Elephant Paradise - Family Holiday Trip Notes
Trip code: FFSL
Trip length: 15 days
- Enjoy Camping at a tea plantation
- Families can enjoy visitng the elephant Transit Home
- Go on thrilling wildlife safaris in Uda Walawe National Park
- See the incredible Buddhist temples & Glorious golden beaches
The teardrop shaped island in the Indian Ocean 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 has something for everyone and never fails to enchant visitors.
Arrive in Sri Lanka
At your first night’s accommodation in Minuwangoda, you can relax after your long flight and acclimatise near the pool or in the gardens of your hotel. Please meet your tour lerader in the hotel reception at 18.00 for a tour briefing. Hotel (AAA) - 1 night
Leaving Negombo behind you head inland to Dambulla. Your journey will take approximately 4 hours as you travel into the 'dry zone' in the heart of Sri Lanka's cultural triangle. The rest of the day is left free for you to relax or explore at will. Why not take an optional cycle around a local lake, or perhaps relax by the pool. Hotel (AA) - 2 nights (B)
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 mount an elephant for an exciting elephant-back ride! Sitting in a howdah – an open basket fitted with safety rails and padded cushions - you roll gently from side to side as your elephants ramble for about an hour lazily through the bush. 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. Hotel (AA) - 1 night (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. Hotel (AAA) - 2 nights (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.
During your time in Kandy you will visit the magnificent Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, with their immense fig tree and exquisite orchid collection. You will also 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. You may wish to 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 through the green ranks of tea bushes which cover the higher hillsides on your way to Kitulgala. Your journey takes around two and a half hours and you travel accompanied by exceptional all-round scenic views of the tea plantations as you head further into the hill country. 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. Resthouse (A) - 1 night (B)
Today you'll drive about 80km (approx 3hrs) along windy roads lined by green slopes of tea leaves. There’s plenty of interest along the way however, including a stop at some waterfalls. You'll reach Nuwara Eliya, 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. Hotel (AA) - 1 night (B)
You set off through the hills once again. Along the way you’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, you'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. You can relax in the evening with an overnight’s stay here. Hotel (AAA) - 1 night (B)
After a short walk around Bandarawella and the vegetable gardens that surround it, you set off on your way down out of the mountains towards your campsite, nestled in a clearing cut into the side of a tea mountain which overlooks a beautiful valley. This fantastic hillside location is a climatically transitional area, linking both the dry and wet zones and the hill and low country at an altitude of less than 1500m. At this altitude you can see the mist gathering across the hills. As a result, the vegetation consists of moist semi-evergreen forests, tropical savannah forests, dry patana grasslands and montane temperate forests, making it one of the richest biodiversity spots in Sri Lanka- a perfect location for nature lovers.
The camp site provided an ideal opportunity to experience nomadic style camping where your camp will be set up almost exclusively for Adventure Company groups, with all services being provided by our camp crew. The tents are very spacious, clean and modern and guests will drift to sleep listening to nature’s very own orchestra!
You’ll have the afternoon free for leisure activities before taking an early evening visit to the tea factory where you’ll see every step of the tea making process, from bush to cup! Campsite (CS) - 1 night (paddling opportunity in nearby stream) (BD)
Jungle Safari, elephant feeding time & the coast
This morning, you'll leave camp at approximately 8am. 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. Hotel (AAA) - 3 nights (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)
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.
