Going places, meeting people, spirituality and photography have always fascinated me. Having explored countries of varied natural landscapes, culture & heritage like Bali, Jordan, Dubai and India, Sri Lanka was always on the bucket list and this time I decided to travel there with my husband. Though never heard many stories about this place from people around, but having heard the phrases like Sri Lanka is the ‘Pearl of Indian Ocean’ and tear drop of India were enough to arouse the curiosity to experience this land of smiling people and natural beauty.
Travelling always comes with a baggage of booking travel tickets, hotels, chalking out the itinerary. However it was fun as we kept exploring more and more about this place in our research of places to visit, hotels to stay amidst natural surroundings and adventure activities to experiment.
Finally the day of travel came and we boarded the flight from Mumbai International airport and reached Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka situated 30 kilometers north of nation’s capital Colombo. The 5 day trip ranged from leisurely moments at scenic beaches and lakes, refreshing treks to the hilltops and spotting herds of animals in National parks to reliving the Sri Lankan history & culture through its museums, temples & heritage architectures. The most enjoyable part was indulging in water adventure activities and meeting a host of smiling people adept at different skills.
Let me explicate the experiences in the following three categories:
- Vis-A Vis Nature’s Beauty:
The journey by Intercity Express train from Colombo via the central highlands was the most spectacular train journey I’ve ever had with such beautiful scenery running past the window. Small kids, young men and women were waving down the train travelers. The Central Highlands have been recently recognized as one of the World Heritage Sights in Sri Lanka. The stroll around the languid Kandy Lake became a walk to remember with such a scenic ambience in company of my life partner, what else one can ask for!
We also took the opportunity to visit the Yala National park which is said to be the second largest national park of the country. We saw grey hornbill, black-capped bulbul and Sri Lankan wood pigeon in species of bird. The tourist guide told us that around 25 individual leopards are estimated to be seen in this block. To our astonishment the very next moment we noticed two of them crossing the road on which we were navigating. For a moment I could not believe that I just saw the leopards. As we moved on we saw a variety of reptile fauna including Sri Lankan krait, painted-lip lizard.
We were not at all tired after going through the safari ride but it was turning dark and we had to return back. Early morning brought rain with it and we lay in the bed relaxing and enjoying the rain. Ordered green tea from the reception and had it standing at the window pane. Nature’s beauty was worth admiring and it was something I had never seen before.
The last thing that I would like to jot down about the natural encounters is about the drive through the coastal road south toward Galle Fort. And the great surprise of that leg of my journey were the unblemished coast southeast of suburban Mount Lavinia which is also said to have the ‘Golden Mile’ of beaches.
- Rendez – Vous with the Sri Lankan cultural & Spiritual Heritage
Sri Lanka is a place having the earliest Buddhist kingdoms with significant shrines. We moved on to a mountain peak near Anuradhapura. As being told by a native person there, this site Mihintale introduced the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. This site is seen as the meeting point of the King Devanampiyatissa and the Buddhist monk Mahinda. We saw a lot of religious monuments and abandoned structures over there.
We also went up to Sigiriya, the 200-metre rock citadel. Sigiriya was desserted and known only to natives centuries before the 19th century. The ancient cities are its biggest and best-kept secret. Amid the magnificence of Anuradhapura I almost whispered: “It’s like we’ve found Narnia.”
One of the UNESCO world heritage sites – Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka which was also visited by us. It is located in the royal palace complex where the relic of the tooth of Buddha is preserved. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and it was a wonderful feeling to imagine how this site must have been of importance in the ancient time.
- Freaking Adventures:
Next was the most awaited experience of indulging in water activities and feeling the adrenaline rush while experimenting with new activities and fighting my fear of being in deep waters. Sri Lanka has always been well renowned for its water sports activities and water makes it ideal for water skiing. Lanka has the features of world class diving along with mind blowing sailing along the coasts. The moderate temperature of water at the coast encouraged us to go for various sports like snorkeling, surfing and diving. Other sports available at the coast were water skiing, wind surfing, Jet Ski and dinghy sailing.
Firstly we went for the surfing. Though it was not easy for both of us to begin with surfing as we didn’t had any experience regarding that. A crew member was there to help us. We went with him and took the amazing surfing ride. I was longing to go on a jet skiing ride. We took the water motorbike and went on going and going in the deep blue sea. Then we realized that we have come a long way from the beach and we returned back to the coast. Jet Skiing was really appreciable as we navigated the waves as if we were given a motorbike to ride on the waves.
After that we hired a boat and sailed along the waters of Sri Lanka. Boating is also regarded as a developing water activity. We visited the west coast and hired boards and gears which were available locally. We took a local advice from people there about the undertow and strong currents in the area before we went. Next adventure was scuba diving. It is said that scuba diving is the most popular place of visit for people visiting Sri Lanka for short period. We explored the colorful world underwater at the on-shore reefs and coastal wrecks. Since the sea was calm we had a great amount of visibility along the Arugam Bay. Saw the colorful stones & beautiful fishes inside the water. Felt as if we ourselves are fishes floating in the water.
So, in the entire trip was a full package of fun, frolic encounter with nature’s beauty, mad adventures, and spiritual experiences supported by lovely people smiling at us and welcoming us in their country and making us feel at home. We would love to visit it again and suggest friends and relatives to visit this place at least once in their lifetime too.