with Potatoes’. With a bottle of water added to our dinner our bill would also be around 3000 LKR.   

 

No wind activities

A beach walk

Of course the beach is a perfect place for walks! If you pay attention to your surroundings you’ll find a lot of very special (unfortunately dead) fish. This left us with mixed feelings. On one hand we were some kind of entertained by special experience and trying to figure out what kind of fish we saw, on the other hand we were disgusted by the way these fish died. Apparently the fisherman can’t sell these kinds of fish and throws them on the beach instead of back into the sea. We saw a Pufferfish, an Ale, a Parrotfish, a Titan Trigger Fish and some other fish we couldn’t identify. We also found two dead sea turtles… They both had plastic stuck to their shells..

Sightseeing Kalpitiya

We wanted to go sightseeing in Kalpitiya, but it turned out you needed to bring your passport to get into the Dutch Fort, which we of course left at the hostel. We tried to walk around by ourselves through Kalpitiya, yet everything turned out to look like the same. Within 10 minutes you had seen it all. We asked our tuk-tuk driver if he knew places we would like to see as tourists and he took us to a banana farm and a crab farm! It was a very special experience to see how these farms work and it perfectly filled our kitesurfing-off-day. We didn’t need to pay any entry’s to check these farms as they were friends from our tuk-tuk driver. The tuk-tuk driver who gave us a full tour through the farms didn’t even want any extra money for his service, except for the extra tuk-tuk drive.

A jungle boat trip with barbeque

It cost us €75,- in total. From a harbor in Kalpitiya we got on the private boat with our guide, who brought us to Wilpattu National Park. Our first stop was at the mangroves where we found a giant Baobab tree. Our guide told us they called it ‘Ali Gaha’ (translated as Elephant Tree) as the bark of the tree would be similar to the skin of an elephant. Sri Lanka would know 2 of these trees, the other one you could find somewhere around Mannar and both trees would be at least 700 years old.

After climbing the tree and making a few pictures we got back into the boat. On our way to the Jungle we saw a lot of beautiful birds; Pelicans, Hawks, Eagles, Swallows, Parakeets and Herons. We stopped somewhere in the Jungle and our guide prepared our meal while Chris and I wandered around. We saw different species of monkeys, elephant footprints, scary big insects and other beautiful birds. Our guide served us seafood from the barbeque with roti, curry and potatoes. After not super fancy but still a nice lunch we went into the Jungle in search for Elephants. During the day there’s only a small chance to find Elephants as it’s too hot for them. Long story short, we walked for 3 hours and found none, but our guide really tried his best which was appreciated. Sometimes you’ll find them and sometimes you don’t, but the whole experience was very amazing. If you’re into nature and appreciate the small things this is a wonderful trip.    

 

Prices

So this holiday… How much did it cost for the two of us? Let me break it down for you:

  • Economy retour tickets with Quatar                               € 1473,00
  • Duty free liquor at Schiphol                                              € 80,00
  • Accommodation KHB for 13 nights + extra’s                € 225,00  –  45600 LKR
  • Transfer KBH from & to Colombo airport                      € 100,00  –  22000 LKR
  • Kite trip Dreamspot + Vella Island on 1 day                  €  85,00   –  17200 LKR
  • Jungle trip + BBQ                                                               €  75,00   –  15500 LKR
  • Kite repair at KSL (for Chris’s kite)                                  €  60,00   –  12200 LKR
  • Food (incl. dining), groceries, souvenirs, tuk-tuk, etc.  € 291,00  –  56000 LKR

In total: € 2389,- for two persons / € 1194,50 per person.

 

Extra info

There is a lot more you can do around Kalpitiya, let alone in Sri Lanka. I definitely want to visit this country again someday and discover more!

A few things you might need or want to know:

  • You’ll need a visa/ETA. At the Colombo the prices aren’t always the same. The safest and cheapest way to do this is through the official website: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/ . It doesn’t mean don’t have to do anything more.. Please save yourself some time and search for a stupid desk with stupid small forms and answer the same questions as for your Visa/ETA approval. Without it you won’t get through immigration at Colombo.

  • I’ve needed a pharmacy multiple times, you can find one in Kalpitiya. If you face the big Buddha statue there will be a street an your left hand. Walk into that street and you will find a supermarket with pharmacy within 100 meter. The people who work there speak excellent English and have given me the healthcare products I needed with clear instructions.

  • Even though Sri Lanka is Malaria free, the Dengue mosquito is still present, with a lot other mosquito’s when it gets dark. I still got stung a few times despite the 50% DEET. If you don’t wear any anti-mosquito products (like Chris did on his last evening) they will sting you a lot more! Even though our hostel offered us a mosquito net, we were very happy we brought our own impregnated one. Other visitors still got stung even though they used normal nets.

  • There are a lot of animals walking around. Donkey’s, cats, dogs, gecko’s, etc. It’s really wonderful and by day every one of them is kind and cute. Though you shouldn’t only watch out for rabies. Be aware when it’s dark. The dogs will travel in small or big packs and try to dominate you. They can act aggressive. After a big angry yell they will back off most of the time, but some will try to get closer again after you’ve shown your back again. Don’t run, it will trigger them. Stay calm, turn around again and send them away.
  • If you like to rent a scooter of car you’ll need an international driver’s license, ALSO you will need some sort of approval document which you can get in Colombo, it will cost you 1000 LKR. Multiple people who stayed at the hostel encountered a cop who pointed this out. Some will only tell you, some will hold you until you get that form or might even confiscate your vehicle as that is the law and others you can pay-off as they are corrupt.
  • For your electric devices you’ll need an D, M or G power plug. You can buy an adapter in Sri Lanka, which will cost you +/- €2,00.

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