Sri Lanka: Water for elephants

Posted on: October 9th, 2014 by Sri Lankan No Comments

By Alex Robertson

Watching these mighty beasts splash in the river is an amazing sight, says Alex Robertson.

Elephants at sunset on the Kaudalla National Park Game Reserve in Sri Lanka. Photo / Alex Robertson

How do you tell a male from a female elephant?” our guide Amiter asked, with a glint in his eye, as we bumped our way toward the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Kegalle, central Sri Lanka.

“The male has longer legs at the front – to make it easier when he mounts the female!”

He tossed his head back and roared a toothy laugh, before telling us that the length of an elephant’s front legs is twice the circumference of its footprint, that Asian elephants have small ears (their natural habitat is in cooler forests in the highlands and they don’t have heat issues, unlike their African cousins) and that their trunk has only one finger at the end, compared with two for an African elephant, because of the abundance of food.

Elephants are revered in Sri Lankan culture: their image adorns temples across the country and, to Buddhists, represents birth. Hindus worship them in the form of the deity Ganesha. The British Christians, however, saw elephants, which sometimes destroyed farmland and buildings, as a problem and encouraged their destruction.

In the mid-19th century, Major Thomas Rogers claimed to have shot 1500 elephants – one a day for four years.

Wild elephants gradually lost their highland habitat to coffee growers, then tea plantations, and moved to lowland areas where they became more of a problem to farmers, who regularly trapped and killed them.

The population dwindled from an estimated 14,000 in the early 19th century to less than 2500 by 1969.

Conservation is now the aim and by 2011 the population had increased to more than 5000. The Sri Lankan Government set up the Pinnawala orphanage for young and injured elephants at Kegalle in 1975; it is popular with tourists and locals – there were two school parties the day I visited.

Young elephants can be hand-fed for a small fee, and foreign tourists line up for a happy snap as four litres of milk are greedily sucked from gigantic glass bottles.

The highlight of the visit is definitely bath time (10am and 2pm), with 84 animals – from giant tuskers to tiny babies – trundling a dusty path through the village to cool off in the Maha Oya.

If you help supplement their meagre income, the handlers will help you to get up close for a special snap, as the elephants splash and play.

The village is made up of cafes and tourist shops, and a souvenir made from elephant dung (see below) should be on everyone’s shopping list.

The orphanage does great work helping animals that would otherwise die young, but the best way to see elephants is from the back of a Land Rover. Wild herds can be seen in some of the country’s 22 national parks.

In Kaudalla Park, the elephants seem relaxed and can be seen in family groups: a mother, trunk raised, chasing after her errant baby; an infant suckling between her mother’s legs; two adolescents play-fighting, their trunks entwined as they push against one another; two kids wrestling on the ground.

The only noise is the occasional trumpet or snort from a bull and the tearing and swishing as trunks twist, wrench and flay grass before it is thrown into a mouth or over a back.

The sky turns purple at the edges; two elephants are silhouetted in the fading light, yet I can still make out that one is a male, the other female.

Elephant dung paper is the write stuff

An adult Asian elephant eats about 200kg of plant matter and drinks 200 litres of water a day. A similar amount comes out the other end.

Multiply this by 84 animals – the population at the Pinnawala Orphanage – and you have a rather large problem.

The intelligent and resourceful Sri Lankans have come up with a neat solution to this mountain of waste – turning poo into paper. You can watch the process away from the full glare of the sun and out of sight of the cack-averse.

Waste is collected twice daily; the larger leafy material is separated and composted, while the dung is put aside to be dried and shredded.

The resulting fibre is boiled and sterilised and dye is added for colour. There’s another round of drying and soaking before the mulch is pulped by hand and set on stretchers to dry as sheets of paper. The rough paper is smoothed by rollers to create fine paper and formed into many products.

Colourful books and greeting cards are popular souvenirs, with tourists attracted by signs that yell out “Poo Paper” or “Elephant Dung Products”, sometimes with pictures of elephants on the loo.

