Christine & Mick

England, February/March 2014

What did you like most about Sri Lanka?

The food.

What did you like least about Sri Lanka?

The driving.

Any other comments?

Colombo: We spent longer in Colombo specifically to see the Navam Perahera which was a wonderful experience and well worth the time spent there.

National Parks: Wilpattu was our first experience of a jeep safari so we enjoyed it but would not recommend making the journey for the few sightings of wildlife. Minneriya, on the other hand, was very enjoyable. We had an enthusiastic guide and got close to a good size herd of elephants and had plenty of time to observe their fascinating behaviour. Yala was far better than we expected. Our guides were brilliant and we saw a lot of wildlife and managed, for the most part, to avoid the queues of other jeeps. On the other hand, Bundala was a complete waste of time and a great disappointment. The 'safari' lasted only 90 minutes and we saw very few different species of birds to those we had already seen in Yala and elsewhere. After the visit, Niroshan [chauffeur guide] told us it was the "wrong time of year" to go so we would not have seen any more birds. What made the situation even more disappointing was that, in order to go to Bundala, we had to miss the fourth Yala safari when our group finally had a sighting of leopards.

Cultural Triangle: Unfortunately, we did not have a good start to our visits to these heritage sites as we visited Anuradhapura just after lunch when it was very hot. Having to walk barefoot across painfully hot stones to visit the stupas spoilt the experience and we had to ask our guide, who seemed completely indifferent to our discomfort, to view the remaining holy sites form a distance. However, we enjoyed the visits to the other sites, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and particularly enjoyed Kandy and Ella. We loved the time in the hill country where we could walk and explore on our own and would happily return there for a longer visit.

Accommodation: We appreciated the range and different styles of accommodation. Havelock [Place] Bungalow [Colombo] was welcoming, comfortable and relaxing. Kalundewa [Retreat, Dambulla] and Buckingham Place [Tangalle] were extraordinary in their design and setting. It was a delight to stay with Pathi and his family [Hanthana House, Kandy] and the Kulu Safaris [Yala] team made our short stay in their tented camp the highlight of the trip. The only accommodation that fell far below these standards on all the criteria of location, comfort, quality and food was Little Paradise [Anuradhapura]. Contrary to our expectations it was nowhere near Tissa Wewa lake, being located in the new town area. Dinner was at 6.30pm whether you were ready or not and the only communal area, the dining space, closed at 7.30pm forcing us to sit in our room on the bed as there were no chairs and sitting outside wasn't an option because of the mosquitos.

Guiding: We met some excellent, friendly and informative guides on our safaris but felt very let down by our personal guide, Niroshan. Indeed, he was a safe and skilful driver and we appreciated his punctuality and time-keeping in general. However, as a guide he came close to spoiling our trip. Clearly, he knows a lot about his country but we felt that we had to listen to his well-rehearsed commentary and questions were not welcome even though we were often confused. It would have been helpful if he had engaged with us at the start of each day in a discussion about the itinerary and if he could have given us some advance notice of the other possible visits we could make e.g. to a batik factory. The only time we did any shopping was when we were on our own. He often appeared disinterested, even bored, and became short tempered during visits especially if it was hot or getting near lunchtime. We found his moodiness, non-responsiveness, disinterest and, even occasionally rudeness, affected the enjoyment of our visits and eventually we preferred to visit as much as we could on our own.

As a final point, we want to thank you for accommodating us in The Fort Printers in Galle which was a wonderful place to finish our stay. We had time to walk around the Fort on a Sunday afternoon with the locals and do some shopping, and the following day we were able to reach the airport in plenty of time.

We hope that you find this additional information useful. We had a very enjoyable time in Sri Lanka and would certainly consider returning to this lovely country.

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