Wildlife & Nature
Sri Lanka family holiday
This Sri Lankan family holiday will take you to the teardrop shaped island in the Indian Ocean which is a truly magical place. The legacy of its position on the sea route to the East is evident for all to see; from the Moslem fishing villages which saw the passing of early Arab traders, to the several common surnames which tell of Portuguese occupation and the neat hill villages left by the British. This cultural crossroads has much more besides - all crammed into an area less than one third the size of Britain. There are ruined cities and rock-top forts to explore, strangely colourful birds, encounters with elephants and other wildlife and some of the world’s best beaches. Sri Lanka tours have something for everyone and never fail to enchant visitors.
Take an overnight flight to Colombo. After your flight, you make the short 5 minute transfer to your first night’s accommodation at Seeduwa. Here you can relax after your long flight and acclimatise near the pool or in the gardens of your hotel. Please meet your tour leader in the hotel reception for a tour briefing at 18.00.
Ramada Seeduwa Hotel or similar (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming Pool
Before we leave the coast behind we visit the fish market in Negombo to watch the fisherman sorting their catch for the day. We then head inland to Dambulla and the "dry zone" in the heart of Sri Lanka's cultural triangle. Enroute we will visit a hand loom factory where an old tradition is being revitalized. The rest of the day is free to relax by the pool or perhaps take an optional bike ride.
Pelwehera Village Resort (AA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B)
Dambulla - Sigiriya Rock
Driving the short distance from Dambulla this morning, you’ll have the opportunity to climb to the summit of Sigiriya’s famous Lion Rock using a series of steps and walkways which zig-zag their way up the seemingly impenetrable rock cliffs. The site was occupied long before the citadel was built at the end of the 5th century, and it later became a monastery before falling into disrepair. From the base, a moat surrounds impressive water gardens of landscaped beauty. To reach the summit, you’ll ascend 200m, passing an overhanging rock under which superb portraits of native maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the rock wall. Crowning the flat-topped summit of the rock are the extensive remains of King Kasyapa’s summer palace from where there are breathtaking views.
This afternoon you will saddle up on bicycles and ride through the village of Pewehera. In the late afternoon you will return to your accommodation. (B)
Very early this morning you make the one and a half hours drive (complete with packed breakfast) to Parakrama Lake. You will drive via Minneriya National Park arriving at dawn, a very mystical way to start the day as the plains are covered in mist! Parakrama Lake is known as one of Sri Lanka’s greatest man-made lakes and you can watch the changing hues as the light comes up. These man-made lakes are known as 'wevas' to the Sri Lankan people and were created to provide irrigation. It’s a fun, friendly experience as you wait alongside the wives and young children of fisherman, who’ve gone out to retrieve their fishing nets laid out the night before - a great way to get to know the locals!
After the fishermen have sorted their catch, it’s time to head out on a catamaran across the lake; a real adventure! You may even be able to spot white bellied fish eagles, brahmini kites, ibis, cormorants and other native birds as you travel. In the middle of the lake is a small island, a rocky outcrop that provides great 360° views of the lake and forests beyond.
NB – The catamaran ride is subject to water levels and not usually available from June to September.
Bidding the fishermen and their families’ farewell, you continue to your new hotel to check in. After a little time to refresh and to have some lunch, you'll continue to Polonnaruwa at about 2pm in order to explore the ancient ruins. Polonnaruwa was the capital from the 10th – 12th centuries, following the decline of Anuradhapura. Here you can explore many monuments which pay great testimony to the city’s important role in Sri Lanka’s history, such as the Royal Palace complex and the Gal Vihare complex, with four impressive Buddha images cut from a single slab of granite. In the late afternoon you will transfer back to your accommodation in Polonnaruwa.
Sudu Araliya Hotel or similar (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming Pool (B)
This morning you explore Dambulla properly, to learn its fascinating history. The Sinhalese King, Valagam Bahu, took refuge here when he was ousted from his capital. He transformed the five caves of this granite outcrop into a rock temple, decorated by statues of Buddha and frescoes, some of which are over 2000 years old but still as brightly painted as ever. The steep 150m ascent to the top of the rock rewards you with more magnificent views down to the jungle and forest below. You then travel southward along the main trunk road to Sri Lanka’s second city, Kandy, a journey of around two hours. You'll pass through a fertile spice-growing area and plantations where coffee, cacao and rubber are cultivated.
