A trip to Sri Lanka is not complete without witnessing the spectacle of the world’s largest bath – be entertained and amused by the aquatic antics as the residents of the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage enjoy their daily wash. Be charmed by the baby elephants as they rush and tumble and charge headlong into the refreshing waters of the Kalu Ganga River. This is a fantastic opportunity to see how the elephants are housed and sheltered within the large and natural compound of the Orphanage. Established by the Sri Lankan Government the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage offers a safe haven to up to 70 elephants and provides a much required protected environment for those elephants orphaned or abandoned in their infancy.
The inland journey to Pinnewala takes you through winding roads and local villages giving you a fascinating insight into Sri Lankan life. Local vegetables and exotic fruit piled high on roadside stalls will astound you in their colours, shapes and abundance. Pause at one of the numerous Spice Gardens en-route and see how indigenous plants such as cloves, cinnamon and black pepper are used not only in food preparation, but how they are used for their healing properties in the Ayurvedic medicines so synonymous with Sri Lanka.
Hugging the Southwest corner of Sri Lanka is the historical city of Galle, forever written into the country’s history due to its strategic maritime location, and as the ideal landing stage for invasion by the Portuguese, the Dutch and in more recent times, the British. It is a small city steeped in culture and a few hours spent wandering round the old ramparts is a must for visitors. The walls of Galle Fort encompass an area of approximately 89 acres and within these walls a wide diversity of local life can be explored. With its Churches sitting alongside Mosques, representations of several ways of life are clearly evident within the city’s walls. The history of the city of Galle can be followed by reading the headstones inside the 18th Century Dutch Reform Church and they evoke images of a bygone era not to be found elsewhere. Afternoon tea in the Former Dutch Governors Residence has almost become an instituition due to its colonial architecture and its calming ambience,whilst the atmospheric and charming narrow streets give fascinating glimpses of local life. A walk around the top of the fortified ramparts will give an intriguing perspective of the terracotta roofs of the residencies of the Fort and also highlight the various styles of European influenced architecture. The northern part of the Fort hosts the famous Clock Tower built by the British, and by the Old Gate to the Fort the British Coat of Arms has been carved into the exterior lintel. With its fascinating history it is understandable why the Galle Fort was declared a World Heritage Site in 1988. For cricket enthusiasts a visit to the Galle International Cricket Ground cannot be missed.
The West coast of Sri Lanka is bordered by the Galle Road which snakes southwards from Colombo all the way to Galle and beyond. The route to the south is as fascinating as it is varied with a multitude of sights to behold. The short distance from Wadduwa to Kalutara takes you through areas renowned for their coir products. A by-product of the numerous coconut palm trees which line the coast, the coir is used for many different household items, such as mats and brooms. As you cross the long bridge spanning the Kalu Ganga River, a large Buddhist Stupa comes into view. This impressive white domed Temple sits opposite the revered Bo Tree, with its prayer-inducing pennants fluttering from its branches. Join the devotees as they light incense and burn candles around this same type of tree under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment, and you may notice that many Buddhist motorists will pause here briefly to pray for a safe onward journey. The area around the town of Kalutara is also famous for its seasonal tropical mangosteen fruits which are piled high on the many roadside stalls. Keeping an eye heavenwards is appropriate in this area as you will be able to see the ropes of the Toddy-Tappers – these are the nimble men who shimmy up the coconut trees to collect the toddy from the coconut flowers, which is then distilled into the strong and potent drink called arrack. Look out for the bullock carts laden with barrels of the moonshine-like toddy on its way to the local distilleries.
Skirting the magnificent coast the whole way, the road takes you to the popular town of Beruwela. This town is where the first Muslim settlers arrived in Sri Lanka and is instantly recognizable by its large Mosque, situated on Beruwela’s headland.
