Having used the forums before we went to CPB, it seems only fair to report back on what we found. As we were on RO for our second week we were keen to find somewhere to eat apart from the hotel. Just across the road to the right of the hotel is a small group of buildings - Sea Sparkles jeweller (who made me some lovely jewellery ), Sha Sha souvenir shop (the largest we came across with a lovely lady who just lets you mooch without pressure to buy) and Sha Sha Seafood Restaurant, a brightly painted building next to the sea. We thought we'd try lunch here and returned more than once! Although they have fish, lobster and crabs on the menu we stuck with the most delicious prawns. In the evening they put the tables outside on the beach, which is how we came to be sitting in the moonlight at the water's edge eating the biggest prawns we'd ever seen, washed down with (big) bottles of Lion beer whilst watching the sand crabs scuttling around - and all for just over £15 for the two of us. All those guests on AI didn't know what they were missing!! We found Slimline Tours and chatted to Sumudu though he wasn't easy to find as he was often out on a tour. We also met Fernando just outside the gates and, the following day, his brother. I had read about people being wary of finding the 'real' Fernando but you can't miss him - he's quite a big guy, often wearing sunglasses and is one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. The confusion over the 'real' one comes about because Fernando is his surname and is also, so we were told, quite a common Sri Lankan surname. We made our decision and did a 2 night 3 day tour organised by Fernando. We went to Kandy, through the tea plantations to stay in an amazing place near Yala (it's small so Fernando's trying to keep it fairly quiet so as to be able to have availability but it was a highlight of the holiday for us), did an early morning safari in Yala ( we saw a leopard, elephants etc but it was a bit like trying to do a safari on the M1 with all the jeeps around!) and then drove back via Galle and the turtle sanctuary - def recommended. We went in Anton's tuktuk to Marawila Friday evening market and also to Chilaw - the fish market made us wish we were self catering and the fruit and veg stalls across the road put ones back home to shame. We found ladies who spoke enough English to explain various spices etc to us and they absolutely loved having their pictures taken and being shown the results.
Having travelled in Asia several times we found the Sri Lankans some of the friendliest and helpful people we've ever come across.Would we go back to Sri Lanka? Almost certainly but we'd like to stay in the South next time to explore Galle and go whale watching and most likely combine it with time in the Maldives. To all who are visiting for the first time as we did - you'll have a wonderful time. Thank you to all forum contributors who provide so much helpful info.