Walshmob's Sri Lanka trip - Jan 3 - Jan 15, 2019
Having decided to visit Sri Lanka on the way back to Australia after spending Christmas and New Year's Eve in the UK, we investigated options and decided on a slightly modified version of the 12 day Highlights of Sri Lanka tour featured on kimkim's website. Kimkim put me in touch with Sandun from Experiential Journeys, who modified the itinerary to include the Millennium Elephant Foundation and the Hundunugoda Tea Estate, both of which had been featured on an Australian television show we'd seen. Having had a great experience a year ago with a holiday in Iceland organised through kimkim , we had high expectations of our Sri Lanka trip, and were not disappointed. On arrival in Sri Lanka, we were met at the airport by our driver and guide, Lakitha, who looked after us very well for the next 12 days.
The itinerary we had chosen included both cultural sites and wildlife experiences, but the highlights were undoubtedly our elephant experiences, firstly at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, which is basically a rescue and retirement home for working elephants who would not survive if released into the wild. We walked around the grounds with Rani, who had a snack and a drink along the way, then some of us chose to help bath her in a stream using coconut husks. This was a much better experience than an old-fashioned elephant ride; better for us, and better for Rani. Almost as good was our early morning wildlife safari in Udawalawe National Park, where we lost count of the wild elephants we saw in their natural environment and an abundance of other beasts and birds.
All of the hotels we stayed at were good to excellent, but the Thambapanni Retreat at Unawatuna deserves special mention. We had mentioned in passing to our guide Lakitha and to the hotel manager that we would be dining at the hotel to celebrate our wedding anniversary. When we came back from a day exploring Galle with Lakitha, our bed had been decorated with flowers and leaves, spelling our a happy anniversary message, which we thought was a nice touch, and when we headed to the restaurant for dinner we discovered that we had a special , beautifully decorated, table setting in the garden adjacent to the restaurant, and we were looked after very well, enjoying a great meal of fresh jumbo prawns, cooked to order, followed by a surprise anniversary cake. We discovered later that Lakitha had mentioned our anniversary to Sandun, who has conspired with the Thambapanni Retreat hotel manager to make our anniversary a special and memorable event.
We usually self-drive when travelling to places like the USA, Europe, UK and Iceland, but we accepted the consensus advice that we'd be better off travelling with a driver/guide, and that turned out to be an excellent decision. Lakitha not only kept us safe on the roads in the face of interesting overtaking manoeuvres by oncoming traffic, but he looked after the details of our site visits, including local guides, and ensured we got the most out of our time in Sri Lanka. He turned a good itinerary into an excellent experience.
Thanks kimkim, and thanks very much Lakitha and Sandun.