Continuing along this scenic drive you will come to a small area called Kosgoda where the local fishermen are involved in the protection of the endangered turtles, which, for unknown reasons continue to come onto Kosgoda’s beaches to lay their eggs. They collect these eggs and deliver them to the local hatcheries who shelter them until they have hatched, and finally release them back into the ocean – this gives them that much needed start in life safe from the ever-present danger of hungry predators. It is heart-warming to see how these turtles,which are so vital to the planets oceans, are being cared for in these safe and sheltered environments.
For a lesson in the famous mask history of Sri Lanka a visit to a mask-maker in the town of Ambalangoda is a must. These masks are an intrinsic part of Sri Lanka’s heritage and are used in various ceremonies to this day. The intricately and ornately hand carved masks represent human, animal, mythological and demonic characters, and are used in various ceremonies to appease the spirits who have influence over the lives of the locals.
The next stop on the way to the Southern Coast is the beachside hippy-chic town of Hikkaduwa. With its beautiful coral reef gardens it is the ideal place to view these natural wonders from a glass-bottomed boat or to jump in yourself and snorkel with only the tropical fish for company.
The last stretch of coastal road will take you to the European-influenced fortified city of Galle, with its mix of Portuguese, Dutch and British architecture. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1988 the Galle Fort is a delight to visit with its narrow streets, glimpses of a charming bygone era and its Colonial residences with their airs of faded grandeur. With cricket being the nation’s favourite sport, Galle is home to one of Sri Lanka’s International Grounds where thousands of enthusiasts flock if the home team are playing!
Located amongst many tea and rubber plantations and within sight of the revered Adam’s Peak Mountain you can find Ratnapura, Sri Lanka’s ‘city of gems’. For generations miners have hoped to strike it lucky by panning the local rivers or toughing it out in the mines where at times, the rewards have been immense. To visit a mine and to view the famous blue sapphires, the rubies and the moonstones are why people visit Ratnapura. They are the ultimate momento from Sri Lanka, the jewel of the Indian Ocean. Whilst in Ratnapura it is worthwhile glimpsing at the mix of cultures living side by side, by taking in the Muslim Mosque, the Buddhist Temple and the Hindu Kovil.
As one would expect from any cosmopolitan city, Colombo offers great diversity in its boutiques and stores. With its upmarket and exclusive shops with Sri Lankan-made artefacts, boutiques offering International clothing labels, and the renowned Pettah silk market in an historic part of the city, all go to prove that Colombo has something to offer all shopping enthusiasts. With its energetic buzz Colombo is a mecca for shoppers who enjoy hunting for that ultimate and much-prized ‘must have’ item. Conveniently only 45 minutes away from Serene Pavilions, a few hours browsing through the boutiques will restore and revitalize anyone in need of a spot of retail therapy.
With its beautiful coral reefs and incredibly varied marine life, the underwater world around Sri Lanka’s coastline is an amazing sight, and for water enthusiasts the chance to dive into this wonderful environment should not be missed. With a mixture of deep and shallow diving, big currents and mild drifts, night diving and wreck diving, as well as the chance to spot the big stuff next to the critters, scuba-diving in Sri Lanka’s waters will leave you with fabulous memories of a truly special world. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be underwater, here at Serene Pavilions we can organize for you to give it a go by partaking in a Check Dive in the safe and sure hands of a Scuba Diving Instructor.
With several International Test Grounds in Sri Lanka the nations appetite for cricket continues to grow and expand, and with every scrap of bare land being used as practice space it is not surprising that every young Sri Lankan dreams of playing for his country one day. When a Cricket match is being played expect the country to grind to a halt as every Sri Lankan will be glued to a radio or television fervently urging on their National team. Expect to be caught up in the fervor and excitement if you get to watch a match – definitely an experience never to be forgotten.
