Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Sri Lanka January 2020. Part 3 Cinnamon Wild Yala.

The journey from Galle to Yala took a bit longer than expected, 4 1/4 hours to be precise. The taxi driver was making noises that it was further than he's realised when he'd quoted R9000 for the journey although he did acknowledge he'd been there once before. I gave him R10500 and he went away happy. I'd been looking forward to this hotel, the Cinnamon Wild Yala 4* as one of the , if not the highlight, of our stay in Sri Lanka. The hype surrounding it makes it sound as if you are going to see lots of wildlife wandering around locally in the grounds of the hotel that back on to the Yala National park itself. Happy days I thought! It was somewhere I wanted to try but when I'd looked previously it was always beyond my budget but I'd been browsing on Black Friday and the deal they were offering looked excellent. Just £75 per night for D,B&B ! Just one catch though, the dates were limited. No problem, a cunning plan was hatched. We booked in for two nights, we'd then go somewhere less expensive for 5 nights and then return for a further 3 nights the following weekend at the special rate! Considering if you go on Cinnamon's website right now and book their special offer on D,B&B with 40% discount its $330 per night this coming weekend . has it for £271. So yes, we'd got it at a bargain price. Was it worth it? Yes and no!!
There's no doubt the rooms were well appointed, we had a 'Jungle chalet".
Cinnamon Wild Yala
Surrounded by bushes there was no view but hopefully they might attract some birds to photograph.
Inside the room, it was very comfortable indeed.
Cinnamon Wild Yala
The best thing was there was a TV showing Premier League matches so I could watch my team playing live. Mind you it was hard keeping awake when the kick off was 1.30am!!
No, you couldn't fault the room and the huge choice included with the buffet dinner was pretty good too, especially at the price we'd paid but that's were they can catch the unsuspecting. The hotel is in the middle of nowhere so there are no alternatives. We chatted to a couple of ladies who'd paid a mere £50 for their room but then had to fork out £32 for breakfast and I'm not sure what they did for dinner but the  BBQ would cost them $60 so their deal wasn't so clever after all. Drinks in the rooftop bar were not extortionate but at R850 for a bottle of beer they were twice the price of everywhere else we went. Happy hour was more of a smile than a laugh as the price reduction was only 15% and only applied to cocktails!
Oh, and as for safaris they were outrageously priced. They weren't going to get me though. Oh no, I had had a cunning plan, well at least I thought I had. I was taking my safaris from the next place we were staying  in between Cinnamon stays. More of that later but suffice to say, Cinnamon quoted me $120 more than the price I'd agreed to pay. Even a taxi fare to get us out of there had an additional 25% premium. Fortunately we had come prepared for all that and my objective was to just spend my time at Cinnamon exploring the grounds.
That however, was the big disappointment. 
The hotel hypes up the fact that you are in a wildlife environment and after dark they insist you are accompanied back along the well lit paths to your chalet by a member of staff. Yes, a sizeable lake is in front of the hotel, yes it has large crocodiles in it. Yes, there are Water Buffalo wallowing in the lake and yes, one might wander in to the grounds on occasion. Yes, there are "wild" boars wandering around too but I witnessed a member of calling them to come and get some scraps of food he was dealing with at the recycling plant! They are totally harmless, the Buffalos are disinterested and the monkeys leave you alone too. The odd elephant intruder might pose more of a threat but as the hotel grounds have security posted all over I'm sure they'd be aware if one entered. If they are not they wouldn't be much point would they!
So my plan of taking in the wildlife was dashed by the limitations of the grounds which was largely made up of narrow pathways lined with bushes. Access to the lake was extremely limited and the minute you set foot outside the property you were instructed to return by security. I was told that the hotel could provide a guide for my safety if I wanted to go for a walk. 
Of course they would if I paid .
No, for the money we paid it was a good deal. They get excellent reviews on the likes of Trip Advisor but their clientele by and large have different objectives to mine. Most stop one or maybe 2 nights, take a morning and/or afternoon safari that lasts just a few hours and then leave. I rather suspect that their safari experience is only judged successful if they see a Leopard although maybe an Elephant or Bear would suffice. They tend not to be interested in anything else and a 3 or 4 hour trip is the limit of their attention span.
The safari business is big in Yala and the nearby town of Tissamaharama. There are jeeps parked up everywhere. They seemed to have grown in number even more than on my last visit 4 years ago.They were causing chaos back then and from what I was hearing in the hotel, even more so now. The problem is that most folk just want to see a Leopard so consequently that's exactly what all the jeeps try to do, satisfy their clients hoping for a bigger tip. The result is a rush to get to the latest sighting with speeding vehicles desperate to get ahead in the queue to view. 
I decided to cancel my two booked trips to Yala and instructed the owner of the next hotel that was my intention. I would stick with the one to Bundala and if that was a success I'd go there again. 
So, what did I see at Cinnamon?
The only bird species I saw there and nowhere else was the Indian White-eye but the view was brief and the photo opportunity difficult.

Indian White-eye  Zosterops palpebrosus

The one benefit of being on foot as opposed to being in a safari vehicle is the point of view.
Being on a level plain with the subject always makes for a better shot and this Spot-billed Pelican is a good example.
Spot-billed Pelican  Pelecanus philippensis
As is this Monitor Lizard that was so close I couldn't fit the whole beast in the shot!
Land Monitor Lizard
Sometimes the problem isn't fitting the whole subject in the frame, it's having it all in focus. Using a telephoto lens has the advantage of getting closer to your subject without frightening it away but the shallow depth of field these lenses have present their own problems.
Garden Lizard
All in all, I was perfectly happy at Cinnamon Wild. I can see why most guests think it's great but personally I probably wouldn't have returned for a second visit if I hadn't already paid. I much prefer somewhere where I can wander freely even if the standard of accommodation isn't quite as high. 
As for the buffet meals, and the huge choice that invites gluttony ( well you have to try everything don't you?!), maybe I'm better off with a freshly made meal made especially for me!
Anyway, I'd sent a message asking our next hotel to send a taxi over to pick us up. The hotel owner came too as he wanted to check out the pool signage so he could get some ideas for the pool he'd just had built.
First stay over, maybe the next one would now be the highlight.
Fingers crossed!


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  2. Thanks for the comment, I'm afraid I can't reply as I can't read it.

    1. The comment from Ahmed was a link to where I don't know.