When you are afraid of something, the best thing, people say is to face your fears. I was afraid of heights but I climbed Sigiriya and Adam’s Peak and got over my fears. Then there was the water…when I nearly drowned in my early years, I didn’t walk away from it…I got my dad’s friend to teach me to swim. Then came the great big ocean, tsunami, undercurrents and all that. But all that was put to rest a few weekends back on my escapade to Uga Bay Passikudah and I got on a Jet Ski.
My instructor Manjula was all about making sure his customers get the best of riding a jet ski and well for me; it was overcoming all those great big wave fears and just love the ocean more. As I accelerated hard and drove through the water, the feeling of breaking those waves and riding like I was flying was just thrilling and exciting. Timing, turning and loving the water is all you need before you get on a jet ski and the rest…well the rest you will find out when you’re actually on it. Apart from the Jet Ski :), Uga Bay by Uga Escapes speaks of adventure, romance, relaxation and meals with a twist.
“I think we are very fortunate in getting the best part of the beach out of the whole Passikudah stretch. Compared to the other hotels, we are on 10 acres of land. The hotel has been built in a way where all the rooms have a good view of the ocean and access to the beach spread out in a V shape and everything else falling in the middle”, General Manager Roshan Dylan.
Their Vice Chairman Harsha de Saram is very into the landscapes and one can see that the grass and the coconut trees have added a very soothing touch to the eye, as especially during the day there is a lot of glare.
“If you look at the three properties – Ulagalla (Anuradhapura) and Jungle Beach (Trincomalee) – one will see that Uga Bay keeping to the brand standards where luxury is part of the room – linens, pillow and beds –been in Passikudah it’s a bit of a more fun and lively place”, Roshan adds.
Offerings to guests
“We basically look at it as if you’re going to a hotel and staying there to enrich your own self, your life by travelling. You can choose to stay at home or you can choose to explore, travel and benefit out of it. People used to travel for different reasons but now people want an educational aspect out of travel – they want to experience the local culture and what the destination has to offer. We believe that food is a major part of it so we have created a thing called the Uga Culinary Group. All the F&B and chefs get together in a forum and talk about culinary in general”, Roshan added.
Speaking of which when you head on to the restaurant for breakfast – the buffet comes to you. You get a tray full of croissants, bread, yoghurt, oatmeal, fruits, buns and jam to feast upon. This gives you what you want to start off your day. Uga is highly focused on a-la-carte rather than buffets because they believe that this will be the future of how people eat. People want to know where exactly their food comes from, where the seafood is frozen and even going to the extent of how knowing much of a carbon print is going into the environment. There are theme nights for the big crowds that come such as Saturday BBQs and Sunday brunch which includes a cookie making class for children.
From the moment you start your day – one either spends time at the beach or the pool and this is where all the pampering and comforts of Uga is displayed to the guests. From 11am when one gets into the pool they give a water bottle and a cold towel, at 1pm they give mini shooters of frozen drinks (karapinchcha and thambili water or ginger and orange) to revive oneself and around 3pm they give frozen fruit screwers (kebabs of fruits/icicles) and during the day a guy would go with water spray bottles and give it to the guests so they can spray themselves to cool off in the heat and the Uga boys clean the sunglasses as well. “These little things add to that luxury experience”.
There is Minneriya, Thoppigala, Anuradhapura, Pollannaruwa and the Vakarai Veddhas for guests to explore once here. Roshan adds that anyone can put you in a van and show you everything – but that’s not what they want to do.
“We want to do something somewhat controlled from our end, working closely with whoever we need to work with and taking you places, stopping in an area taking camp size chairs, unfolding and then quickly opening a bottle of champagne with some canapés. All our excursions are designed in a way that there is a little bit of F&B involved. All this will be ready by July/August as that’s when the tourists pour in”, Roshan added.
