Sri Lanka

The journey from Colombo was so interesting, although we were tired from travelling there was so much to see that we did not want to miss a thing by dozing off!

We were being driven in relative comfort in an air conditioned vehicle by our guide who was assigned to us for the duration of our trip. He was so knowledgeable and was continually giving us information on what we saw and he knew every bird of Sri Lanka! We were in awe of the busy capital and the fact that everyone was out shopping at 8pm, the towns and roads were so busy it was like London in rush hour!

Once into the countryside it became quieter and greener. We climbed up into the hills until we reached Kegalle and the beautiful tea plantation that was to be our home for the next 3 nights. Breakfast was not only welcomed by our taste buds but our eyes had a feast of their own, for we had found ourselves in the midst of lush green hills and stunning scenery. The accommodation was great and the staff went out of their way to make us feel at home and tend to our every need. This we discovered is part of the Sri Lankan DNA; they are naturally helpful and gentle.

Our first day’s adventure took us to Kandy, which was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings, and is a World Heritage Site. On route we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, where there are some 4,000 different species of plants, and 10,000 or so trees. All of Sri Lanka’s flora and representative species from around the tropical world are showcased here. Our next stop was the Temple of the Tooth. We arrived in time to witness last ceremony of the day when temple comes to life with pilgrims who come to see Sacred Tooth Relic of the Budda which is held in a small casket within caskets in a special room of this temple.

Our second day was spent at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage first established by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1975 for feeding and providing care and sanctuary to orphaned baby elephants that were found in the wild. Here you get the opportunity to touch and feed baby elephants and you can follow them as they are taken down to the river to bathe. This was both moving and sad as the elephants are shackled but they are well cared for and if left in the wild would have perished. From here we ventured further into the heart of the country and went to Minneria Wildlike Park. The ranger took us around the park for about 4 hours and in this time we saw many wild elephants, deer, birdlife, and a large sloth bear, which we followed for 15 minutes, it was his path after all, why should he make way for us!

The next leg of our journey took us further north to Sigiriya Rock. One of the most valuable and historical monuments of Sri Lanka, the locals look upon it as the Eighth Wonder of the World. A rocky plateau 370 meters above the sea level which we climbed, and stood in awe at the magnificent views over Dambulla and Habarane. After an exhausting but magical day we spent the night in a beautiful colonial villa and had dinner outside under the stars. Up early the next day to travel to the Golden Temple and the sacred caves at Dambulla. This is a monastery and temple complex dating back to the 1st century BC, and the first cave is practically that of a 14- metre statue of the Buddha, hewn out of the rock. This has to be seen to be believed. Climbing up to visit these caves we were accompanied by many monkeys, many with babies. It was fun watching them playing and sparing with one another and feeding them with some of the 12 different varieties of bananas that grow in Sri Lanka.

Our final adventure was to be our best. We were taken to Wilpattu National Park near Anuradhapura. This was a smaller and more beautiful, with its lakes and beautiful landscape. It was here that upon entering the park our ranger could see that a baby elephant had been born that night. Within minutes of him discovering this we were fortunate to see this baby elephant, just a few hours old with its mother and other members of the herd. We watched for a while until they slowly hid amongst the trees. As we continued our safari we saw flocks of pelicans and storks at the lakes and in the distance across from the lake we could make out a large herd of elephants at least 150 strong. Making our way back out of the park we came across the baby elephant once again, not too far from before, not able to walk very well, the distance travelled was very short. The poor herd would not be visiting the water hole to cool themselves any time soon.

Sadly the next day we departed for the airport and it began to rain. We had not had any rain and it had been a constant 30 degrees during our stay. However we were happy to see the rain as it meant that the little baby elephant and its family would feel so much better. That cheered us up as we were sad to leave especially as we had not been lucky enough to see a leopard on either safari trip.

Well you know what they say….we shall just have to go back!
■ Anthony, Symphony World Travel

Tel: 01737 36 26 26