Kerala — God’s own country filled with coconut trees, aromatic spices and elegant houseboats. One might wish to go to Kerala just to experience a lavish stay at one of the houseboats but did you know that you could experience the same here in Sri Lanka? Located in Bentota — Yaathra by Jetwing is the first houseboat of it’s kind in Sri Lanka. The easiest and the fastest way to reach there is by Southern Expressway (E02) and from the exit at Aluthgama it would only take maximum of 45 mins. for you to reach Yaathra down the ‘Elpitiya Road’.
Built by the ever popular Niel Marine and designed exclusively by Mrs. Sunela Jayawardena — Yaathra aims to offer a luxurious cruising experience to both local and foreign tourists. Located amidst unique mangrove and distinctive trees and plants, Yaathra is the best way to explore the scenic beauty that Dedduwa Lagoon has to offer. With two air conditioned luxury cabins along with attached bathrooms, one dining area, a rooftop deck and a galley — the houseboat is built to perfection using eco friendly and sustainable material such as bamboos, wood and dried coconut branches and provides the guests with an elegant yet a very comfortable environment to relax whilst enjoying the natural habitat. The bathrooms are well equipped with hot and cold water and with a jacuzzi facing the river, you can truly relax and unwind.
Be sure to check out the sunset from the private balconies in each cabin as it is certainly one of the most breathtaking views I have seen. Food at Yaathra is divine and depending on what the local fishermen catch you can indulge in a traditional Sri Lankan cuisine with signature fish curries. The houseboat is an ideal site for a couple on their honeymoon and they also offer a special package which includes helicopter or seaplane transfers.
The houseboat cruises for five (05) hours starting from Dedduwa Boat House, goes upto Horawala and comes back to the boat house. You can choose the sailing times as you wish but the recommended times would be 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (03 hours) & 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (02 hours). As the houseboat journeys on Benthara River, guests can witness for themselves why Benthara river is known for its rich biodiversity. The lagoon and the banks of the river provide shelter to different types of authentic birds and creatures and if you observe well you may even spot ‘Fishing Cats’ also known as Handun Diviya wandering around. Captain Leel — the master behind the helm with his expertise would take you on a smooth sail and would also share a tale or two about the locale. So be sure to have a chat with him when you are on board.
Apart from cruising along on Benthara River, guests can also be involved in several other activities. You can visit Galpaatha Raja Maha Viharaya which is important historically as well as religiously in Sri Lanka and is frequently visited by the Buddhists. If you seek for more adventure, visit Bawa House — home of world renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa and engage in the Bawa Trail to witness his intricate designs, his mysterious lifestyle and legacy he has left behind. You could also experience the boat rides Bawa House offers — all you have to do is inform the staff at Yaathra and they would do the needful for you. Guests can also go fishing while the boat is anchored at the deck and you can also go canoeing with the assistance of the staff around the houseboat however, I would not recommend swimming in the river because the possibility for you to become a meal for a crocodile is very high.
If you wish to spend your next vacation at Yaathra I must say this is on the pricier side as the prices range from 40,000 LKR — 50,000 LKR. Nevertheless, in my opinion I believe the service you get at Yaathra is definitely impeccable. Captain Leel and his staff is not only welcoming but friendly and very attentive to your needs and would make sure that your stay at Yaathra is a remarkable one. Although Yaathra offers several packages you can always customize your package and with no corkage charged Yaathra could be your next stop for an ultimate night out with friends and family.