It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since the attacks in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, that devastated the country that Sofie, Kit and I - along with a large portion of our team - have come to call home.
Words by Ed Templeton | Photography by Katie Rae | 21st May ‘19
A lot has happened in the last month. There’s the initial shock and disbelief, of course. And when that passes, the more immediate questions. How can we help? What’s the best way to support those affected? Is it safe to be in Sri Lanka?
And over time - what does this mean for Sri Lanka’s future? For the local community? And for Soul & Surf?
In attempting to answer all these questions - and believe me, plenty more! - over the last month, we’ve read pages and pages on the subject. We’ve spoken to our friends, colleagues, connections on the ground in Sri Lanka; local and international lawyers, insurers, members of the Sri Lanka tourism alliance. We’ve done everything we can to understand the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Advisory inside out. Hardly ‘living the dream’ - but we’re under no illusion: this is running a business, and this is the unfortunate reality of the increasingly geopolitically unstable world we’re all living in.
Following a devastating event like this one, honesty and clarity is more important than ever - and I guess what I’m getting at is that, even after weeks of researching this thing, I’m still totally bamboozled. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, and seemingly no definitive answer on whether Sri Lanka is safe to visit.
So, perhaps it’s helpful to set out here our take on the situation, for what it’s worth. We’re not experts and won’t pretend to be. But we take our responsibility to our staff and to our guests very seriously. Which is why we believe it’s important to us to set out the facts as we know them, and then let people make up their own minds.
Of course, we have a vested interest. Our business, our livelihood and our team’s livelihood depends on being able to take bookings in Sri Lanka - and while we’re lucky to have equally beautiful spots, and equally fantastic teams, in Kerala and Portugal, we’d be lying if we said we’d not been losing a some sleep over whether we’ll be able to keep Soul & Surf Sri Lanka going. (At least we have training in the sleep deprivation bit thanks to our four-year-old son...)
But it’s not in our interest to pretend the attacks didn’t happen, and of course it doesn’t feel right to tell you it’s ‘business as usual’ and gloss over the truth in order to sell another holiday. It’s just not what we’re about.
The situation right now is this: security has been tightened, especially in Colombo and at the airport. And the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.
However in the South of the island, where we’re based, little has changed - with the exception of being much quieter than usual. As for Soul & Surf? We are 166 Kms away from Colombo Airport and 130Kms away from Colombo city. Our hotel is tucked away in the jungle in a rural setting, away from mass crowds, gatherings, major tourist sights and international hotels.
It’s for these reasons, amongst others, that we’re still able to host guests and to offer a week of Soul & Surf - and that we’ve been doing so uninterrupted since the attacks took place.
For the world to believe that Sri Lanka is now unsafe to travel, is exactly what the terrorists want. To cause fear and division is their aim. Yes, it could cripple small businesses like ours but more importantly the livelihoods of an enormous number of Sri Lankans who have come to rely on Western tourism. Maybe you’ve visited us before and have been charmed by Mr Weera, who joins us on our weekly SUP around the backwaters? Put the world to rights with Guyan in his tuk tuk back from the beach each morning? Or had our surf instructor Buddy cheer you on as you catch your first green wave at Weligama? These are the people that make Soul & Surf, without whom we couldn’t do what we do - yet who have by far the most to lose.
So, what am I trying to say? Soul & Surf Sri Lanka is open. We have our local and western team here, we're taking bookings responsibly, sharing as much info as we can, and… well the rest is up to you. It’s your choice.
If you have any questions, or you’d like a bit more help making an informed decision on your travel plans, drop us a line.
Peace & Love
Ed, Sofie & Kit
And the Soul & Surf family.