- Monday 19 November 2018
Shandon Travel's Jane recently went on an adventure trip of a lifetime to the island of Sri Lanka. Here's her blog:
"Ayubowan! (Sri Lankan greeting, literally: 'have a long life') Our group met in Dublin Airport and flew to Colombo via Istanbul. It was my first time flying with Turkish Airlines and I can see why they're an award winning airline. Comfortable seats, good food and a great choice of in-flight entertainment.
When we arrived in Colombo airport we met our lovely guide- who was very knowledgeable. We were then transferred to our first hotel, which was located directly on the beach and is a contemporary coastal respite that blends finest of tropical luxury with traditional Sri Lankan hospitality.
On Day 2 we travelled from Negombo to Kandy via Mawanella. Mawanella is renowned for its contribution to the world's spice industry. We stopped by a spice farm and the met people who work there. We were shown how the Sri Lankan people use spices for healing in place of western medicines.
From here we continued on our journey to Kandy and we had lunch at Sthree Craft Centre. This café is sponsored by our tour operators and all the proceeds go to a local women's shelter. After a lengthy traffic jam we finally arrived in Kandy city. Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka. Kandy Lake dominates the city- you cant miss it! In the middle of the lake is a small island which was used by the emperor`s personal harem.
We checked into our next hotel- where the views of the surrounding area were fantastic. The local monkeys provided plenty of interesting experiences on the balconies over the next two days!
Shortly after our check-in, we went to Kandy Lake Club for a local drum and dance show. This is a must-do-experience in Kandy. It was an intense, spectacular and energetic show, with both male and female dancers and drummers. They were all wearing colourful costumes and did ten different dances, including the famous “Devil” dances of the west coast. After the dance and drum show, we all went outside where some of the dancers did fire walking!
On the morning of day three we went it the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which is situated north of Kandy Lake. This temple is one of the most famous, as it houses Sri Lanka`s most important Buddhist relic– a tooth which belonged to the Buddha himself!
At the north side of the temple, only accessible via the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, is the Audience Hall. This is a beautiful open-air pavilion with stone columns, Buddha statues and ivory carvings. The shrine receives many worshippers and tourists. Sri Lankan Buddhists believe they must complete at least one pilgrimage to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in their lifetime.
Tip: Wear clothes that cover your legs and shoulders. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to enter the temple. Many tourists do not know this and have to go to the markets in Kandy to buy sarongs. After this we went to one of the local Ayurveda hospitals. Ayurveda- the science of life- is the world’s oldest system of health care. Here we had some treatments by local women.
On day 4 we said goodbye to Kandy and started the journey to Ella. On the way we stopped to visit a Tea Plantation. We tried our hand at tea picking and then got a tour of the factory processing tea for Glenlough Tea Company. After the tour we had an opportunity to try the numerous types of tea produced there.
We continued on our journey and stopped along the way to see the most amazing views of the lush countryside- so unspoilt it would remind you of a scene from Jurassic Park. Next, we arrived in Nuwara Eliya and had a packed lunch at Gregory Lake. Nuwara Eliya, also called Little England, was a hill country retreat for the British colonialists- something which is still evident in the buildings today.
From here we went to the train station to make the two and half hour journey to Ella. The train journey from Nuwara Eliya to Ella was one of my favourite things on the trip. The train powers up through Sri Lanka’s southern hill country, through the tea plantations, into the clouds and then weaves in and out of the many mountain tunnels as it descends to reach Ella. The views can be breath-taking.
On arrival in Ella, we checked into our hotel. Ella is a small laid-back backpackers town. There are a lot of things to do here and the views are stunning.
Directly after breakfast on day five we visited Little Adams Peak. It is a fairly easy hike and the path is marked by signs so it`s easy to find and very popular among tourists. It is not a challenging hike and it`s quite short, but gives you a good impression of the landscape around Ella and the view is fantastic. After our hike we went back to the hotel. After a little free time we had a cooking demonstration, which we then ate for our lunch. Sri Lankan food is very diverse and delicious.
After breakfast the following morning, we packed up and were eager to get on the road. Up next was probably the part of the trip most anticipated by everyone in the group... ELEPHANTS! After a brief stop at the Rawana Falls we headed for Udawalawe National Park.
Established in 1995, Udawalawe is dedicated to the conservation and protection of elephants and offers a great opportunity to see these animals in their true habitat. Human activities threaten these animals' survival and the National Park's main goal is to rehabilitate orphaned elephant calves for release back into to the wild.
We took a safari jeep and spent two hours driving around the park witnessing the elephants in their natural habitat. This was an incredible experience. Onward after the safari to Big Game Camping; pre-pitched tents where we had dinner. Afterwards we had good craic round the campsite fire till the early hours
On day seven we visited Galle, the epic southern capital city. This included a brief stop for lunch in one of the bohemian style cafes- Pedlars Inn. After checking in to our hotel, we had a little free time before dinner back at the fort.
The following day was a free day to enjoy at our leisure. Following breakfast at the hotel, I went to see Unawatuna Beach. After a quick dip of the toe in the sea, I took my first trip in a tuk tuk - which was an eye opening experience for me - and went to explore Galle Fort (or Dutch Fort) properly.
First built by the Portuguese in 1588, the fort was then further fortified by the Dutch from 1649 and has had a colourful history. Today, the fort's population is diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion and many people have looked at making Galle Fort one of the modern wonders of the world.
That afternoon we went to see the Stilt Fishermen. Stilt Fishing is one of the most interesting traditional fishing methods in Sri Lanka. It requires much skill and balance. The fishermen are seated a couple of meters above the water, which caused minimal shadows to reflect on the water. Hence, little to no disturbance amongst the sea life. Our group then marked the end of our wonderful trip to Sri Lanka with a party on a beautiful private beach, which was also home to some hermit crabs.
On departure day we left the hotel and headed back to the coast and towards the airport. We passed through the towns that were destroyed by the tsunami of 2004. Many remnants of the disaster are still visible today. There is a memorial to those who lost their lives in the terrible train wreck that day. With over 1,700 fatalities, this was the largest single rail disaster in world history.
We stopped off at the Victor Hasselblad Turtle Sanctuary. The main aim of the project is to monitor local sea turtle activity and conserve local nesting sites. One of the most important aspects of the project is its hatchery. Here, collected and rescued eggs can hatch safely away from predators before being released into the sea.
The sanctuary's programme is designed to maximise the number of hatchlings reaching the sea and then surviving through the critical stages of their early life. From there we drove the two hours to the airport for the long journey home.
My visit to Sri Lanka turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences. I loved every bit of Sri Lanka especially the landscape and the abundant wildlife. I'm so lucky to have enjoyed this trip and I have made so many wonderful memories for life." -Jane
Want to plan your own Sri Lankan adventure? Get in touch via 021 4277094 or 01 6965135, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call into our shops in Clonakilty, Bantry and the Grand Parade.