This evening you’ll visit the Dalada Maligawa, the famous Temple of the Tooth. This is the major shrine where pilgrims have revered Buddha’s tooth since the 16th century; its gilded roof seems to act as a beacon to visitors throughout the day and into the evening. Your accommodation for the next two nights will be in Kandy.
Senai Hotel or similar (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B)
The royal city of Kandy is pleasantly set on the edge of a lake surrounded by hills. It was once the capital of a kingdom, and managed to resist European dominance for hundreds of years - long after the coastal areas surrendered.
This morning you will visit the magnificent Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, with their immense fig tree and exquisite orchid collection. In the afternoon walk through the town to take in the sights of Kandy including a visit to the bazaar area and a visit to the citadel in time for sunset over the lake.
The rest of your time here is free to explore. Take a nature walk at Udawattakele Sanctuary, close to Kandy, which offers the chance to see flowers, birds and monkeys amid 160 acres of tropical rainforest. Kandy is perfect for those who enjoy walking - the town has many hidden corners to explore and views from walks around the lake are spectacular. (B)
Leaving Kandy you take a bus journey (approx 2.5 hours) through the green ranks of tea bushes which cover the higher hillsides on your way to Kitulgala. You continue your drive through this beautiful landscape, descending to Kitulgala, to arrive around lunchtime.
Located amidst thick forest on Sri Lanka’s second-longest river, the Kelani, Kitulgala is rapidly becoming something of an adventure centre and is a great place for a variety of activities. The river, setting for the epic film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ is an ideal location for swimming and other water-based activities. The surrounding forests with their wide variety of flora and fauna offer you a variety of spectacular walks, with some stunning views over the valley.
This afternoon you will first cross the Kelani River on a suspension bridge used by the local villagers. Then you'll proceed to walk through the small village and the forest reserve on the opposite bank and finally re-emerge on the bank of the Kelani River to take a canoe to get across to the night night's accommodation. Tonight you will stay in rustic accommodation in Kitulgala.
Kithulgala Resthouse (A) - 1 night (B)
Today we will enjoy a short but very scenic train journey for a couple of hours to Nuwara Eliya, the heart of the tea growing industry and full of colonial charm. Built entirely during the 19th century, it's quirky architecture reflects what you'd normally expect to find in an English country town, which will make you feel like you've stepped back in time. Enroute you will visit Devon and St Clare's waterfalls.This afternoon we will visit a tea factory to see the process of making one of our favourite drinks in action. You’ll see every step of the tea making process, from bush to cup!
The next day we set off through the hills once again. Along the way we’ll see tea pickers deftly plucking the tips of the plants and throwing them into the baskets carried on their backs. Taking the twisting roads of hill country, we'll pass through the lush greenery of this region. Today's journey will end at Bandarawela, another hill town once popular with British plantation managers, tonight we camp ,nestled in a clearing cut into the side of a tea mountain. The tents are very spacious, clean and modern and you will drift to sleep listening to nature's very own orchestra.
After a bush breakfast we head off to the Orient Hotel where we can relax in the pleasant surroundings or explore more deeply.
Galway Forest Lodge (AA) - 1 night (B) Banarawela Campsite - 1 night
After breakfast, head off to Orient Hotel. Explore Bandarawela on your own or relax at the hotel. Bandarawela is an unhurried, unpretentious hill-country town which exists to supply the needs of the tea plantation workers, farmers and its hardworking inhabitants. The people of Bandarawela enjoy a simple way of life; where school children and grandparents together work the family plot for the home’s requirement of fruit and vegetable and also tend their cattle and goats.
Another distinctive feature of Bandarawela is the colonial flavor still preserved in the many old buildings including the Bandarawela Hotel and the old Cargill’s Supermarket.
Orient Hotel or similar (AAA) - 1 night (B)
Jungle Safari, elephant feeding time & the coast
This morning, you'll continue south where you'll visit the Diyaluma Falls, one of Sri Lanka's most spectacular waterfalls, before venturing approaching Uda Walawe National Park. The 308km sq park has an amazing array of animal and birdlife; herds of wild elephant are more numerous here than anywhere else in Sri Lanka.
