The Club Hotel Dolphin, Waikkal

Before we go into details, here’s a short film that I made on arriving at the hotel. It’s not meant to be a glossy film showing the accomodation at it’s best, just an honest first impression on what the average visitor might encounter on arrival.

Location - The Club Hotel Dolphin is on the beach-front in the village of Waikkal, which is about 12kms north of Negombo, and less than an hour by bus or car if you are coming from the international airport. There’s not much else near the hotel, just a few houses and restaurants, so this ensures that it’s peaceful here.

From the airport, if you’re not on a package tour, you can get an air con taxi or tuk tuk direct. I got a tuk tuk (a 3 wheeled open-doored taxi) direct from outside the hotel back to Negombo and it cost 700 rupees, about £5, and took about 20 minutes. From the airport it’ll cost about 1200 rupees (after a little haggling) and take around 40 minutes. You can also reach the hotel from Colombo by public bus. Just catch number 4, direction ‘Chilaw’, and get off in the centre of the village, at a crossroad where there is a ‘Co-Op’ shop clearly visible on the right hand side, and a sign to the hotel on the left. The hotel is 2.5kms from here; either walk, it’s very pleasant and you can’t get lost as you just go straight until the sign leads you left, or get a tuk tuk (there are always tuk tuks hanging around at this junction).

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Check In/Reception - The front of house manager offered a pleasant greeting, a cold face towel and a mango juice. The reception area itself was very high ceiling-ed and airy and I was soon refreshed (it was very hot outside, making even the small trip up from Negombo a tiring, sticky affair).

The Room - The room was spacious, with large double bed and a table and chairs, and overlooked the huge main swimming pool (which is the longest in Asia, apparently), with palms and beach beyond. I had a TV, DVD player, balcony, fridge, safe, and a very large bathroom with bath (very unusual to have a bath at Sri Lankan hotels, usually you just have a shower).

The TV had many English speaking channels, including BBC News, BBC variety and ESPN Sports.

There was air con, which I had on most of the time as it was so hot and humid outside (also the air con keeps the room too cool for mosquitoes to survive).

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The music from the pool bar didn’t start until around 10am and stopped at around 9pm each night; it wasn’t too loud when it was on and at all other times the room was very quiet.

The pillows were firm, the linen and towels very clean (as was the room) and the room cleaners would leave fresh flowers in the bathroom each day and fold up any clothes I had lying about.

I was really very satisfied with the room, it’s location and view. Between the rooms are plenty of green areas, and beyond the swimming pool lies the breakwater, with beaches in either direction.

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The Pools - There are 2 pools, one of which is said to be the longest in Asia. Both were magnificent. There are loads of sunbeds, and towels are brought to you as soon as you sit down.

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The Restaurant - Breakfast, which was self service buffet style, was pretty good. They tried to do a British fry up and it wasn’t a great success, but at least the baked beans weren’t too sweet, the potato kievs were crunchy and the omelette passable, although the oil used didn’t seem to be good quality so the end product wasn’t as delicately flavoured as it could be. It was a shame, as I could see that the intention to please and create good food was there, it’s just that the finishing touches were almost always missing (on Western dishes, at least). On the plus side the local dishes – the sambols, curries, etc – were excellent, as was the strawberry yoghurt, which was more of a thick creamy mousse, which tasted superb on cereal (there was a choice of coco pops, cornflakes and muesli).

I stayed for 3 days, and can say that every day I found something I really enjoyed eating. There was a huge choice, not just of hot fry up dishes but also of cold cheeses, meats, fruits, juices and pastries. Of these, apart from the fry up which I have previously mentioned, the only disappointment came when tasting the fruit and the conserves (fruit tasteless, jams and honey very watery).

The hotel is pretty isolated but there are 2 private restaurants outside the compound, just walk out of reception and turn right and you’ll find them a five minute walk along the canal side. I never tried them but if you are here for a week or two and tire of the buffet and al la carte options you might want to. Or if you fancy a bit of self catering then take a walk up to the crossroads, it’ll take you half hour or so, and get supplies from the Co-Op shop there (there are a few other shops stocking basic foods and toiletries there too and also a bakery).

The restaurant itself is a large, airy structure, with lots of attentive staff circulating with fresh tea and coffee. Plenty of overhead fans keep you cool, and outside there are lots of trees and an artificial mini-lake, which attracts the birds. It was a pleasure to eat there, a really nice environment.

General Notes and Impressions - There is a small golf course, tennis court and 2 swimming pools (the smallest one has underwater piped music) surrounded by a great many sun beds. No need to get up early to place a towel on one, there’s plenty to go round. Walk out of the compound either way along the beach and it isn’t long before you find local life – fishermen, local huts, etc. The beach is dirty with flotsam in many places and the sea too rough for swimming (unless you’re here between December and April) so you’ll be making use of the pools a lot. Wooden walkways lead from reception and restaurant to the rooms and bungalows, and the bungalows are set among much foliage. They reminded me of African rondevals, hidden as they were among the plants.

The village centre of Waikkal is 2.5 kms away. The route there makes a nice run on tar roads which aren’t very busy at all, unlike the roads at Negombo 12kms south (making Waikkal a good place to stay if you want to acclimatise for the Sri Lankan marathon). During my walks and runs there I saw no other tourists at all; I guess not many of them make it far from the pool and bar. I can understand that; the Hotel Club Dolphin is a large resort with lots to do activity wise, yet it feels homely and a place you want to hang around. I’d recommend you get out and about though. Sri Lanka is truly a land like no other, but only if you make the effort to go and see it – if you stay in the hotel you may as well be in Thailand, or Greece, or…anywhere. There are a few touts hanging around who can arrange tours of the island for you. ‘Asda Tours’, their office is on the right of the hotel compound, are recommended by many on Trip Advisor. Two day tours you can do include the elephant orphanage (feed the babies, see them all bathing in the river), the city of Kandy (nice to visit this highland city if you need a respite from the beach heat) and the ancient monuments of Sigiriya, Dambulla and Annuradnapura. If you don’t fancy a tour just go walking locally, there are plenty of things to see. The birdwatching is great inland and below is a fishing village found just a 10 minute walk from the hotel.

I’d also recommend you sit under the palms that grow between the pool and the sea, or on the nicest stretch of beach which is on the right of the compound, and watch the sunsets. The sunsets of the Sri Lankan west coast are incredible, the best in the world in my opinion.

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Any Down Sides?
The sea here in October is almost never calm. I went in up to my waist a few times, the tide was terrifically strong, no good for any swimming.

In Summary - Club Hotel Dolphin will suit just about everybody. There are plenty of activities going on during the day for people of all ages, such as kids games, keep fit, pool volleyball, etc, but the place is large enough that if you don’t want any of that you can easily find peace and quiet. The food is ok, you won’t come home raving about it but you won’t be complaining too much either. The rooms are very comfy and well appointed, and peaceful. The hotel really is a world within a world, and you could easily spend your whole holiday within the grounds (although I recommend you get out and about). My opinion is that Club Hotel Dolphin is definately worth a stay.

To check out the Club Hotel Dolphin and it’s current deals and prices please click below
http://www.serendibleisure.com/bookings/clubdolphin.aspx

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