We had planned what to do in Sri Lanka, so when we arrived we spent the first few days relaxing at the Jetwing Beach Hotel in Negombo before departing with our car and driver for the south coast first stop Bentota, onto Galle and Mirissa and finally the Udawalawe National Park to see the elephants.
I've already said in my previous post how important it is to embrace the extensive driving and travelling as part of the holiday, I loved watching day to day life as we journeyed through towns and countryside. It is fascinating and there is so much to see at every turn. It is colourful and enlightening, it is so different to how we live here in the UK.
As we drove along the coast road towards Bentota, I noticed how many graves and memorials there were on the side of the road in front of the beach. I commented to our driver and he explained they were for the victims of the tsunami. This really made me stop and think, it was a very poignant moment. It is easy to sit at home and watch the devastation of these natural disasters but to actually see where it happened and the aftermath even years after does make it much more real.
We stopped at the Tsunami Photo Museum, this is an entirely personal memoir and memorial to the events that took place on Boxing Day 2004. We met and chatted to the lady who set it up. It contains photographs and personal accounts and it is simply in the front of her house - the house her and her family rebuilt behind the home that was destroyed. They survived because they ran to high ground when the first wave hit but stayed on the highter ground when the second wave hit, Family and neighbours all around them were not so lucky.
In the afternoon we took a boat ride up the Maduganga River and saw the mangroves, a cinnamon farm, a temple, a fish farm and the daily lives of the people living and working on the river.
We then arrived at our hotel for the night and sat and had a late lunch overlooking the beach and the Indian Ocean. Paradise Road Villa is simply beautiful and we so wish we had been staying two nights! We wandered down to the beach and enjoyed the rustic coastline, I took an early evening swim in the pool as the sun went down and we enjoyed an excellent dinner in their outdoor restaurant. The service was exceptional and we were so well looked after. I could have explored the hotel for days and I took lots of photos.
We left after a delicious breakfast and a browse in their shop (which we later visited in Colombo as well) and made our way further south to Galle. We went straight into the town and had lunch then explored the shops and the old Dutch fort. It was very windy but stunning views and the breeze helped us cope a bit better with the heat and humidity. We loved Galle and would like to have spent more time there.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at our next hotel, Cocobay, which has it's own private beach and a stunning view across the bay towards Galle Fort, we enjoyed watching the fisherman go out in the early evening.
Next day was an early start - we took the short drive to Mirissa at 5 am to go whale watching! Now I have read good and bad reports of this activity at Mirissa. There are a lot of overcrowded boats and many going way too close to the whales. Also the sea is pretty rough so sea sickness tablets are a must (the boat company should provide them). We were very lucky with the company that Paradisio Travels organised for us, Raja and the Whales, our boat was not too full and there were a lot of 'spotters' who went out of their way to help us move about the boat to get the best view of the whales without needing to get too close and disturb them. We saw five whales in total including a mum and calf and I hear we were very lucky as it is perfectly possible to go out and not see any.
Our final visit on the south coast was Udawalawe National Park and although it is hard to choose a favourite, I think this was a definite highlight for us. Seeing elephants in their natural habitat. We will remember it forever and any thought of captivity, chains or riding of elephants is now well off our radar - once you have seen them in the wild you know they absolutely belong there and should never be treated as a domestic pet or tourist attraction. Again our tour guide was fantastic, Target Safari was organised by Paradisio Travels and he was so respectful to the wildlife, but also really took his time to look out for the elephants, birds, water buffalo, deer and crocodiles where other safari drivers were rushing past and missing so much.
We chose the 4 to 6 pm safari and this was absolutely the right choice as we saw over 30 elephants and their babies as they come out in the afternoon's to visit the watering holes plus seeing them as the sun set was magical.
We spent the night at Kalu's Hideaway a beautiful lodge style hotel on the edge of the national park, again I really wish we had stayed two nights as it was so relaxing. The next morning we left early to visit the Elephant Transit Home - the only one in Sri Lanka that looks after the orphan elephants then releases them back into the wild when they are ready. We were lucky to see them being fed and cared for, this is done several times throughout the day, the rest of the time they live in a special enclosure within the national park. Amazing experience!
After seeing the elephants in their natural habitat we chose not to visit Pinawalwe or the Millenium Elephant Foundation, whilst these organisations are slowly improving their knowledge and care, they are still a long way off really understanding and remain tourist attractions with some questionable practices.
Then it was back to Negombo to rest before our next bit of travelling!
The sight of the elephants in the wild so close to us will stay with us forever.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and only a very small selection of photos and details of what we saw, if you want to find out more then please do message me or get in touch with Paradisio Travels in Sri Lanka.
Do take a look at my other posts about my Sri Lanka itinerary (COMING SOON) where I go into more detail about what we did and share my thoughts:
Sri Lanka | Where shall I start?
Sri Lanka | Three Week Itinerary
Sri Lanka | South Coast, Whale Watching and Elephants
Sri Lanka | Kandy and the Tea Plantations
Train Nuwara Eliya to Kandy
Negombo and Colombo
Helping good causes in Sri Lanka (Dogstar Foundation and Yawajeewa School)
29 really useful things you need to know when travelling to Sri Lanka
What to wear in Sri Lanka
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