The owner of Flamingo Safari, on his land in Weerawila
Hambantota is the deep south. It’s hot, dry and really weird looking in parts. You can hammer down the roads at 100 km and see for miles. Paddy fields, tanks, tropical deserts. Driving through Sri Lanka you mostly see a bunch of trees and the same Nestomalt dealer boards. In Hambantota you can see a lot of nature, and the roads are pretty fast. I don’t recommend the town at all, but the district is quite cool. For Yala and Kataragama alone, it’s well worth a visit.
a local traffic jam
District Not Town
One misconception I had was that Hambantota was a town. Hambantota town is tiny and there’s nothing to do there. You can get a passable rice and curry at the guest house and see a decent view of the old Hambantota Port. That’s at the top of the only hill. Leonard Wolff used to be government agent up there, but there isn’t even a plaque to his name. The town itself is mostly Muslim and kinda like a min, crappy Pettah. The Peacock Hotel is off there and it’s decidedly mediocre. There’s beach but it’s quite rough and I’d never swim in it. The town kinda sucks.
Hambantota District, however, is quite cool. On the surface there’s Yala National Park (with leopards and elephants and stuff), Kataragama (temples), and Tangalle (beaches). Below the surface (of my knowledge) is diving (including the Great and Little Basses lighthouses off the coast), some tanks, and I’m sure other stuff. The roads are now good so you can get there from Colombo fast (I think 4 hours is possible via the Ratnapura Road). You can also get around fast, so it’s possible to visit Yala, Udawalawe and Bundara in one trip. In terms of sheer quantity and availability of nature it’s quite cool.
a donation, interestingly, from Taiwan and not China
The Future Of
The reason Hambantota gets so much attention now is because of it’s mega projects, the port and the airport. The latter, while it takes place nominally in Hambantota won’t really benefit the town (in my opinion). The port actually detours the main Galle Road away from the town entirely. I personally think that the Hambantota Port will benefit Tangalle, Galle and Colombo more than Hambantota town itself.
The airport as well is set for Mattala, way outside of the town. That will probably serve Yala, Bandarawella, and Buttala in tourist terms and Colombo and Galle in terms of cargo.
I don’t know anything about the airport, but it seems like the port is on schedule. There are a ton of shipping lines running across the south, so I do think having a port there is a good idea. Everything from Singapore/Hong Kong to the MidEast/Europe runs across here, so we might as well get a taste. I personally like Galle as a tourist destination, so developing Hambantota might be a good idea. The Chinese, of course, are doing it for their own reasons, including messing with India and keeping warships here. That doesn’t bother me too much.
Stuff To Do
I generally like Hambantota. It’s beautiful and the roads are good and Yala and Kataragama alone make it worthwhile. The former has a ton of wild animals and the latter is a spiritual mecca. As it develops, however, Uda Walawe national park and Tangalle beaches should become more accessible, plus it’s really close to Arugam Bay (great beaches) and Bandarawela/Nuwara Eliya (great, cold climate). All in all it seems like stuff is happening down there. I look forward to it.