Johnston & Duffield families

England & Singapore, July/August 2007

We wanted to say that we had an excellent holiday in Sri Lanka - one of the best ever. The arrangements worked out very well and Sena, our chauffeur guide, was a mine of information and took great care of us at all times. All the arrangements worked out extremely well and John from Tikalanka couldn't have been more accommodating in planning the tour. Here's some more detailed feedback.

As we arrived in the early morning we really needed a night to relax near the airport before driving up into the Cultural Triangle rather than just freshening up after a long flight and then be on the road for another 4 hours or so to Polonnaruwa. However, the Deer Park [Hotel, Polonnaruwa] was a good place to stay - quiet and comfortable and we wished we had arrived a bit earlier to enjoy the place. The ancient city at Polonnaruwa was very interesting and the game drive at Minneriya [National Park] better than we had expected with lots of bird life and we saw a herd of about 30 elephants.

We were at the top of Sigiriya in the early morning at 7.30 and had it to ourselves. The views were spectacular and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Sigiriya Village was fine although the manager seemed to be a little officious and overly worried about his bananas being taken away for snacks!

In Kandy, the [Peradeniya] Botanic Gardens were wonderful, beautifully kept and very peaceful. The [Chaaya] Citadel hotel had nice rooms and a good swimming pool but was too far away from the city centre (30 minutes) for us. The restaurant area felt utilitarian and the buffet food was only OK. We also visited the Temple of the Tooth and the cultural show [Kandyan Dancers & Drummers] - both interesting. Good market for spices etc.

Our time in Nuwara Eliya was too short, as we could have wandered around 'little England' for a lot longer - it was a very atmospheric and interesting town. St. Andrew's Hotel was very colonial, like going back 50 years or more and we really enjoyed it. Despite the very early start we didn't see anything at World's End, at Horton Plains [National Park], due to the cloud although we still decided to do the walk (5 miles), which was quite strenuous and would be difficult for older people as the track is very uneven and the round trip took a while - the walk was good though and worth the effort.

We could have stayed longer at Ella, too! Ambiente [Mount Resort] has a great location and friendly staff. Ella itself is relaxed and peaceful and the train station an interesting side trip when the trains are coming through. Next time we would take a train ride - it looks great! Rawana falls was full of hassling 'gem' sellers.

The game drive at Yala [West National Park] was very disappointing, especially compared with safaris in Africa, as we saw hardly anything, one elephant, some mongooses, wild boar - I wouldn't recommend it but others may be luckier. Yala Village was good, however.

Palm Paradise [Cabanas, Tangalle] was too basic for us although the food was very good. Nice beach and we got to see a turtle coming ashore at Rekawa [Turtle Conservation Project] - about 30 minutes tuk tuk ride away.

Sanda Kirana villa [Unawatuna] was idyllic - right on the beach with our own pool. The five staff looked after us very well and the cook made the best curries on the island. Definitely needed more time here. Visited Galle a few times during our stay and enjoyed the old town with its historic buildings a lot.

The drive up from the south to Ranweli [Holiday Village, Airport] was long and tiring, although we stopped off at a turtle sanctuary and got to hold some babies, while we got caught in the traffic chaos around Colombo. Ranweli itself wasn't to our taste as a lot of larger tour companies use it. The food (although overall in Sri Lanka it was good) was the worst we had on our holiday and the theme nights offered didn't appeal. Wouldn't recommend it but it was only for a night.

All in all, despite being hassled a few times by vendors, the variety, friendly people, food, culture and beaches made our visit to Sri Lanka really special. Highlights for us were the Hill Country, Sigiriya rock, the turtles and the villa near Galle. Happy to recommend Sri Lanka as a holiday destination and Tikalanka Tours as a guide!

PS the four kids (18, 15, 15 & 12 years) had a really good time too!

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