Welcome to Sri Lanka, a phenomenal and extremely underrated nation floating off the Indian peninsula. I used to be privileged to spend 5 days exploring Sri Lanka with a private information as a part of Singapore Airways’ #squadSQ journey. The primary day of this journey was spent seeing as many elephants as I might. Straight out of the blocks I visited elephant orphans on the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage then went on an unimaginable Minneriya National Park safari, the place elephants, water buffalo and many species of hen can roam free. On the best way was Dambulla Rock Temple, so we squeezed this in as properly.
I arrived in Sri Lanka at about midnight the night time earlier than. I opted to not purchase a washer or flat display television within the duty-free market (?!) and met my information from Aitken Spence Travels in arrivals who took me to the Cinnamon Lakeside Resort in Colombo. Fortunately I used to be travelling enterprise class on Singapore Airways so I used to be snug and pretty properly rested once I landed.
After a really temporary keep on the Cinnamon, my information — Thushith — and I headed out within the morning for our first cease of the tour: Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage.
Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary
Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage
We arrived on the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage throughout bathing time, which appeared to be the most effective (and extremely popular) time to go to. Bathing time occurs day by day at 10 am is the place about 40 elephants come out to the lake for a play and a wash within the water. The elephants have been fairly placid however have been joyful sufficient that folks have been round.
There was loads of area for the elephants to be themselves and I didn’t get the impression they have been being oppressed or something like that (opposite to some studies I learn prior). A few of them got here fairly shut whereas others have been glad to maintain a distance. There have been a few elephants couple that have been having an actual good play about 50 meters away, splashing round. It was enjoyable to observe.
One man handed me a small bunch of bananas and stated “here, feed the elephants” I stated okay with out actually considering as he put them in my hand. As I gave it the tiniest little bit of thought I noticed he in all probability needed cash from me for the service so promptly gave them again. My information confirmed this. One factor I’d forgotten about creating nations is that the place there are vacationers, there are locals hoping to trick the vacationers into giving them cash.
We then walked throughout the street to the place the elephants reside when it isn’t bathing time. There’s a good open subject for them to play in and a handful of elephants have been left behind from batching as a result of they’re both too younger or is perhaps aggressive towards the opposite elephants. If that’s the case we noticed a pair in chains and I consider that is for the security of the guests and the opposite elephants.
Animal tourism is a bit divisive today, and rightly so as a result of animal points of interest in some elements are really exploitative. However I didn’t get that vibe right here. I didn’t really feel just like the elephants have been mistreated and it’s necessary to keep in mind that the elephant orphanage is strictly that: an orphanage. It isn’t a sanctuary the place the goal is tourism and elephant rides, it’s an orphanage for elephants whose mom both died or deserted it. Some have been born there, however as a result of they have been raised by human hand, it will be robust to reintroduce them to the wild. So it’s an orphanage first, and vacationer attraction second. Welcoming vacationers is how they fund the operation.
The street from Pinnawalla was lovely. It wound by way of villages and was a continuing stream of inexperienced on each side with the density of homes and native outlets, ebbing as we flowed by way of villages. Banana and palm timber featured closely on each side as properly as iluk grass, which seems to be just like sugar cane and up shut not dissimilar to lemongrass. Each now and once more the timber would clear we’d have a stunning view of rice fields dominated by a mountain backdrop. It’s a fantastic a part of the nation to drive via.
There was an space on the best way to Dambulla the place the forest utterly blocked out the sky and monkeys roamed free. I noticed them climbing on vines and sitting on the roofs of the native eating places ready for meals. If we’d had time, it will have been a reasonably cool spot to cease. Sadly, the itinerary beckoned.
Dambulla Rock Temple
The second cease of the day was in Dambulla. Particularly, the Dambulla Cave Temple. The Dambulla Cave Temple is likely one of the common points of interest of Sri Lanka. It has supreme historic and spiritual significance to Buddhists. Once we arrived, my information instructed I placed on some lengthy pants as a result of in Buddhist temples they need knees coated (and footwear off). I didn’t love this requirement as a result of it was one million levels out, however since he was a Buddhist himself, I wasn’t about to offend him by ignoring his and the temple’s request. That would have made it an extended tour!
So scorching in my skinny denims within the Sri Lankan solar
From the automotive park, it was a few 10 minute stroll up a hill on stone steps. For anybody with even a touch of health it’s a reasonably straightforward stroll. We stopped about midway the place the timber cleared and gave a stunning view out over the plains and close by hills.
It’s a wierd sight, the Dambulla Cave Temple. There’s a big, wave-like rock overhanging the hill and the Buddhists have constructed a facade in underneath it such that it seems that the constructing is definitely supporting the rock.
Dambulla Rock Temple
Inside are lots of of Buddha statues and frescoes unfold throughout four caves. It’s unimaginable to see these statues and work which have survived for hundreds of years, hidden from the weather and shielded from vandals all through centuries. It’s fairly darkish inside and lighting is minimal so images is difficult, however the element and talent is so evident.
We spent about an hour on the temple in complete, together with the stroll up and down.