Then there is the Catamaran adventure which will have two rooms enough for about five people maximum. This unique experience will come alive somewhere end of May. Guests can sail from Passikudah to Kuchchaveli (Trincomalee) in eight hours with a butler, chef and linen from Uga. For example guests can do an excursion to Trinco where they sail for 8 hours with marine biologists (along with the diving and snorkeling equipment), cocktails at sunrise and arrive by 4am to Kuchchaveli and just in time to check out some whales and dolphins. Then the guests can get off at Jungle Beach have the breakfast experience and choose whether to come by boat or road (which will be maximum two hour drive back). This is one of the many excursions Uga has planned to do in the sea.
Then just off the coast of Batticaloa (famous for its lagoon crabs), there is an area where the fishermen put their cages and during a certain time of the day, guests can go to assist to reel them in and sail back with the crabs (2 hours sailing trip). Once back at the hotel, Uga chefs will be conduct a cooking class by the poolside with individual cooking burners teaching them how to make the traditional Batticaloa crab. Usually one has the crab claws to break the crab but Uga gives the guests a little chopping board and wooden hammer to break everything. Once you have finished eating, they take the hammer and carve the guest’s name on to the hammer and give them as a souvenir to take home.
Eco and organic life
In terms of their eco activities what they do from the hotel is very limited. So they need the infrastructure from the Tourist Board and from the government. One huge aspect is the water treatment which is something that needs to be handled and it needs to come from the government side.
They have a herb garden/green house and they are working closely with the Moratuwa University where they send interns on a six months basis wanting a challenging environment for horticulture. So growing herbs in Passikudah is actually a good challenge for them.
“Basil grows like crazy here and Rosemary grows like nothing and the aroma that comes out of these herbs are magnificent. One can’t buy this from the supermarket and get the same smell”, Roshan said proudly.
The green house will have a table made out of log where guests can sit down and have a meal in an herb garden. The chef will cook the food inside the garden so guests can know where the herbs and vegetables are coming from to an extent where their seafood/vegetable supplier’s name would be on their menu. They hope to extend an invitation to the Eastern University very soon. They are making their own blends for tea and hope to come up with an Uga Breakfast Tea that will move into some kind of retail too. The jam Rhubarb and Red chillie are made here and change every three months to different local flavours, while the Marmalade is made out of jambola which is a great substitute for Grape Fruit that is not utilized that much. now they are in the process of making their own sausages (pork and chicken) with their own recipe. Their hash brown at Jungle Beach and Ulagalla is made out of Manioc and it will slowly move to Uga Bay with extra spices.
Uga Bay by Uga Escapes comprises of 46 spacious 500 square foot rooms, a Bay Suite and a Beach Villa. Each cluster features two Ocean Studios upstairs and two Beach Studios on ground level with direct access to the beach. All studios offer breathtaking views of the azure ocean complete with plush king sized beds, gel pillows, high-end entertainment systems and private decks. All units come with modern amenities including a 42” LCD TV, cable channels, IDD phones, complimentary Wi-Fi, tea/coffee making facilities, mini bar, in-room safe, I-pod docking station, individually controlled air conditioning and more. The chic Bay overlooks the cantilevered plunge pool with outdoor decks on either side accessible from both bedrooms which sleep 4 comfortably on king sized and twin beds.
The Beach Villa is the presidential suite and a romantic two storied Villa by the sea, with a private plunge pool and terrace with unobstructed views of the Bay. The Beach villa consists of two bedrooms, a large living space on the ground floor which opens to the terrace and private access to the beach. The Beach house offers butler service too.
Uga Escapes is the leisure arm of Finco Group. With five properties there is little voice. But once 14 or a number that is closer to it comes up will be heard more. We are working on getting a Passikudah Hotelier’s Association to collectively do things. People should have the freedom to stay at Uga Bay then walk along the beach of Passikudah and go and have dinner at Centara. It should be advocated and promoted that way. We are practicing this with Centara, Maalu Maalu, Anilana – we got a good rapo.
Passikudah needs to be marketed as a destination and people need to get to know about it just as much as Bali or Phuket.