Negombo, Sri Lanka

Our next and final stop on the Sri Lanka trip was Negombo. This is a common first or last stop on people’s Sri Lanka itinerary because of its prime location very close to the Colombo airport. To get between the airport and Negombo on the relatively traffic-free road takes 20-30 minutes.

Families playing in the ocean; GFX 50R 63mm ISO-200 1/3000sec f/3.6

Negombo is famous for its beachside resorts and, being a fishing village, fresh seafood and the fish markets. Most tourists will book a 5-star resort and spend the majority of their time there, either preparing for their Sri Lankan adventure, or winding down from one. In our case, it was to wind down at the Heritance Negombo, before departing back to home.

Negombo is famous for its beachside resorts, fresh seafood and the fish markets.

While we had an outstanding experience at the Heritance Kandalama Lake, the Heritance Negombo was somewhat of an average experience. It goes to show that hotel brands can have inconsistency even within the same country, and that you should definitely do your research before booking.

Like having your own private plane 

Before going too deep into Negombo, I wanted to share an extraordinary experience that I recommend you try if the budget can be stretched to accommodate it. Because it was December 31st, we wanted to transit between Kandalama Lake and Negombo as quickly as possible. The drive would have taken 5+ hours and we didn’t want to lose most of our New Year’s Eve in the back seat of a car.

GFX 50R 45mm ISO-100 1/100sec f/8

When we looked at alternatives, the shortest path between the two cities was a Cinnamon Air flight at 35 minutes. The only downside was the cost at around USD$300 per person. Since we’d never experienced a small plane such as this before, we decided to give it a shot and booked the tickets.

While researching the Cinnamon Air flight, we had read about many passengers facing restrictions including how much luggage they were able to take, and about last minute cancellations. Our one experience with Cinnamon Air however was flawless. They emailed the day before to ask our weight, number of luggage items and their weight, and our driver’s information.

GFX 50R 45mm ISO-100 1/1000sec f/8

They ask for the driver’s information because the airport is shared with the military and they require the information to allow the car and driver into the restricted area. Upon arriving at the airport, the Military guards checked the information and passports and allowed us in. Since we arrived early, we waited in the car at the Military Police building for the airline employees to arrive. 

When the Cinnamon Air representative arrived, he checked our passports and weighed our luggage using a hook scale. With the weights matching what we had previously said in the email, we were cleared to go to the runway. We all jumped back in our cars and followed the lead driver for about 1.5 km, before arriving at the runway.

GFX 50R 45mm ISO-500 1/1000sec f/2.8

We watched the previous flight land and deplane and then took our luggage up to the plane. The staff loaded the luggage into the plane and we took our cameras and backpacks into the passenger area. I have to admit that I loved this experience and wish I had a personal plane like this of my own!

Our pilot was the coolest guy. He had his aviator sunglasses, pilot uniform, with customary Sri Lankan flip-flops!

It was a rainy and cloudy day so most of the flight was above the clouds, but we still got some terrific views and the whole experience was something we’ll remember for years to come. Our pilot was the coolest guy you can imagine. He had his aviator sunglasses on, pilot uniform, with customary Sri Lankan flip-flops!

GFX 50R 45mm ISO-640 1/1000sec f/8

The flight itself was pretty bumpy, likely because of the poor weather, but our pilots handled the situation with ease. The landing was surprisingly gentle, perhaps due to the balloon-like sidewalls on the tires of these small planes. The only thing that would have been cooler is if this was one of the routes where they do a sea landing.

It’s all about the resort 

Going back to Negombo, we didn’t particularly find much of interest in the town. There’s a cute street lined with restaurants but most were empty, with the exception of one, Lords Restaurant Complex, which was packed every night.

If you have a nice resort, you’ll likely stay in the resort, enjoying the food, drinks, and the beach.

If you have a nice resort, you’ll likely stay in the resort, enjoying the food, drinks, and the beach. One resort that we wished we stayed at was the Jetwing Blue Negombo. We ate there several times and had an overall good experience.

Fireworks on New Year’s Eve at the Heritance Negombo; GFX 50R 35mm ISO-400 1/125sec f/1

Something to keep in mind as a tourist is that you may want to consider the impact these resorts are having on the local population and ecosystem. We noticed some pretty awful smelling “water” being pumped into the ocean from the string of resorts near Negombo Beach. 

When we asked a local person selling items on the beach (we’ll get to that in a moment) what the liquid was, he said the hotels claim it to be excess swimming pool water, but they know it’s something far worse due to the odour and colour. He said the locals have complained to the government and are hoping something gets done. If you decide to swim at the beach, you may want to have a look at the location of the drainage for these hotels before diving in.

The beach can be beautiful

One of the biggest annoyances in Negombo was the frequent and maddeningly persistent salespeople on the beach. There’s a good reason why all the resorts have fences with a guard managing ingress and egress to the beach. These beach touts made going for a stroll along the ocean into a negative experience. They were aggressive, pushy, and make you feel guilty for being “rich”. I would happily buy stuff if they were more mild mannered.

GFX 50R 35mm ISO-100 1/16000sec f/1

Finally, the beach itself can be beautiful, but the reality is that most of the beach along the Negombo resort strip are filthy and filled with trash at night. The resorts employ people to clean the patch in front of their hotels, but if you stray beyond the resorts, you’ll see the sad reality. I’m not sure if it’s the local population, or the tourists, or most likely a combination of both, that creates this mess, but I hope the government finds a way to protect these beautiful beaches and the ocean for Sri Lanka’s future generations. 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, we were not overly impressed with Negombo and would have skipped it altogether if we could plan the trip again. Instead, we’d spend more time in Nuwara Eliya, Kandalama Lake, and Galle, which we absolutely loved, or even Colombo, which we enjoyed more than we had expected. 

The last sunset of 2018 from Negombo Beach; GFX 50R 63mm ISO-200 1/2900sec f/2.8

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sri Lanka series. As always, I appreciate any comments or questions you may have, and you don’t have to sign up to post comments.

Other articles from the Sri Lanka series:

Related Posts

Comments (2)

So well written, love the comments about the flight…. ha ha

Thank you Hanspeter, I hope your travels are going well. My co-worker is going to South Africa and I shared your recommendations with him. I can’t wait to hear about his experience there!

Leave a reply