Continuing with our winter destinations, this week it’s all about Sri Lanka. For such a small island, Sri Lanka offers an amazing variety of landscapes, climates and people. Here are the 7 places/activities that our kids will never forget about our trip to Sri Lanka:
1. The Sea Turtles
Along the west coast of Sri Lanka, there is a conservation project that studies and helps turtles in their nesting and hatching habits. It’s called The Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project just north of Ambalangoda. Kids will learn about sea turtles, how the organisation protects their nesting sites, the hatchery set up to help turtles avoid the dangers they face in their first moments of life and how to help. If you want to see some turtles and participate in a turtle release, this is the place to go. The release is done in the evening. Check them out if you are in the area.
2. The stilt fishermen and the actors
On the south-western coast of Sri Lanka, you’ll see fishermen on stilts that have a very unusual way of fishing. After WWII, fishermen went further and further from the coast to look for fish that was becoming harder to find. They built these stilt structures on top of which they sit and fish directly above the coral reef. The practice was so picturesque that it became one of the most famous image of Sri Lanka, especially after such an image was used as the cover of the Lonely Planet. As a result, the fishermen have a tendency to pose for tourists (for a fee) and it’s rare to find a fisherman actually fishing from his perch. We went very early in the morning around 6 AM and were thrilled to find them scattered along the shore. Not asking for money but just fishing away. Maybe we were too early for the posers or they were doing a great job at looking the part.
3. The elephants
Elephants are found in the wild in Sri Lanka and it’s an amazing site if you get that chance. You can also see elephants in orphanages. There is a big controversy surrounding those places where elephants are rescued and kept in captivity. The most famous is The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which was created by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation as a place to take care of orphaned elephants found in the wild. There is an ongoing controversy surrounding these orphanages: are they really in the best interest of the elephants or the tourists who pay a hefty fee to watch the elephants bathe and eat. My choice will always be to check the animals in their natural habitat.
4. The Dambulla Cave Temple
There are many interesting places to see in the cultural triangle and the Dambulla cave complex was one of the highlight for the kids. Learning about the different mudras – the hand positions of the Buddha and their meaning – the kids went crazy looking for buddha sculptures from cave to cave trying to find different mudras. Since there are 153 sculptures and countless more paintings, it took quite a bit of time.
Another famous site that our kids really enjoyed in Sri Lanka was the Sigiryia rock, also in the Cultural Triangle. It’s a bit of a climb but the view is really nice when you get up there. The kids had fun playing I-Spy with the paintings on the walls. There are also snake charmers along the way. Is there a kid who doesn’t enjoy a bit of a thrill with a big snake?
6. Lace-makers in Galle
Walking around the little town of Galle in the south-west of Sri Lanka was a really nice “urban” experience. As we spent most of the trip either in old archaeological sites in the Cultural Triangle or on the coast at the beach, there was very little exposure to life in a city and the kids enjoyed walking around, and shopping for souvenirs – while the grownups focused on antiques 🙂 We also watch with amazement lace-makers at their craft. It’s an old tradition in Sri Lanka that is kept alive by a few lace-makers in Galle.
7. For next time: train ride to Nuwara Elyia
Like on every trip, there are many things that we couldn’t see. We always plan the next trip while we are there. One of the places we want to go to next time we visit Sri Lanka is Nuwara Elyia. Not only do we want to visit the tea country, but we want to take the train to get there. According to Emilie, this is an integral part of the journey.
Until next time!