They didn’t have toilet paper for sale, though, which would be rather clever in a Buddhist circle-of-life way.


Via NZ Herald 

10 Things to do with Kids in Sri Lanka

Posted on: September 26th, 2014 by Sri Lankan No Comments

10 Things to do with Kids in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination for families. This little island seemingly has it all with something to offer every family whether you’re looking for culturewildlifeadventure or just a week or two soaking up the sunshine on some of Asia’s best beaches.

Little kids will love the palm-fringed beaches and calm, swimmable waters, and will delight at the numerous turtle sanctuaries found near Bentota. For big kids and teens Sri Lanka is activity heaven, from water skiing and surfing on the coast to canoeing, and mountain biking in the hill country. And for parents there’s everything you could possibly hope for in a family holiday destination – action, adventure, culture, history, relaxation, great food and the chance to create some incredible memories with your kids.

There is much (much!) more to do in Sri Lanka than what we’ve listed here, but here are 10 of our favourite things to do with kids to whet your wanderlust.

Children releasing turtles into the sea, Sri Lanka Family Holiday

1. Release baby turtles into the ocean

Five species of sea turtle call Sri Lanka home, the Olive Ridley Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle and Leatherhead Turtle. Their major nesting habitats are located along the southern coast in the Galle District and a number of turtle hatcheries can be found along the southern coastal road, from Bentota onwards.

Established to help protect these wonderful creatures, it’s definitely worth stopping by a turtle hatchery at least once. Learn about the dangers turtles face, the conservation efforts in place and meet the turtles! Kids may even be able tohelp release baby turtles back into the ocean – an unforgettable experience.

Sri Lanka Family Holiday Unawatuna beach

2. Fish like a local

If you want to fish in Sri Lanka you’re going to have to practice your balancing skills as local fisherman traditionally perch on stilts to snare their catch of the day. The stilt poles, known as riti panna, can be seen along the southern coast stuck a few metres offshore in the water. A small bench is attached to the poles and this is where the fishermen balance above the water. This method is used only for catching small reef fish called ‘Bollu’ and ‘Koramburuwo’, tiny fish not dissimilar in size to a sardine.

The origins surrounding stilt fishing are unclear although traditionally the skill was handed down generation to generation. Sadly there are fewer and fewer fishermen practicing the skill today but you’ll usually see some fishing at sunset, noon and sunrise – you can even have a go yourself!

Sri Lanka Family Holiday Galle

3. Explore the ancient fort of Galle

Galle’s 17th-century Dutch Fort is one of Sri Lanka’s highlights. Originally built by the Portuguese in 1588 and then extensively fortified by the Dutch from 1649 onwards, the fort has been beautifully preserved and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walk the ramparts and then wander the charming, narrow streets lined with old houses and historic churches. There’s also a good selection of boutiques, art galleries and restaurants.

What’s really interesting about the fort, however, is that it’s still a living, breathing community with administrative offices and children heading off to school.

Travel writer Juliet Coombe’s book Around the Fort in 80 Lives is a great introduction to some of the characters that live here. Don’t miss the locals jumping off the ramparts into the waters below!

10 Things to do with kids in Sri Lanka

4. Catch a game of cricket

Cricket was first introduced to Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) when the island became a British colony in 1802. It didn’t take long for the game to take off and today it’s the most popular sport in the country.

Despite its tiny size, the island has eight grounds that have been used to host international cricket matches including stadiums in Colombo, Kandy and Galle. The Galle International Stadium was originally opened in 1829 as a horseracing course but was soon taken over by stumps and wickets. Today it’s one of the most picturesque Test grounds in the world with views of the Dutch Fort from the stadium. If you’re lucky, your trip might coincide with a Test match and even if you can’t get tickets, you can watch with the locals from the fort ramparts.

Sri Lanka Family Holiday Wijaya beach

5. Learn to surf

Sri Lanka is well known as a great surf destination. Because of the island’s two seasons you can always find waves somewhere; the south west coast between November and March and the east cost from May to September.

