Writing this column has given me a chance to explore Sri Lanka like I never have before. I have discovered the most unique travel experiences our country has to offer. Like so, I was recently invited to a boat party in Bentota. I was told that the boat had two double rooms and could accommodate only four people, which I thought was perfect with the current Covid-19 situation.
Four of us arrived at the property managed by Jetwing. Our check-in was done at a bungalow by the river in Bentota and we were greeted by Captain Leel Koralage. He was a very friendly and attentive gentleman and it was he himself who escorted us to the boat. I was amazed when I saw this beautifully designed boathouse which looked like the floating version of a coconut tree branch house (pol athu gedara). Instead of mud walls, this tastefully designed boat was fully wooden with an uncommon roof made out of coconut tree branches which gave it a nice village feel.
We boarded the boathouse and were taken to an air conditioned lobby area where we were served a welcome drink with cold towels to refresh ourselves after the journey.
Unlike other boat or yacht experiences, I have had this place make me feel like I was inside a five star hotel. We were then escorted to our bedrooms which were large spacious double rooms with a private balcony overlooking the Benthara river. Boats, yachts and cruises are famous for one thing - very small toilets. However, this boat had a spacious washroom and included a small bathtub with a view of the river and a large shower cubicle with great water pressure. It had a large vanity top with all the toiletries you would get in a luxury hotel and they also had bathrobes and slippers for each guest.
They don’t have a kitchen operating on the boat but they do have a pantry. All meals are prepared at the bungalow and served on the boat. Our meals were served on their dining deck and we had the option of sailing during the sunset or the sunrise. You can enjoy a calm and relaxing sail while having your meals at the dining deck located at the rear of the boat.
We went on a half board package and were served a three course meal for dinner. We were given an option of fish or chicken for dinner and it was accompanied by a salad and fried rice. We were offered a choice between Sri Lankan or Western for breakfast. The Sri Lankan breakfast was a delicious spread of string hoppers and curries. We really enjoyed the meals they served on board.
They do not serve alcohol but you are allowed to bring your own. The staff are very accommodating. If you wish to have your meals in the comfort of your room, they arrange your meals in your private balcony where you can have a peaceful meal for two.
Even though this large boathouse has only two bedrooms, they have many places you can walk around and spend time on. We spent most of our time on the rooftop deck, which is a large space where you can enjoy the breeze and undisturbed views of the river. The boat is surrounded by mangrove forests which gives you a tranquil escape from civilization.
The Yathra Houseboat by Jetwing offers many experiences that you can enjoy while staying with them. You can select from a trip to the Bentota beach which is a 10 minute drive away, the Brief Gardens located 30 minutes away, the famous Lunuganga Estate which is just a 5 minute drive away and if you enjoy fishing, they arrange a private fishing boat accompanied by a local fisherman.
They are currently promoting some great offers and I would say it's safer to travel to such locations rather than crowded places. You get the entire boat to yourself when you book both rooms and the staff only visits on call. So it's a private and great location for a romantic getaway or a fun trip with friends. I would not recommend it for holidays with children as the balcony railings are rather wide, making it unsafe for young children.