Galle, turtles & transfer to Minuwangoda
After your time on the beach it's time to head north back to Minuwangoda. As you head out along the coast you reach the town of Galle. Here you can walk the walls of the famous Dutch fort or explore the maze of backstreets and market stalls. En route you can pay a visit to the turtle hatchery at Kosgoda. 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. Heading north, your last night will be spent at a hotel not far from the airport. Before you return home your Group Leader will probably arrange a final ‘last supper’ where you can reflect on the kaleidoscope of wonderful things you have seen. Hotel (AAA) – 1 night (B)
The trip ends for Land Only clients at the hotel. (B)
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Trip gradesBeach / coastal
Grasslands / Savannah
Souks / Markets
Anyone in good health should be able to take part in this busy itinerary. Most days are filled with a variety of sightseeing activities, but there is free time built into the programme. The heat and humidity can be tiring and the limitations of the road network means there will be some long journeys. Please note that waves and undercurrents can be strong and special care should be taken when bathing in the sea: children should be supervised by an adult at all times. We use 2/3 star properties in Sri Lanka. These are generally standard, no-frills hotels with adequate amenities, although some will have added facilities such as air conditioning, a swimming pool, bar or restaurant. PLease be aware that some of the hotels we use are outside of the town centres. Minimum age: 7 years.
Transport - Charter vehicle, 4WD, on foot, dugout canoe, local catarmaran, elephant.
Accommodation - Hotels (12nts), resthouse (1nt, basic), tea plantation camp (1nt)
Meals - 14 breakfasts and 1 dinner
Single room supplementA single supplement is available for this trip priced from 175 GBP. This does not guarantee a single room for all accommodation. please contact us to discuss this.
For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible; many airlines impose a maximum weight limit of 20kg – we advise you to take 10kg as you will be on the move a good deal! For domestic flights using light aircraft the usual weight limit is 15 kg.
One main piece (a soft bag or rucksack, not a hard suitcase).
A daypack (25-30 litres), large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, etc.
The contrast in temperature between the hot and often humid lowlands and the 'tea country' around Bandarawela is quite marked. Don’t be tempted to leave your warm fleece or jumper behind!
SOME INTERESTING READING:
Your Child’s Health Abroad - Matthew Ellis & Jane Wilson-Howarth
Travel with Children – Maureen Wheeler
Running in the Family – Michael Ondaatje
Monkfish Moon - Romesh Gunesekera
SOME USEFUL PHRASES:
Ayubowan – Greetings
Sama venna – Excuse me
Karuna kara – Please
Es thu thee– Thank you
Mage nama Sam – My name is Sam
Local Costs - Sri Lanka
Approximate costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.
Soft drink £0.80
Medium beer £2.50
Local snack lunch £5.00
3-course dinner* £10.00
*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant.
Visas & Permits - Sri Lanka
Holders of UK & IRL passports do require a visa.
All passengers entering Sri Lanka from 01 January 2012 onwards must submit an online visa application for each applicant via the ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to the Ministry of Emigration and Immigration. Therefore, it is mandatory that all passengers travelling after the 1st of January 2012, submit their Visa application on-line by logging into www.eta.gov.lk
This is a very simple procedure and requires no additional documents. Passengers are required to fill in the information and once the Visa is approved, the passenger will be notified with an ETA approval notice. The ETA approval notice will be required for entry into Sri Lanka.
Passengers arriving into Sri Lanka from the 1st of January 2012 are also required to make a payment of US$ 20 per person by following this ETA process. The Visa issued will be a Double-entry Tourist Visa, which would be applicable for 30 days from the date of arrival to Sri Lanka. However, for those who obtained a Visa Approved Reference number using ETA prior to 31st December 2011, there will be no VISA fee as long as they enter the country within 90 days.
For those who arrive without obtaining a Visa Approved Reference number through ETA after midnight 31st December there will be a facility to obtain ‘on-arrival VISA’ by paying the on arrival VISA fee of US$25.00. However, there could be long queues and we recommend all passengers obtain their approval in advance of travel.
Nationals of all other countries should contact their local embassy or consulate. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the end date of the trip. Information can also be found at www.travcour.com. This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.
Vaccinations - Sri Lanka
The following are recommended:
† Hepatitis A † Tetanus † Polio † Typhoid † Malaria
† NB: Yellow Fever vaccination is compulsory if travelling via an infected country.
For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information.
International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and The Imaginative Traveller.
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
- It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
- We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
- Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Imaginative Traveller & The Adventure Company. This trip is operated by our partner company, The Adventure Company. They have more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a codeshared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Adventure Company travellers on your trip.