But what if you can’t tell your barrels from your breaks? Fortunately Sri Lanka offers consistent, small beginner-friendly waves, especially along the south west coast. Weligama in particular is a popular spot for beginners as it’s a sheltered bay, protected from the wind. There are a number of local surf schools here where you can have lessons or simply hire a board. It won’t be long before you’re charging and carving like the best of them.

UdaWalawe, Sri Lanka Family Holiday

6. Meet the elephants

The Asian elephant has played a central part of Sri Lanka’s culture and ecology for thousands of years – amazingly 10% of the world’s elephant population is concentrated on this small island! There are many ways where you can get up close and personal with these incredible creatures – you can even learn how to make paper from elephant poo at theEliphus Maximus project!

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a family highlight and one of the most popular places to visit. This orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants was originally founded in 1975 to care for and protect orphaned elephants found in the wild. Visitors can watch the elephants bathing in the river and being fed.

Other elephant encounters can be had on an elephant safari at Minneriya National Park, where herds of up to 150 elephants gather and the Elephant Transit Camp in Uda Walawe National Park.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka Family Holiday

7. Climb Lion’s Rock

Located in the Central Province, the mythical ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock) is one of Sri Lanka’s most mind-blowing sites and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally built as the fortified capital for King Kassapa (477-95) after he had assassinated his father, there is little left of the original palace today but the views from the top of the rock, nearly 200 metres high, are breath taking.

Access to the top is via a series of zigzagging staircases, past detailed frescoes of over 500 semi-naked females dating back some 1600 years. A small plateau about halfway up boasts a gateway in the form of an enormous lion, which is where the name comes from.

10 Things to do in Sri Lanka with the kids

8. Go whale watching

Sri Lanka’s tourist board likes to boast that it is the only country in the world where you can see the biggest land animal, the elephant, and the largest marine mammal, the blue whale, in one day. Indeed the southern coast of Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to see blue whales. The southern tip is surprisingly close to the deep waters of the continental shelf, where these giants swim. Nowhere else in the world do these incredible creatures come so close to land, or are so reliably seen. Here, you may be lucky enough to see dozens of whales feeding and even mothers and their calfs.

Numerous companies have set up shop offering trips to see the whales but we recommend choosing an eco-tour specialist that ensures that their boat tours keep a comfortable distance from the whales so that they are not stressed. Parents should note that these boat trips are not short (contact your chosen operator for tour lengths) and so usually best suited to older children who are happy to spend hours at sea.

Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka Family Holiday

9. The kingdom of Kandy

Kandy, the easy-going capital of the hill country, and the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, sits 115km inland at a cool height of 500m. It served as the last capital of the Sri Lanka kings before being toppled by the British in 1815 (having previously held out against the Portuguese and the Dutch). Today it’s a lovely hill town surrounding by jungle (leopards have been known to step into town at night) with a picture-worthy lake in the middle and a gorgeous array of architecture.

Kandy is also home to Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic, a tooth of the Buddha. Housed within the golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom, tradition dictates that whoever holds this relic holds the governance of the country. Poojas (offerings or prayers) are held and dawn, noon and dusk daily during which time the room housing the tooth is open to devotees and tourists. That said, you won’t see much as the tooth itself is kept in a golden casket shaped like a stupa. An annual festival, the Esala Perahera, is held in July and August to pay homage to the tooth.

10 Things to do in Sri Lanka with kids

10. Take a train ride through the hill country

The rolling green hill country is simply beautiful. With mountains green hills, dramatic peaks and carefully manicuredtea plantations it’s a world away from the steamy coastal lowlands. There are various ways to enjoy the area, and big kids and teens will love the adventure activities on offer, however one of our favourite activities is to travel by train.

The train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, a charming colonial town by the British in the early 1800s as a summer retreat, is spectacular. The track climbs through pine and eucalyptus forest, past tea covered hills and roaring waterfalls with breath taking views of the emerald green hills. Pack a picnic and grab a seat in the observation car, normally at the rear of the train, for the best views. Make sure to book in advance.