Buddha statues contained in the Dambulla Rock Temple
Safari in Minneriya National Park
When my information picked me up from the airport final night time, one of many issues he requested me on the best way to the lodge was if I used to be concerned with doing a safari along with Pinnawala and Dambulla. I stated if there’s time, completely. We made time and squeezed it in and it truthfully ended up being the spotlight of my 2 week journey on your complete #squadSQ tour.
If I depart you with one piece of recommendation in your subsequent Sri Lanka vacation it’s this: do a safari!
I left my information and boarded a Jeep on the journey station about 15 minutes from Minneriya National Park. The safari monitor started surrounded by a dense scrub with a thicket of timber on both aspect. A method in, a method out. After solely a minute or two I hear a “tap tap”. It’s Chamara, the information for the safari (who’s deaf and can’t converse properly) tapping his ring on the roll bar to sign to the driving force he discovered one thing. It took me a minute to see it, however positive sufficient, there was a gecko or lizard perched on a close-by tree.
Lizard in Minneriya National Park
I don’t understand how he noticed it. Perhaps being deaf has genuinely heightened his recognizing capacity. Just a little additional alongside I hear once more, “tap tap”. Everybody else has missed it however on a low department on a passing tree was a small Inexperienced bee-eater. I used to be beginning to be actually glad that Chamara was on my aspect.
Inexperienced Bee eater in Minneriya National Park
The subsequent one was slightly simpler to identify. Amongst the dense jungle was a lone elephant. Excitedly I pulled out my digital camera and snapped away as if the obstructing branches didn’t exist.
The street continued, winding by means of bush, bouncing over years of Jeep tire monitor ruts, holding onto the roll cage with one hand for stability, DSLR within the different. After 5 or 10 minutes of bush I used to be beginning to marvel what sort of safari this was. Is it simply recognizing one small animal at a time by way of the bush? Perhaps.
Then I caught a glimpse.
The timber cleared for a second and within the distance I noticed lots of of small darkish shapes grazing on the grass by the lake. The grin didn’t depart my face from that second. Shortly after, the timber pulled away to disclose plains and lake and a herd of elephants and water buffalo simply doing life collectively.
Elephants in Minneriya National ParkMe and Chamara on safari in Minneriya National Park
We adopted the street round left and my coronary heart sunk for a quick second. In entrance of me and surrounding a small herd of elephants have been 25-30 different jeeps, all vying for the perfect photograph spot. I assumed for a quick second this safari was going to be us and 30 different jeeps chasing herds of elephants round with our cameras. Fortunately it wasn’t like that in any respect. Moderately than queuing up we determined to return again later. We took a 180 and headed to the opposite finish of the park.
We rounded a herd of water buffalo by the lake and entered the second a part of the park the place there have been much more elephants. We stopped for a break close to this massive concrete construction that appeared to be some sort of viewing platform. It was in amongst the timber so that you couldn’t truly see a lot of the view nevertheless it was a pleasant relaxation cease. We noticed one other small group of elephants actually shut up earlier than heading again to the massive herd again by the lake.
Water buffalo in Minneriya National Park
There have been a couple of Jeeps parked on a path with a great view of the herd so we stopped with them and simply noticed. The elephants performed and elephant cubs adopted their moms. After about 15 minutes I observed that considered one of two have been strolling in the direction of us. Not lengthy after about 10 or so adopted and quickly sufficient I didn’t want the zoom on my digital camera as a result of they have been inside metres of the Jeeps permitting for some nice photograph alternatives.
Then, from behind us, a lone elephant appeared and approached a senior wanting elephant. They exchanged phrases and had a tussle for a couple of minutes which definitely stored us within the automobiles entertained.
In between water buffalo and elephants, Chamara additionally noticed a handful of birds. We discovered a white-bellied sea eagle, an Indian curler, little inexperienced bea eater, Pink-wattled lapwing, and a lesser adjutant.
The day was getting on and we’d been out within the solar for two hours by then so we referred to as it a day and headed again and Thushith drove us to the lodge.
Keep on the Heritance Kandalama
The Heritance Kandalama set the tone for what can be an inventory of unimaginable lodges I stayed at in Sri Lanka. Set on the Kandalama Reservoir away from the distractions of civilisation, the Heritance is a powerful property. The place has a big infinity pool and an enormous buffet for each breakfast and dinner. And my room was unbelievable. I entered by way of a front room with lounges, a desk and a fruit bowl. Then walked a brief hall to the bed room with an excellent king mattress and one other television, on which I put the Tottenham recreation as a result of it occurred to be Saturday night time.
Within the morning, I realised the view from my room was additionally fairly particular. The lodge is about on a hill such that it seems to be out over the timber and has an amazing view of the lake. In Australian greenback phrases, the worth is extremely affordable (round $200 an evening) so should you’re within the space I can’t advocate the Heritance Kandalama excessive sufficient and I look ahead to staying once more subsequent time I go to Sri Lanka. Hopefully this isn’t too distant.
Heritance Kandalama bed room and hallwayHeritance Kandalama suite front room
All flights, transport and lodging have been offered by Singapore Airways in affiliation with Aitken Spence Travels however the enjoyable I describe is 100% actual and real.
Hold your eyes peeled as a result of day 2 of my Sri Lanka is arising quickly!
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