Discovering Hambantota Sri Lanka
Virtually overnight, Sri Lanka’s brand new International Seaport has focused world attention on the ‘deep south’ of this island nation.
By: Nick Buckingham
Naturally, the government and people of Sri Lanka are wisely keen to preserve the very essence of what makes Hambantota an area to visit in its own right. Planners and conservationists of the areas pristine wildlife habitats and cultural heritage sites are thankfully working together - zoning development and aiming to capitalize on the best the district has to offer visitors and international travelers.
What’s in store for international travelers to Hambantota?
Seeing is, believing! The abundance and sheer variety of wildlife wandering or flying around the districts major Parks and Sanctuaries is absolutely magnificent. At Bundala for instance, around 120 species of migratory and indigenous birds await spotters as do crocodiles and elephants; while even more herds of elephant numbering around 300 roam freely at nearby Udawalawe Park. The main attraction has to be Yala Park – known for leopard, elephant and an endangered sloth bear among many other attractions. This year, Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Department aims to open up many more hectares of Yala’s wilderness - thinning out visitors to reduce human impact while simultaneously broadening its appeal to serious safari goers.
Followers of cricket are in for a real treat too. The 2011 World Cup Series opening of the all new, international ground at Hambantota’s Sooriyawewa, spotlights Sri Lanka’s ability to host major international tournaments. Sellout matches are anticipated year round and with them the demand for hotel rooms. Satisfying this demand in a small way is an early arrival on the ‘boutique hotel’ scene – the 11 suite, Buckingham Place overlooking Rekawa’s vast lagoon.
Best described as ‘sanctuary within a Sanctuary’ this unique contemporary hotel provides a haven from cricket match crowds and a chance to witness the fascinating night-time spectacle of turtles laying their eggs. Up to five of the oceans seven species return instinctively to Rekawa’s deserted and beautiful beach. These majestic creatures can be observed seasonally with assistance from Rekawa’s Turtle Conservation Project workers and volunteers. The new Turtle Visitor centre, dream of hotelier Geoffrey Dobbs, is fast becoming reality. The first phase of his interactive project adjacent to Buckingham Place aims to provide insight to the history and preservation of these ancient marine inhabitants and regular income for village workers.
Hambantota’s spiritual and cultural heritage is just everywhere too, and a visitors ‘must see list’ should include one of the most spectacular Buddhist rock temples in the south - ‘Mulkirigala’
Another of Hambantota’s ‘special places’ is Ussangoda. Was Ussangoda really the landing place of Ravana – an evil king of Hindu mythology? Did he really pilot his peacock chariot across open skies making safe landing here? As legend would have it - yes! More likely is the scientific version. That this baron, red landscape often compared to an extraterrestrial surface is the result of a large meteor collision long ago.
Whatever history witnessed at this site, a unique natural backdrop offers dramatic panoramic views of a beach some 70 feet below the rocky escarpment and a far reaching one out to sea. Very little grows on this 30 acre baron plateau except scrub and grass, but that makes it no less a place of great beauty and special interest. When completely deserted, Ussangoda can be seen as inhospitable, especially during inclement weather. Many visitors view this site nonetheless, as a wonderful and spiritual place to contemplate and feel at one with nature, with many returning regularly to its mystical sanctuary. Boutique hotel - Buckingham Place is just a short distance away from this site and arranges regular excursions to it.
The newest attraction at Hambantota is the very development that focuses current attention on the area – the International Seaport. The first stage of one of the most significant development projects in South Asia is nearing operation and the entire development is now half-way to full completion. Covering more than 1,500 hectares, Hambantota’s International Seaport will cater for bunkering, ship repairs, supplies; medical and logistical services and, facilitate crew changes. Funded largely by China, Sri Lanka itself through its Ports Authority operates what will become a major hub for super size container ships in the region. When visiting Hambantota it would be difficult to overlook the scale and scope of this project - the port alone is fast becoming a major attraction.
Hambantota? Put it on your itinerary!
You can contact Nick Buckingham at Buckingham Place on: (+94) 047 3 489447. The hotel has its own website www.buckinghamplace.lk. To check availability of accommodation or the restaurant just call the number above or email reservations@
In 2002, following several wonderful holidays in Sri Lanka, Nick Buckingham formed a Board of Investment/Tourist Board approved company to construct then operate Buckingham Place - a Boutique Class Hotel. Breaking ground the following year, construction continued until the Tsunami of 2004. With the future uncertain at that time Nick voluntarily set up and managed the BTRTDH Trust – a massive endeavor to rehabilitate and equip the town’s hospital. With the hospital project complete, resort construction restarted in 2008, continuing through until its launch. Focused on directing the resort Nick aims to expand operations by completing Phase 2 – now already at an advanced stage. “As soon as Phase 1 is established and, when we’ve found out what guests want from us I’ll get on with the job. For the moment I want to relax a little and enjoy living in a hotel!”
• Shantha Wijesuriya – Operations, Kalpa Nuwan - Central Services
• Wasana – Chef
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Buckingham Place is a eco friendly boutique hotel that is located by the beach in Rekawa Tangalle Sri Lanka. This is a family friendly hotel which offers a wide choice of recreational activities including whale and dolphin watching expeditions, wildlife safaris and tours to the world heritage site the world famous Dutch Fort in Galle.