Honeymoon in Sri Lanka

Posted on: July 5th, 2013 by Sri Lankan No Comments

candle lit

The date has been set, the dress ordered and the band booked. The tiny niceties of your “grand day” are clicking together. But, you still have an important question lingering in the back of your mind; it’s about nothing, but the destination of your honeymoon. You want it to be adventurous; you also want it to be calming and rejuvenating, most of all, you want it to be extremely romantic!

A slower pace of life in a peaceful setting with miles of sandy beaches, turquoise waters and stunning sunsets; warm people, lazy days, majestic mountains, splashing waterfalls, and an awe inspiring history. Of course, don’t forget the great shopping! “Sri Lanka” the beautiful island in the Indian Ocean, sounds like the perfect honeymoon destination.

On the other hand, it is a country with easy access, and most hotels and excursions appear to offer great deals to the honeymooners. Therefore, the tiny island with a lot to offer should be among your top choices when selecting a destination for your special occasion.

Years from now, you will still cherish the memories of a candle- lit dinner at the marble beach; the lovely cup of tea in the midst of gorgeous tea estates in Nuwara Eliya, and those nights spent chatting in front of a campfire at the heart of Sinharaja forest. What Sri Lanka offers, is far too good to turn down!

Trekking in Sri Lanka

Posted on: June 25th, 2013 by Sri Lankan No Comments


If you really want to get in deep and up close, there’s just one way, and that’s walking. For the trekking enthusiast, the beautiful nation offers a plethora of choices. The beautiful beaches, busy urban streets, unspoiled villages, and the luscious hill country can make the selection of a hiking route a daunting task. On the other hand, Sri Lanka quite uniquely for a little island, offers something to everyone.

Sri Lanka’s most popular trekking routes are based on the hill country. How can one resist the urge to stroll through the tea laden hillsides, flowing rivers, the roaring waterfalls, and the majestic mountains? The Horton plains natural park is a favourite hill country route among hikers; due to the unmatched bio diversity and natural beauty.  It includes forest patches, grasslands, and some high altitude vegetation. Furthermore, trekkers have the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent Bakers falls, and the dramatic 880 metre drop at the Worlds end.

Other popular trekking routes include the Adams peak wilderness sanctuary: where you could experience a magical sunrise from a mountain peak, the Cultural triangle: where you could appreciate the islands great history and heritage spanning over 2500 years, and Sinharaja rain forest.

The possibility to include jeep safaris, bird watching, camping, canoeing, and mountaineering, make Sri Lankan trekking expeditions extremely exciting. On the other hand, the numerous waterfalls, and rivers across the country allow hikers a fresh dip en route.  All in all, a Sri Lankan trekking adventure is not something you could afford to miss. At the end of which you will be weary, but satisfied.

“In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks” – John Muir

So keep walking!

Krrish Group to invest USD 650 million in landmark project

Posted on: June 18th, 2013 by Sri Lankan No Comments


The much awaited development is scheduled to kick off in August, and completed in 30 months.  The project includes the construction of three towers and the development of the adjoining Transworks building.

It is believed that the tallest tower in the project, consisting of 95 floors would become the tallest building in south Asia. Furthermore, the US$ 650 mn project will become the 10th largest of its kind in the world. The architect, Edouard Francois, who is a celebrity in Europe, revealed that some of the hotel rooms would have private swimming pools; and the development would also have 600 apartments, office space, restaurants, retail outlets, cinema and parking for 3,000 vehicles. Having designed Marina Sands Properties in Paris, Abu Dabhi, and several other historic ventures in the world, he believes that Krrish towers would also be the first property that would offer two inter linking bridges in the region.

The project has already attracted the attention of several fortune 500 companies. In the long run, the Krrish development could play a key role in appealing to investors, and high end consumers from around the world, while standing majestically at the heart of the island nation.

Vesak Celebrations in Sri Lanka

Posted on: June 11th, 2013 by Travel Freak No Comments

Vesak_in_SriLanka Vesak is a holy day observed traditionally by Buddhists in Sri Lanka and it is considered as both a religious and cultural festival in Sri Lanka. Sometimes Vesak is informally called “Buddha’s Birthday”, it actually commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha.

