By now you know the deal, we are visiting Sri Lanka! So lets get right into the details of the rest of our trip! The remainder of our trip was definitely filled with a lot of different stops, lets start with Day 3!
Royal Botanical Gardens
Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Entrance Fee: Adults – 1,500 LKR, Children (5-12) – 750 LKR, School Children and University Students – 1000, LKR
The gardens consist of about 147 acres. I felt like it was more of a park rather than a garden, but we enjoyed seeing some different plant life. This was originally the Royal Botanical Gardens and only the Royal family was allowed to enjoy the grounds. Today they are open to everyone (at the prices above) and are very well maintained.
This was my favorite thing in the garden, they call it the Cannon Ball Tree.
Watch out for all of the monkeys just roaming around, they aren’t shy, let’s put it that way.
We enjoyed our stroll through the gardens and saw quite a few bird watchers inside as well. That isn’t quite our thing, but we did notice quite a few birds flying around. If that is your cup of tea, then that may be another reason to check it out.
After the Botanical Gardens we stopped by the Oak Ray Wood Factory. They have people there actually carving, sanding, staining and polishing that items there at the location, however prices there can be steep. If you are interested in making a purchase, make sure you negotiate as initial prices are highly inflated.
We ended up getting a hand carved elephant, and he is awesome! He’s been a great new addition to our house.
This could be seen as a “tourist trap” as many of the tour companies seem to bring their clients here. However, they had quite a variety of wood carvings from giant Buddhas and ornate furniture to small carvings of elephants and other knick knacks that we didn’t see anywhere else.
We then stopped in at the Highway museum and then a Gem “museum” where they educated us on how gems were formed. I did not enjoy the Gem factory and felt very pressured to make a purchase at the end of the “tour.” If you aren’t interested in going, highly recommend that you speak up and tell your tour guide that you do not want to go.
Next up was the Storefield Tea Plantation, well it’s really not a plantation, it was just a shop with some tea factory equipment. But here is what a real tea plantation looks like.
At Storefield there was a guide waiting for us when we arrived and she showed us where they dry and process tea leaves. They get the tea leaves partially dry and then toss them down a chute which drops the leaves onto a roller. The leaves are then sifted and put into a dryer. Finally, they utilize a static machine to remove the stray fibers (non-leaves) and then sift again by size to get the different leaves.
We learned that black and green tea are from the same plant – Camellia Assamicathe and were explained the difference between the different qualities of tea. Tea dust being the lowest quality, and usually what you will find in most commercial tea bags. After the “tour” they took us into the store for samples of tea. The darker teas were very bitter, and the lighter tea, known as the “Golden” tea leaves did not have much flavor. The “Golden” tea leaves were really pricey, but they toured some health benefits associate with this pricey tea. We ended up getting the tea for buy 1 get 1 free, however, it was still quite expensive. I definitely would consider this a tourist trap and wouldn’t really recommend visiting.
We ended up overnighting in Nuwrya Elia in the Lu Chalet. The town of Nuwrya Elia has a very British influence in architecture of the building. When we arrive it was very cold, I couldn’t believe it, but we had obviously gone fairly high up in the mountains. The hotel we stayed at did not have much near it and we ended up being served a “western” style dinner in the hotel. I would recommend getting the Sri Lanka dinner vs the western dinner (although we were not offered a choice).
The morning started off with a hike up to Small Adams Peak. It is not a hard hike, and it’s very easy to follow the path which leads to a gorgeous vantage point.
As we were climbing to the peak, we came across this ultimate cuteness!! Look at this mother and her puppy; I literally couldn’t stop squealing from the adorableness.
Here are few photos from the view from the top; really stunning and worth the short hike.
After the hike we headed to Yala National Park for our second safari. Yala is known for its population of leopards; I had looked at some overnights in the park which enabled you to go out on a few safaris and increasing your chances of seeing a leopard, but those overnights were so expensive. We were happy with just the day safari.
As soon as we entered the park, we saw this beauty, this was one of many wild peacocks we encountered during our visit.
The jungle is very dense, and the park is enormous. While we were driving around, we saw deer, oxen, boar, elephants, and even crocodiles!
You can see adorable wild animals like this one too, haha.
About halfway through our safari, our driver got a call from one of the other guides, they had spotted a leopard! Immediately we rushed over there and braved the other vehicles to get a glimpse. You can see how many jeeps there were trying to see the elusive spotted cat.
Here is the leopard in all of his glory. He was just sunning and enjoying his day.
We headed to our hotel, the Saman Resort after the safari. The resort is on a back road near the park and we had the whole place to ourselves. The rooms were spacious and clean, so we had no complaints.
As soon as you enter Galle you will notice the Dutch influence all around, from architecture to signs. The main attraction in Galle is the Galle Fort. The fort is over 400 years old and was originally built by the Portuguese and then fortified by the Dutch. The area surrounding the fort makes for a nice walk and a nice vantage point of the sea.
After the fort we drove to Hikkaduwa where we had an awesome live seafood lunch at Mamas Coral Beach Restaurant. The view was excellent as it is right on the water, we enjoyed the breeze and even popped out to put our toes in the sand while waiting for our food. I unfortunately didn’t notice how quickly the tide was coming in and out and inadvertently let a wave overtake my sneakers…ooops…
Our seafood lunch come with a whole lobster, fish, crab, shrimp, calamari, fried rice and vegetables and french fries. Everything came out hot and we really enjoyed the lobster, rice and vegetables. Everything was well seasoned and delicious. The food isn’t cheap mind you, we paid about 50 USD in total for our food, but we were happy and satisfied and we had lobster!
On our itinerary was a “Glass bottom” boat ride. Now mind you I was skeptical of what this was, and when one of these little boats came to pick us up, I was wondering what we were getting into.
Well here is the glass bottom boat in all of it’s glory, a lovely plexiglass square cut out of the bottom of the boat. The driver took us a little ways away from the beach and handed us some old bread to feed the fishes and these fish are super aggressive, they were flying out of the water to get a taste. We actually asked the driver to take us back early as the fumes from his boat were making me a little sick. Needless to say, this one is worth skipping.
The last stop of the trip was to the Sea Turtle Hatchery & Rescue Center in Peraliya.
We had a tour from the man who runs the hatchery. He told us that his father started the hatchery and that he runs it to honor the memory of his father who passed away in one of the tsunamis.
Green turtles are the most common turtle in Sri Lanka, but the Green turtle and other turtles are in danger as people consider turtle eggs a delicacy and a large number are stolen from the nests every year, there are also those who enjoy turtle meat, and then turtle shells are also in high demand to make different crafts. Talk about a tough place for turtles to live!
The owner rehabilitates injured turtles, some were missing limbs or had other injuries, they are put into tanks which allow them to acclimate to buoyancy issues and other challenges.
He also hatches baby turtles so that they can be released into the wild. Although the center is quite small, it was interesting to see the turtles and learn more about them.
After the turtle hatchery we were off to the airport and we were faced with the end of our vacation. We had an amazing time and were lucky enough to see 3 amazingly different countries and learn about their culture. Sri Lanka doesn’t usually come up as a vacation destination, but we really enjoyed our time and would definitely recommend it! My main suggestion would be to take in the scenery and the animals, it is truly amazing to see the “wilderness” of Sri Lanka. Also, make sure to fill your itinerary with things you want to see, don’t let a guide or a tour company pressure you into things you aren’t really interested in, your time is precious and there are so many wonderful things to see in Sri Lanka!