An early start for the fisherfolk of Passekudah
The beautiful, pristine coastline of Passekudah is finally opening up to the rest of the world, thanks to a strategic Tourism Development Zone being developed along 140 acres of beachfront land in Passekudah. As a vital part of the government's "Nagenahira Navodaya" (Eastern Awakening) development programme, this tourism development will combine economic upliftment opportunities for local communities and an opportunity to revel in the remarkable beauty of this Eastern coastline.
Words Manori Wijesekera Photography Menaka Aravinda
Passekudah is one of the hidden gems of the East, with its shallow bay area, pristine beaches, long stretch of beautiful coral reefs and the days of unbroken sunshine it offers. Declared a tourist zone in 1971, Passekudah was a popular tourist destination, but always considered an off-the-beaten-track location with only a few hotels. The years of conflict and the effects of the 2004 Tsunami were devastating to the area.
However, the government's plan to revive and develop the East through its "Nagenahira Navodaya" development programme, resulted in Passekudah being identified as a tourist destination with huge potential for development - giving this beautiful area a second chance at becoming one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world. Once completed, Passekudah will be the newest, purpose-built, beach resort area in the world.
"Passekudah has historically been a beachside resort and as such we introduced a well planned tourism development programme for Passekudah," explained Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development.
the special Tourism Development Zone was identified, with 14 purpose-built hotels providing over 1,000 rooms for local and foreign visitors
As such, the special Tourism Development Zone was identified, with 14 purpose-built hotels providing over 1,000 rooms for local and foreign visitors. Public areas with open air bazaars, a museum and art gallery, a shopping complex, an open air theatre, specially designed cycle paths and nature trails and a sports centre are all being created as part of the Zone. The local fishing community is not excluded from this development, with a special open-air fish market being built, encouraging the visitors to interact with the local people and catch a glimpse of local life.
"This planned tourism development is a huge boon to the industry," says Chandra Wickramasinghe, Chairman of Maalu Maalu Resorts and Spas and Connaissance de Ceylan, the first developer and investor within the Tourist Zone. "All over the world, you see that planned tourism development creates the most pleasant experience for travellers and unplanned and uncontrolled tourism development only leads to overcrowding and other unpleasant conditions."
The Passekudah coastline is unique. It has a quiet bay with deep water ideal for boating, fishing and diving
The Passekudah coastline is unique. It has a quiet bay with deep water ideal for boating, fishing and diving while adjoining the bay is a stretch of coastline with a coral reef that creates a shallow pool-like area for nearly 300m into the ocean. The incredibly warm ocean water, beautiful coral reefs with sea cucumbers, branching corals and many types of reef fish make this coastline ideal for snorkelling. This is one of the few places in the world where you can walk into the ocean for several hundred metres, with the water only coming up to your waist! The wide stretch of golden sand, almost year-round perfect sunshine and calm ocean waters all combine to make this one of the top beach areas of the world.
For those who want some more excitement, Passekudah is also ideal for water sports and diving. A Water Sports & Diving Centre run by Lanka Sportsreizen is already operational, and offers water-skiing, jet-scooter rides, windsurfing, snorkelling, banana boat rides, tube rides and canoeing.
The deep ocean water nearby is home to several sunken World War II ships, many with abundant coral growth around it and is a favourite diving destination.
Passekudah is also an ideal base to explore the surrounding areas - the ancient city of Polonnaruwa and its many wildlife sanctuaries (an hour's drive away), Kalkudah beach which is less than a kilometre from Passekudah or a drive to Batticaloa (35km away) to explore this city of lagoons and waterways.
The infrastructure within Passekudah is being rapidly developed, with new roads being built, and bridges repaired and expanded. The drive from Colombo is now reduced to 6-7 hours, with excellent driving conditions most of the way, providing scenic views of wild-life filled jungles, rice fields and small rural communities. You can also reach this area by train, with the Kalkudah train station located nearby. A seaplane landing port is also being developed, and will soon provide quick access from other parts of the country.
