Sri Lanka Culture & Wildlife Trip Notes

Richard and Vivienne Denyer

12 May 2015

we spoke to the denyer's about their trip to sri lanka

Richard and Vivienne Denyer recently travelled to Sri Lanka with us on a wildlife, culture and beaches itinerary. We caught up with them on their return to find out how they enjoyed their trip.

You are both widely travelled, what made you choose Sri Lanka for this trip?


We both love India and wanted to visit somewhere different but similar. Sri Lanka was suggested to us by Will (MD of Natural World Safaris) and seemed to offer a great balance of different things which piqued our interest.

What was your itinerary?

After arriving in Colombo we headed to Anuradhapura for a dose of culture before heading south to Kandy to visit the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage and to see the Temple of the Tooth. We then headed to Hatton by train to visit the tea estates. Following this we headed south to Yala National Park before spending some time on the coast at Tangalle and Galle.

It was a great itinerary. In general we really enjoyed the driving between towns, cities and villages. There were some great views, and we stopped at several fish markets and vegetable markets where we got to see the locals working. The time spent at each location, was pretty much spot on! Our guide for the trip was with us and was brilliant, stopping whenever there was something interesting to see. 

He was always keen to take us somewhere new or interesting.

What were the highlights of your trip?

Certainly our whale watching trip was one of the most memorable parts of the trip; we saw several blue whales, a big pod of dolphins (100 +), and a pair of green turtles swimming and mating in the water.

We were also very privileged to see a green turtle laying her eggs on the beach. 

We were alerted to the fact that there was some activity and headed out in the dark to see her. It was an amazing experience, very well managed with strict rules. We had to wait until the turtle had climbed the beach, dug its body pit, and then dug its egg chamber. At that point the guide led us along the beach to see the turtle, and watch it lay the eggs. It was very respectful, using infra-red lights so as not to disturb the turtle with no flash photography allowed. This was at approx. 2300hrs. On our drive from Amanwella, to Galle we stopped en route at a turtle hatchery and sanctuary for injured turtles where we saw turtles hatching from the sand.

What other wildlife did you encounter during your trip?

We saw 10 leopards in Yala National Park. The best was a sighting of four leopards in the road early in the morning; ours was the first vehicle out into the park that day. We also saw some beautiful birds such as eagles, bee-eaters and hornbills, and a couple of elephants.

The game drives are very different to those in Africa, we found that we did tend to be in sight of other vehicles most of the time and the focus was very much on the leopards rather than looking for other species. It was a shame there was no opportunity to explore off-road and we were restricted by the road layout; some routes were closed. 

The guides and our private vehicle were very good.

What other activities did you enjoy?

One of our favourite activities was cookery lesson that we had at Amangalle (a beautiful place with stunning views over the ocean) where we learnt to cook 10 different curry dishes. The chef took us to the market to see where he buys his fruit and veg, and also the fish market. We then headed back together to the hotel for the cookery part of the lesson – real fun and plenty to drink at the same time!

We also had the opportunity to help the fishermen bring in their nets on the beach – over 3 hours of pulling although we only did about 2 hours. Sadly the catch contained more rubbish than fish but we enjoyed the friendly banter with the fishermen.

The Pinnawela elephant orphanage was fun. It was great to see the elephants and in particular to be able to wash them in the river. While some were chained up they looked happy and healthy.

We also had time visit several temples and Sigiriya rock fortress, which was stunning but pretty exhausting in the heat.

Which was your favourite accommodation throughout the trip?

Our overall favourite was probably the Tea Trails Bunglaows in the Golden Valley of tea. Located on a working tea estate the setting was stunning – lush green scenery over lakes, and tea plantations everywhere.

Kandy House was lovely too. A quiet relaxing boutique hotel. We went for a walk to the paddy fields which the hotel overlooked, and helped the local farmers load their rice threshing machine - generally having a good laugh with them, even though none of us could speak each other’s respective language! We then walked on to a small cave temple where we were the only visitors and enjoyed a personal guided tour by a young Buddhist monk, who spoke perfect English.

Norwood Bungalow was in an excellent location; good fun walking amongst the tea plantations to see tea pickers, and time to relax and enjoy the views. Our tea factory tour was really enjoyable – the guide was a real character, and gave a great and interesting tour of the factory.

In fact all the hotels were excellent with comfortable rooms, good scenic grounds, situated in great locations, and serving excellent food. Yala leopard safari camp perhaps wasn’t quite of the same calibre as others as the tented camp was fairly basic. Certainly not bad, but very much a safari camp and not a hotel!

The staff in all the hotels were also exceptionally friendly, and definitely made this a very memorable trip.

final words

How would you describe Sri Lanka in three words?

Picturesque, Friendly and Diverse

Where in the world are you off to next?

We are returning to Tanzania in September this year and then back to India next March.

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