Since the Coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19 has changed the world, many tourists got stuck in foreign countries. We want you to tell you the stories of our guests, why they are still here, how our staff is doing, and what the owner thinks about the situation. Enjoy!
Steve & Charlotte are expats from Belgium that live in Colombo. They have 2 kids and are staying at Kitesurfing Lanka during the lockdown. They are returning customers for years, so we know them very well.
Why do you stay in these times at KSL with your family?
Why not? Haha. At home, the kids were going crazy. The heat, the limited space available and the lockdown isn’t very pleasant for the kids. So we decided to move here for the time being. Here the kids can run around, go swimming and ride their bikes in the restaurant. Plus, have you ever tried homeschooling kids that have too much energy from staying home all day? It’s a nightmare!
How do you feel in Sri Lanka & especially in KSL?
We feel safe and also very privileged to hide this phase here. We moved so much stuff up especially for the kids that I think we need to hire a truck to get everything back to Colombo again! I don’t know how the kids are going to react if I tell them we have to move back again.
Thoughts about the future for Sri Lanka & KSL?
We hope the cases stay low and everything is getting to normal. For KSL we hope that the borders will open soon and people can start traveling again. Seeing this place so empty feels strange, especially when you know how it looks like in high season!
Ninja & Chris are digital nomad couple that chose Sri Lanka as a little stopover on the way to Australia. They arrived at KSL just before the curfew got imposed and borders to Australia already closed. So they got literally stuck in paradise.
Why did you stay at KSL instead of flying home?
The planning was to go to Australia, but that didn’t work out but we still wanted to stay close to Australia in case this would be over soon. Well, that didn’t work out either haha. We also wanted to stay close to countries that are responding well to the situation like. Plus we didn’t want to go back home since we have no home left in Germany or Scotland. So don’t know where and when we can continue our trip. We have been in Sri Lanka since the end of February and are quite lucky that the visa extension is not a problem.
What did you think when you heard about Corona the first time?
Chris: This is what they predicted in 2015! I read an article once that stated that in the next few years there will be a major outbreak originating from the China wet markets. I knew it was coming.
Ninja: I knew there was a bad flew but I didn’t think of anything. As many other things in the world, I thought it would just pass and thought everything was gonna be fine. Couldn’t be further from the truth!
How is the life here at KSL for you at the moment?
Hot, and bankrupt haha. No just joking, live is good, we get 3 meals a day, we have the ocean in front of our house. It’s nice that the sun is shining and we feel really lucky to be stranded here instead of anywhere else. We’ve got lots of space, good wifi to work online, a beautiful beach bungalow and we can still go for a swim every day.
Our staff is working currently in small groups to run the camp for our few guests.
Ruwantha is in charge of the office and Ranjith and Udara is responsible for guest relations.
Shirantha is the main man in the kitchen and makes the whole camp happy with his team.
Gihan is usually working in the kitesurf rental, but now he is helping Nissanga a lot with gardening.
What did the lookdown change for you?
Ruwantha: “Most of us live in the camp, but for me and some other it is hard to drive home to our families in the evening, even if it’s only the neighborhood. Workwise we are a bit less busy without a full camp, but there is always maintenance to do for us.”
Shirantha: “I had to become the boss in the kitchen, because our chef lives far away and stays with his family. At the beginning of the curfew I didn’t expect how difficult it would be. It was hard to get food, suppliers didn’t deliver anymore, shops were closed, prices for goods increased and to get the products on time for our guests was very challenging. Luckily we have such a good community here, fishermen and farmers all came together to help manage and solve those problems.
What are your thoughts when you think about the future?
Ranjith: Complicated. Still happy that we can get our salaries, but there is an unknown future ahead so nobody knows when tourists can return and we get our normal income and life.
Gihan: “If you ask us today, I hope we can go out and kitesurf soon, because I just have learned it last season and I am excited have the lagoon for myself, haha.
Daniel & Romina are volunteers at KSL since October 2019 and doing all the online marketing and social media for the camp.
Why didn’t you fly home?
Well, this was one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make.
Staying here, see how this dark cloud will develop in this country, and hopefully have enough resources like food and water to stay alive. Or flying home to family and a better healthcare system that is located in the epicenter in Europe. After talking hours on the phone with family and asking all our loved ones what to do, we eventually made the decision to stay here.
Now 8 weeks later, we said to each other that there is actually no other place in the world we would want to be right now. We are outside all day, get good food and it looks like we can even go kitesurfing again soon! We feel very protected in the camp. We can even get our own groceries delivered through Whatsapp!
How did your day/work change now?
Not much as we still work from our laptops, so workwise nothing much really changed.
In the beginning, we worked full time on the fundraiser. It was amazing to see how much support we got from all over the world. We feel really honored to help collect so many donations so the KSL families don’t have to worry about the time to come. People still donate almost every day! Our days look a bit different tho, next to our KSL task, we have more time to do yoga, focus on our own business and have our daily time on the beach, and hopefully soon kitesurfing of course!
Dil, one the owners of Kitesurfing Lanka and is spending lockdown in Kalpitiya. He even brought his father in the camp during the lockdown!
What did you feel, when everything became more serious with the outbreak in Sri Lanka?
We knew in February that it would be very serious. But I didn’t think at the time that Sri Lanka would get impacted so hard as well – the whole world to be frank.
Having experienced how events can devastate tourism – we experienced this after the April 2019 bombings in Sri Lanka, Leo and I knew we had to brace for the worst immediately. The honest feeling at the time was ‘oh no, not again’.
What changed for you personally?
I recall how I questioned if I was a good businessman just before lockdown – saying that we as a business did not have enough reserves to take care of our staff for the coming year if tourism crashed. However, I was reassured by our friends and guest of KSL that perhaps I do have a model of business that’s even better than what most have.
How KSL’s social capital ensured we had the reserves we need – even more than we expected – speaks volumes of how KSL has become more than just a business. It has extended beyond borders, beyond kitesurfers to make an impact on many people’s lives. They all rallied to support us in a time of need. I was awed and blown away by this fact and will continue to nurture this trait and continue the work we do for the environment and communities.
How do you keep your mind positive?
Routine is the most important. When you look around there is so much to do. In the last months, I made it a point to nourish my body, mind, and spirit. As well as make it a point to share that enthusiasm with those around me. Positivity is contagious!
I find it a joy to spend time at KSL and redo a lot of stuff that needed attention – like the gardens and accommodation. Even in lockdown, we are looking at how to take our mangrove restoration project to the next level, still looking at finding long term solutions for waste management as well as learning simple things like composting and making the soil fertile.
As someone mentioned, this time is “the Great Realization”. We won’t get another chance like this to reset.
Kitesurfing Lanka and the tourism industry got hit very hard by the travel restrictions. But luckily we have built an awesome kite community over the last 8 years that helped and donated over 26.000€ with our fundraiser. We are able to run our camp and can take care of everybody who wants to escape and hide in a safe and beautiful environment. Or just want a little holiday after all. We really hope that we will have at least a few tourists coming for this summer season 2020.
The season has just started, the wind is picking up and from May to October we get wind all day long with averages of 18-20 knots. You can choose between the flat water lagoon and waves in the ocean or even join our megadowninder to the north of Sri Lanka. The weather is warm and a wetsuit isn’t necessary.
We hope to see you soon again!