After lunch, you will visit the nearby Elephant Transit Home. Run by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation and set up in 1995, it provides shelter for orphaned or abandoned baby elephants, releasing them to the wild when they are strong enough to survive in their natural habitat. You will visit the Elephant Transit Home at feeding time and see the elephants from a viewing deck approximately 10m away; a great chance to learn more about Sri Lanka’s national animal.
Once feeding is over, you'll embark on a jeep safari inside the park. If you are really lucky you may also catch glimpses of macaque and larger monkeys, leopard, spotted deer and crocodile. This is a real safari experience; kids will love the thrill of coming across a herd of wild elephants; it’s nothing like a zoo or safari park!
Late on this afternoon, you continue your journey south to reach the coast at Nonagama. Here you’ll take a short drive along the coast road west and soon arrive at your hotel near the small fishing village of Tangalle where you'll arrive early evening in time for dinner.
Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort (AAA) - 1 night (B)
Leave Udawalawe and transfer to Galle. Visit the old Dutch Fort and also the Galle International Cricket Stadium.
Thereafter, proceed North for a 4 night beach stay in Bentota Beach, visiting a turtle hatchery en-route. Turtles are kept here for the first few days of their lives before being released into the sea and the project does much to help safeguard the welfare of these endangered animals.
Bentota Beach Hotel (AAA) - 3 nights - Swimming Pool (B)
Sri Lanka is justifiably famous for its exquisite beaches, washed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Here, you have plenty of time to unwind on the white sandy beach listening to the lapping of the waves after the previous day’s travelling. Your time is your own here and you can either relax on the palm-fringed beach, splash around in the pool or explore further afield. (Bx2)
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to leave the accommodation when you like.
Please note that the seas along the south and west coast of Sri Lanka can be rough, with undertows. Whilst on the beach children should always be supervised by an adult.
The trip ends today. Those on group flights will be transferred to the airport for the flight back home. (B)
Check what’s included!
Make sure you check what’s included when choosing your family trip to Sri Lanka. As well as Sri Lanka’s most celebrated attractions - Sigiriya Rock, Dambulla’s Cave Temples, Polonnaruwa’s ancient ruins, Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth, the colonial highlands, Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery and tropical Tangalle, we’ve added some fantastic family-friendly excursions to this itinerary. Our customers tell us that spending a night camping 2,000m up on a tea plantation is idyllic and a huge highlight. Cheeky monkeys often drop by to say hello at sundown and the views as you peak out from your tent in the morning are spectacular. The Royal Botanical Gardens are a haven in the midst of Kandy’s hustle and bustle and are famed for their colourful orchids and spice garden. Uncover which famous figures planted trees here and take walk down Palm Avenue to spot fruit bats hanging from branches. Stay on the banks of the Kelani River at Kitulgala, film location for the movie ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’. Cross the river in a traditional dugout canoe and outrigger for a guided ramble in the rainforest. Keep your eyes peeled for red bananas! We know how important swimming opportunities are to the kids on holiday, so other than in the cooler highlands, we provide opportunities to make a splash everywhere we stay on this trip.
As our ‘Elephant Paradise’ trip name suggests, there are several opportunities to see giant jumbos (and baby elephants too!) You’ll visit the Elephant Transit Home where abandoned elephant calves are cared for before being released back into the wild, and take a jeep safari to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. We prefer to visit Uda Walawe National Park over more popular Yala because its open habitats make it relatively easy to see these majestic creatures only on our popular Sri Lanka tours.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Zig-zag your way to the summit of Sigiriya’s famous Lion Rock. Pass ancient paintings which still adorn the rock wall. Crowning the flat-topped summit are the extensive remains of King Kasyapa’s summer palace
Experience local village life
You’ll have the unique opportunity to watch (or help!) villagers with their early morning fish haul on your Sri Lanka tour. Wait with bated breath for the arrival of the catch alongside fishermens' families - a great way to get to know the locals!
The Esala Perahera (Festival of the Tooth) is held annually in July / August at the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) in Kandy. Witness a grand procession of dancers, musicians and lavishly decorated elephants. Book onto our 21 July 2012 departure to witness this spectacular annual event.
Transport - Charter vehicle, 4WD, on foot, dugout canoe, local catarmaran.
Accommodation - Hotels (12nts), resthouse (1nt, basic), tea plantation camp (1nt)
Meals - 14 breakfasts and 1 dinner