Colombo Royal Golf Club has the distinction of being one of only 21 Royal Golf Clubs worldwide. Described as an oasis in the city, the 18-hole Colombo Royal Golf Course, covering an area of 96 acres, with its picturesque fairways and immaculate greens will guarantee an enjoyable game before you retire to the Clubhouse to dissect your round. The 129 year old Colombo Royal Golf Club has a very atmospheric Clubhouse which is home to much historic and informative memorabilia.
The famous city of Kandy will delight and impress you equally at the same time. With its world famous ‘Temple of the Tooth’ or Sri Dalada Maligawa, you may witness the daily homage of thousands to this Buddhist shrine. Housing a tooth of Lord Buddha, it is a place of great serenity and beauty and with its idyllic location on the edge of Kandy Lake, is a marvellous place for an amble to take in the tranquility of the natural surroundings. The Temple dates back to the 17th Century, and is the focal point for Sri Lanka’s most important and impressive festival, the Kandy Esala Perahera where the festivities culminate in a colourful and lively torchlight procession of elegantly decorated elephants, and traditionally dressed dancers and musicians.
Several other Temples are to be found in and around Kandy, some of which date back to the 14th Century and display wonderful carvings which are said to have originated in one of the Royal Palaces of the Kandyan Kings.
The hills in and around Kandy are lush with tropical plants of every variety, many of which are to be found in the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, said to be amongst the finest Botannical Gardens in the world. Originally designed as the Royal pleasure gardens for the Kandyan Kings, it was only in the 19th Century that they were developed into gardens housing giant fig palms, orchids and many of Sri Lanka’s indigenous flaura. Surrounded on 3 sides by the impressive Mahaweli Ganga River, the Gardens are a beautiful respite from the hectic pace of daily life in Kandy and should not be missed.
Commanding some of the most spectacular views in Sri Lanka is the famous rock fortress of Sigiriya - Lions Rock. Rising majestically up to 1150 feet, with its dramatically sheer walls, the Lions Rock was the ultimate location for a fortress-cum-Palace. A massive monolith of red stone, Sigiriya was where, in 477AD King Kasyapa I fled after murdering his father and took glorious refuge there for 11 years. With its beautifully preserved wall frescoes of ethereal maidens and its centuries old graffiti scribbled on the mirror wall, Sigiriya is a truly impressive sight and dominates the area for miles around. Halfway up the rock you will come across mighty stone paws which are all that remain of the carved head of a lion through which you had to pass to gain entry to the Palace at the top of Sigiriya. A climb to the top of the rock and witnessing the incredible views from the summit is worth the effort but not for the fainthearted. Sitting aloft on the Royal Throne you can view down to the beautifully landscaped ancient gardens with their waterways and all protected by a large moat. With its turbulent yet romantic history Sigiriya has undoubtedly become one of Sri Lanka’s most instantly recognizable ancient monuments.
Only 12 miles southwest of Sigiriya the famous rock temples of Dambulla can be found. Giving refuge to the fleeing King Valagambahu in the 1st Century BC, he remained here for 14 years and as a sign of his gratitude on return to his throne, ordered the construction of the cave temples. Several caves tunnel into the large outcrop of rock and are ornately decorated with numerous statues of Lord Buddha in various states of repose. The second of the caves is the most impressive and creates an attack on the senses with its vast number of both Hindu gods sitting alongside Buddha carvings. The amazing colours of the 15th to 18th century wall paintings are a stimulating visual display of wonder and talent. To witness these ancient temples still used as a daily place of worship is a great testament to the foresight of a monarch who survived long and lonely years but believed ultimately in the everlasting power of faith.
Yala is the largest National Park in Sri Lanka and is home to a plethora of animals. It is also the countries largest elephant reserve and the best time to visit is when the waterholes are fewer and therefore more animals gather at the places where water is available. Boasting the largest density of leopards in the world, these majestic creatures still roam freely around Yala and are usually the highlight of any visit. Amongst the natural dry scrublands of Yala National Park, the chance to spot the sambar deer, elephants, and crocodiles alongside several species of monkeys will keep any nature lover totally enthralled.