The exact date of Vesak varies according to the various lunar calendars used in different traditions. In Theravada countries following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on a full moon day, typically in the 5th or 6th lunar month. Vesak Day in China and Korea is on the eighth of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The date varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar, but usually falls in April or May. In leap years Vesak is celebrated in June.

During Vesak Many temples are filled with Atasil followers and pilgrims all over Sri Lanka. In temples Buddhists worship, offer flowers and light lamps. On this holy day the alms giving plays an important title role. This is a sign of sharing the joy and peace with people. Other than the exclusive religious aspects of the festival, people decorate their houses and public places and arrange for various cultural events to bring happiness to everyone on that day.

Modernising Gampaha District railway stations

Posted on: February 12th, 2013 by Travel Freak No Comments

01Eleven railway stations in the Gampaha District are to be completely modernized under the guidance of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa to enhance the customer satisfaction of local travelers and tourists. Railway stations used daily by the most number of travelers have been selected for the purpose. The modernization will meet all the requirements of passengers and make the stations attractive to the public.

Minster Basil Rajapaksa has instructed officials and people’s representatives to modernize these stations under a long term plan to ensure high standards since the majority of the stations are in a very poor and dilapidated condition, causing much difficulty to commuters.

The objective of this modernization is to see that no inconvenience is caused to disabled persons, elderly people, members of the clergy and tourists at these stations. Accordingly, rest rooms, health facilities, ticket counters, platforms and stairways among others will be improved in stations at Ragama, Ja-ela, Seeduwa, Katunayaka (BOI), Negombo, Ganemulla, Gampaha, Bemmulla, Veyangoda and Ambepussa in the Gampaha District.

Nawam Maha Perahera to be held in Colombo on the 25th February 2013

Posted on: February 11th, 2013 by Travel Freak No Comments

NAWAM MAHA_ PEREHARANawam Maha Perahera is an annual event that is held in Colombo. The heavily decorated elephants are the major attractions here with the parades and performances of old Sinhala culture and traditions.

Every year in February the month which is called as Navam, as the streets of Colombo give way to a grand pageant that combines dance, culture and splendor which will be starting from Gangaramaya Temple Colombo 2.

Although established only in 1979, this procession, the Navam Maha Perahera, is a much celebrated and revered occasion that brings together communities and depicts the country’s rich cultural traditions.

Jaffna Music Festival 2013

Posted on: February 11th, 2013 by Travel Freak No Comments

jafna music festivalThe Jaffna Music Festival returns to Jaffna Municipal grounds in March 2013. This time around the festival will host an eclectic array of music – including folk, contemporary, classical etc.

This is a sister event of the Galle Music Festival, which attracted an audience of over 22,000 people over two days in 2012. The Jaffna festival promises to be as exciting.

On the 1st and 2nd March 2013, the Jaffna Municipal Grounds will be overflowing with a combination of vibrant music, colour and culture. The festival itself will be a celebration of the exclusive and fascinating history, heritage, diversity and talent that Sri Lanka has to offer. Joining the exciting line up of local artists will be a line-up of International performers.

Women’s Cricket World Cup: India knocked out by Sri Lanka

Posted on: February 7th, 2013 by Travel Freak No Comments

Hosts India were knocked out of the Women’s World Cup with a 138-run defeat by Sri Lanka in their last group match.

Chasing 283, India would have secured a place in the Super Six stage on net run-rate had they made at least 251, but they crumbled to 144 all out.

Sri Lanka, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, who also stunned England in their opening match, had never beaten India in one-day cricket.

Sri Lanka captain Shashikala Siriwardene said she hoped Indian fans would embrace her side as the last Asian side left in the tournament before her media conference was interrupted by a call from the nation’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“He said he’d never seen a match like this and wanted to congratulate us,” said Siriwardene. “He wished us luck for the rest of the tournament.”