Passekudah has been a best-kept secret for too long...
Passekudah has been a best-kept secret for too long, and its remarkable natural beauty now combined with the many options for relaxation and rejuvenation will soon draw you to its golden beaches and warm waters.
Hotels in Passekudah
Maalu Maalu Resorts & Spa
The first hotel to be opened in the Passekudah Tourist Zone, Maalu Maalu is built in the style of a traditional fishing village (a Wadiya). With 40 spacious luxury rooms, an Ayurveda Spa and delicious seafood cooked by award winning chefs, Maalu Maalu was recently voted one of the 100 Best Hotels in the World by UK's Sunday Times Travel magazine.
With the beautiful Passekudah beach and a natural canal running through it, Amethyst Resort is built on a spacious 10.5 acres in the Tourist Zone. The Amethyst opened in March 2012 with 40 rooms, and another 60 rooms to be added by 2013. A barrel-bar with nearly 300 cocktail recipes to choose from and fresh seafood await guests.
To be opened soon:
Nilakudah Resort & Spa
To be opened by July 2012
18 luxury chalets with twin rooms, a sitting area and private balcony and deck areas are built facing the sparkling ocean. A pool, restaurant and spa are among the luxury facilities here. Four Villas have their own private plunge pool, while two Chalets are built as Family Villas with shared access to the rooms.
To be opened by August 2012
60 rooms built in chalet-style (single, double and triple chalet options), a large pool, restaurant and bar, as well as a natural swimming area in the shallow Indian Ocean waters.
Sun Tan Resort
To be opened by August 2012
Spread across a spacious ten-acre compound, the Resort boasts 125 rooms and 36 superior rooms and suites, all with ocean views. Large dining facilities, pool, bar areas and multiple areas for relaxation are built into this resort design.
Lanka Sportsreizen - Marina
Soft opening planned for September 2012
A watersport-enthusiast's dream, the LSR Marina has 36 rooms, a restaurant and an on-site Diving & Water Sports Centre that offers a range of water sports, boat rides, and specially planned diving trips.
Uga Bay Resort
To be opened by September 2012
Built in a unique circular style which provides the best ocean views from every vantage in the hotel, the Uga Bay Resort will have 43 rooms and one Beach House with multiple rooms for family or group bookings. 12 free standing buildings, with four rooms in each building provides the hotel with a unique look. The main building holds the common areas with restaurant, spa, gym, bar area and a large entertainment area.
To be opened by December 2012
100 double rooms and four individual luxury chalets, with almost all of them having splendid ocean views. A large swimming pool with special children's swimming area and viewing deck, spa facilities, gym, restaurant and pool bar are among the facilities being planned here.
Lanka Sportsreizen Resort
To be opened by December 2012
Built as an exclusive retreat to relax and unwind, the Resort has 45 large, spacious and airy rooms with amazing ocean views, large balcony and patio areas, open air showers and the luxury amenities of a star class hotel. This resort also boasts the largest pool in the Tourism Zone, with a deep area specially built for diving.
To be opened by December 2012
Spread across six acres, this resort will have 50 rooms built in villa style, each with its own bedroom, private sitting area and attached bathroom. Five of these will be luxury villas with their own private pool and deck area and with direct access to the beach and pool area. Family villas, with three rooms interconnecting, will also be built.
To be opened by March 2013
This still-to-be-named hotel is being built on a spacious ten acre spread, and when completed, will have 60 rooms, a restaurant, spa, swimming pool, gym and health centre, water sports pavilion, tennis court and parking for 200 vehicles on site.
To be opened by June 2012
With 22 air conditioned double rooms, an interconnected family room, rooftop bar and dining area, restaurant, secluded pool and bar café, this small hotel is perfect for mid budget travellers who want to be located within the Passekudah beach area but outside the Tourism Development Zone.