Tailor-made...In Sri Lanka
Cox & Kings clients Robert and Penny Cook extol the benefits of a tailor-made holiday, and recount their personalised trip to Sri Lanka.
Sigirya Lion rock
In February we enjoyed a wonderful tailor-made trip to Sri Lanka, having previously made a number of such tours with Cox & Kings. We like to choose this option as it allows flexibility and choice in sites to be visited, hotels, meals and individual travel plans. During the planning stage we researched the options with our regular travelling companions, a like-minded couple. This formed a basis for discussions with our tour consultant, Amit Verma. His guidance, advice and local knowledge were invaluable. He compiled a tour that fulfilled our aims to visit the important cultural sites as well as to explore the wildlife and scenery at a relaxed pace.
The tour included all the world heritage sites on the island, starting with the historical capitals of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and the Sigirya Lion Rock. We were able to appreciate the history and culture of the island as well as the age and significance of the ancient irrigation networks. These are still in use today, and were based on the principle that not a drop of rainwater should go into the sea without first being used by man. From here we went via the Dambulla caves to stay two nights at the ancient city of Kandy, visiting the Temple of the Tooth Relic and the famous Botanical Gardens. A long, but delightful scenic drive then took us through the highlands and the tea country, visiting a working tea factory en route to the Tea Factory Hotel. This is high up near Nuwara Eliya, an old colonial hill station with some familiar style buildings and a race course.
Golden Buddha, Dambulla Caves
There was more dramatic scenery on the way from the highlands to Yala National Park, on the south coast. Here we spent three days wildlife watching in the park and around the hotel. Leopards, elephant families and sloth bears were highlights of the drives, along with several endemic and rare bird species among more than 70 seen. Here, our driver’s ability to spot animals never ceased to amaze us.
Elephant family, Yala National Park
This wonderful experience was followed by a visit to the ancient fort at Galle. We stayed by the sea at nearby Mirissa, where we were fortunate to see several blue whales and dolphins on a morning boat trip. Our next stop, a hill-top stay close to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, provided the opportunity for a guided walk in the last remaining primary rainforest on the island. Our final two nights near Negombo gave us a chance to visit the town with its bustling fish market and time to relax before the flight home.
Blue Whale off the south coast
Our superb driver guide was with us throughout the tour. His comfortable minibus had ample room for the four of us and our luggage. He offered lots of opportunities for stopping to take photographs, look at things which we wanted to see or he suggested, as well as breaks for cups of tea on journeys. He looked after us extremely well and his local knowledge of the culture, people and wildlife fitted well with our interests.
During our 18 days in the island we stayed at seven hotels, all excellent and quite different from one another. Our first hotel, Jetwing Vil Uyana, was built on a wetland reserve. Here we went on morning birdwatching and night vision walks with the resident naturalist, and even saw the rare nocturnal slender loris. We really enjoyed the food, with a delicious variety of local fruits and vegetables at each hotel. The tour was planned for the drier months and many of the local people commented how unusually dry the winter had been. Despite this, everywhere looked green and lush with healthy crops and forest. We only had three short thunderstorms, during the afternoon or early evening, after hot days.
Our large collection of photographs will provide happy memories of a superb visit to a delightful island for many years to come.
To enquire about your own tailor-made holiday to Sri Lanka, call one of our specialists on 020 7873 5000. Alternatively, Cox & Kings also offers group tours to Sri Lanka.
All images copyright of Robert and Penny Cook.
Leopard in Yala National Park