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Sri Lanka & Maldives 2018. By Clare Dudley.

Clare’s Trip

Our holiday started at London Heathrow airport. As our flight was overnight, we chose to travel in business class. The One World lounge is very spacious and has plenty of amenities and a great view to allow the couple of hours at the airport to pass very quickly, and of course the complimentary glasses of fizz and something to eat were a welcome attribute too! The flight to Colombo is about 10 hours and I was thrilled that I managed to sleep for about 6 of those hours! The flight went quickly and we arrived feeling quite refreshed. Colombo is a great airport and very easy to navigate through.Here we were met at the airport by Elmo from Ceylon Roots who was to be our tour guide and driver for the week. We took our first of many car journeys, heading to Dambulla in the central region of Sri Lanka, driving for around 4 hours through villages and towns. During this time you are immediately taken to another era and way of life. We saw so much of the local life, the people and their cultures. Many rice paddy fields and dense forest like regions where you can see an array of trees such as teak, sandalwood, rubber trees, maple, ebony and mahogany. Our guide points out these as we drive along; he was full of interesting facts!

Top tip!

It is easy to change some money into the local currency, which is essential to do at the airport as you cannot take money into the country. Once through customs there are many places to change money and it is simple and quick.

We arrive at our first overnight hotel, The Paradise Resort & Spa, located in the ancient town of Dambulla. This is a very peaceful and well placed hotel close to the Kandalama Lake. Our room was huge with a wonderful mezzanine which could take another person, so ideal for a family. There is a spa and a super swimming pool. Buffet breakfast was vast and the service was really good here. Very in keeping with its natural environment.

Did you know…?

In Sri Lanka if you suffer from measles, they rub the leaf of the sandalwood into the skin to ease the pain and ultimately to help get rid of the spots! Our first glimpse of the wildlife was on this journey and we saw peacocks, cormorants and monkeys.

The next day was an early start for us as we headed for Sigiriya Rock, a former palace to the King Kashyapa and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. We looked at the rock and the vastness of the proposed climb ahead and were very daunted, but I’m so pleased we managed the climb, a mere 1300 steps up! Despite the big climb (not suitable for those with reduced mobility) the rewards were high as we got to enjoy the most awesome views while learning all about the history from the 5th century.

Once we got back to ground Elmo advised us that we had a couple of hours spare and asked if we would like a massage – of course we would! We were taken to quite a remote location but the experience was fabulous. £58 gave Paul a 1-hour massage followed by steam room and for me a 1 hour massage, some reflexology then some oil treatment for my scalp. It was amazing and so cheap! I would highly recommend a visit here at the Athreya Ayurvedic Hotel and Spa if you have time.

After our massages we went on a jeep safari of Minneriya National Park. On our approach into the main part of the park we saw a viper snake, monkeys, a crocodile, peacocks, water buffalo, pelicans, storks, a green honeybee eater and most importantly we saw elephants!!! Lots of elephants. At this point I was beyond excited. As I mentioned earlier, this was a dream for me. We got so close and saw so many. A calf was amongst the many we saw and was less than a month old. For me I was in heaven. I couldn’t believe we were not disturbing the animals yet we were so close. This is a total must for any elephant lovers!

Following this awesome adventure, we headed to the beach. This was a long journey, an approximate 100-kilometre drive. While long these journeys are fascinating, taking in many villages and are a great opportunity to see for yourself the very different way of life they lead. The colours and the culture are around you every part of the journey. I wanted to have a little sleep as it had been a long day, but I didn’t want to miss anything on our drive. Honestly, driving in this part of the world is a little scary. There seem to be no rules and the drivers are far more impatient. My tip is to not look out of the front window, but to look out of the side windows!

We spent overnight at The Calm Resort Hotel. Located right on the beach this friendly 4-star hotel has large beach facing rooms that are very spacious and in keeping with the Sri Lankan countryside.

After a long drive back to the area of Hiriwadunna we took a village safari tour. This was a few hours of great fun and learning how the locals live. The jeep took us to an ox and cart where we rode for about 15 minutes with a guide who stops and tells us all about the natural vegetation, showing us the spices and fruits and explains how different spices are good for different aliments.

Following our ride, we took a walk still having a guide explain more about the countryside. We saw fruit bats, chameleons, peacocks and even tree houses which are used to scare off the elephants. We then took a double canoe ride across a remote lake to reach a mud home. Here we were shown how to make coconut roti, how to get rice grains from their shells, how to grind flour, and even how to take palm leaves from the trees to make roofs for their houses. So insightful!

We then head to the beautiful Aliya Resort & Spa. Wow, what a wonderful hotel with views of the rock! The hotel was of a very high standard and had a true elephant theme throughout. I would highly recommend this hotel.

We then undertake another long car journey to Kandy; a busy and vibrant city. Our morning tour in Kandy is the Temple of the Tooth Relic where religious stories date back many centuries. The love of the holy elephants is throughout the temple, we witnessed and indeed joined the many hundreds of young and old who flock there to pray with offerings to the temple. A very humbling experience.

We depart Kandy, this time by train, joining the locals as we travel south. We have four hours to relax and enjoy the diverse countryside. I have previously watched in horror as I have seen young and old hanging out of the doors of such trains, but I found myself doing the same and enjoying the scenery of the many tea plantations and the diverse countryside. I would recommend taking a trip like this to everyone.

The train journey ends in Nanu Oya and our guide is there to meet us. We were taken to Nuwara Eliya where we had an evening to enjoy the wonderful hotel Araliya Green Hills. From the second we arrived at this hotel the warmth and the hospitality enveloped us like a hug. This region of Sri Lanka is known as Little England, set amongst a beautiful backdrop of mountains, valleys, waterfalls and tea plantations. It is thought to be one of the coldest parts of Sri Lanka, but still equal to a spring day in the UK. There is a great deal of British influence in this area.

After our lovely morning with the elephants we took the highway, a new road that has helped with tourism over the last few years, to Galle. Well once again I fell in love with this wonderful town in Sri Lanka. The town felt a little more upmarket and had a really welcoming vibe. Galle is home to the largest occupied fort in Asia. It also has a quaint beauty which extends beyond the golden beaches too. The ancient fort is the town’s main attraction, but the whole town is steeped in history.

Our favourite hotel of the trip was here, the Amangalla, www.aman.com. Stunning doesn’t even do the hotel justice. Think old colonial style in total elegance and this will sum up this charming hotel. The service and rooms were excellent, the spa was alluring and the food was superb. This hotel is a must! Then our tour ends…

PLEASE make it a must on your future travel list!!!

There was not one element that I did not like about this charming and beautiful country. You don’t need to do a tour as tiring as ours, my goal was to fit as much in as I could but I will definitely go back to allow me to enjoy more of this fascinating country at a relaxed pace. The people and their culture are both welcoming and genuine. Seeing the animals at large in their natural habitat felt like such a special privilege as it was such a large contrast to western life! Our trip allowed us to see lots but we were shattered. Next time for me and for anyone in the future I would recommend a 10 or 14 day holiday combining some of the country’s amazing beauty with some time to relax by the many wonderful beaches.

However you choose to see it I promise you won’t be disappointed! I would be delighted to put some ideas together if this is a trip you might like to do, just let me know.

boat trip

 

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