In our lives so far, we have been lucky enough to be relatively well travelled. On this 15-night trip, we travelled over 1,000 kilometres across and down Sri Lanka taking in Negombo, Pinnawola, Kandy, Yala and Unawatuna. All of us including our 14-year-old daughter Amie and 10-year-old son Arthur were amazed at what we experienced and we often reference the places and people we met along the way over 12 months later.
With a zookeeper in the family, the trip was mainly focused on wildlife and we were lucky enough to see some amazing species including the elephant, of course, but also leopards, a sloth bear, turtles and many other species of mammals, reptiles and birds. The conservation projects with Elephants at Pinnawala Orphanage and more general wildlife at Yala were something to behold. The animals are celebrated and although tourists are welcomed it is done respectfully and for the long-term benefit of the animals. Western tourists with a few quid help fund the conservation and most would say it is a necessity.
Although animals were a focus, we got to experience the amazing culture and community spirit of Sri Lanka. Our tour guide Udaka was an incredible source of knowledge and his connections got us into the heart of life in the places that we visited. We experienced the friendliness, kindness and generosity of the people everywhere we went. For people who have very little money and belongings, they smile an awful lot and are extremely welcoming especially to our two blonde haired kids who went down a storm with everyone we met.
We also got to experience the beautiful flavours and aromas of the local delicacies. A private lunch in a vegetable garden at a local restaurant was a highlight along with a roti making masterclass in a local village. So far, we have been unable to get close to replicating the delights of a dhal and pineapple curry or roti bread with coconut and chilli.
The flora and fauna were also something to behold – it’s a truly beautiful country with landscapes to die for. From the dry and quite arid Sigiriya Rock to the wet and deep green colour of the tea plantations in the mountains which we drove through for hours one day, mesmerised by the stunning views.
Amie and Arthur loved it. They said ‘We enjoyed learning about another countries religion and culture. Loved trying the different foods and eating with our fingers, riding in a tuk tuk, meeting new people and seeing all the amazing wildlife. Learning about why we shouldn’t ride elephants made us feel very sad for them especially as we saw them in the wild just being elephants.’
Amie was much more aware of how animals are sometimes treated before we went away but Arthur was much younger so less aware. Since coming home he has often talked about how much he loved Sri Lanka, how happy all the people were even though they lived so differently to us and is much more empathetic to the way animals are treated, questioning much more than before which is brilliant.
It was a trip of a lifetime! This experience and many specific moments are memories that will remain with all of us forever and we will be challenging our Travel Advisor Flooglebinder who planned, booked and managed our trip to Sri Lanka to create even more amazing trips to Thailand and South Africa over the coming years.