Visiting Temples and Going on our First Safari in Sri Lanka
As most of you following along know, we just returned from Sri Lanka. I’m so excited to tell you all about what a grand time we had: from food, hotels, and culture, to animals and the amazing warmth of the Sri Lankan people, the island offers plenty to entertain and captivate the whole family.
After two days of air travel, we were so happy to be greeted at the Colombo airport by our guide and driver. Our twelve-day vacation was finally starting! We made quick work loading our luggage and installing Conor’s car seat into the van. Right away I was relieved that we didn’t have to drive. as they drove on the left side of the road. Conor, settled and buckled in, looked out the window and began pointing at all the tuk tuks. He was fascinated during the whole drive to the first hotel.
We arrived at the Notary House, located in Makandura, late afternoon. Greeted by Amile, the hotel butler, we learned the ceremonial greeting – placing our palms together, and lifting them up below our chins. We bowed and said ‘ayubowan’ to one another: that translates to ‘may you be blessed with a long life’. Pretty beautiful way to say hello, isn’t it?
Amile took us out on a short tour of the grounds, we learned about the history of the hotel, and that it was once owned by a very kind and beloved notary. Danny set out to explore a little more, while Conor and I washed up and enjoyed sleeping in their very welcoming bed.
We woke up refreshed and ready to take on our next adventure. I was super excited, as we were heading to the Wild Grass Nature Resort. I’ve been looking forward to that place since planning our trip. The resort blends the jungle’s natural beauty with their hotel ambiance perfectly. On the way to Wild Grass, we stopped at the Dambulla Cave Temple. With over 150 Buddha statues, it was quite an impressive sight. The ascent up the temple had some stunning views and look-out points.
Conor could hardly focus on the climb as he was too distracted by all the monkeys playing in the trees and steps. Here, we learned about the colors on the Buddhist prayer flag and what they represent: Blue – compassion; Yellow – the middle path: avoiding the extremes of self-gratification and brings balance; Red – blessing that the practices bring; White – purity; and Orange – wisdom.
After going back down, Conor giggled and pointed at the nearby monkeys. They warn you to not touch, feed, or play with the macaques; however, they are known to be quite naughty. As we headed off to the hotel, we followed the rules, but after just a few minutes on the road, our guide noticed something: the left side mirror of the car was missing! We returned to the scene of the crime, but nothing was found! So, if you go to Dambulla Cave Temple, watch out for a monkey with sticky fingers!
The sun was setting as we pulled into the Wild Grass Resort. We walked from the main area down to the jungle path and into our room. With sleek concrete floors, and wall to wall glass windows – it feels like you’re inside a fish bowl. Our views were amazing, as we were surrounded by trees overlooking the lake. While we unpacked, Conor experienced his first outdoor shower!
We woke up the next day to the sound of a thud, and then another thud – followed by trees rustling. A quick look outside – and we were completely surrounded by monkeys! They were everywhere: on the roof, climbing the rails to our balcony, and flying through the trees. Macaques all around us. Conor could not contain himself, and went running from wall to wall pointing and laughing: it was quite the wake-up call!
We loaded into the van, and headed off to Polonnaruwa. It was great planning by our guides to go into the museum first. By browsing through the photos and models of the temples, we were able to learn and understand more from our guide before heading out to see the real deal. We were awestruck at the sheer size of the city. We soaked in the history and explored the temples. We wondered how the daily life and culture must have been 800 years ago.
After a quick stop for some lunch, we headed off to our first safari at Minneriya National Park! With our camera all set and Conor secured in the carrier – off we went in the back of the Jeep! We took off into the jungle, ducking and bobbing side-to-side to avoid the low hanging branches. We were on the lookout for elephants.
Known for their large herd of elephants, we came out of the jungle into a vast clearing and saw a jaw-dropping number of elephants, easily over two-hundred elephants. Surrounding the lake, there were a few tuskers and a dozen or so babies. At one point a group of five elephants walked right up to the back of our vehicle! The two-hour trip flew by, and before we knew it, it was getting dark and time to head back. One final elephant came out of the jungle to send us off on our way. It was a truly amazing experience.
Our first few days were filled with history, culture, lots of elephants, and so many troublesome monkeys. Next up we start our journey to Kandy – the last stronghold of the Sinhalese Kings. While visiting a local homestay, we learn how to cook how to grind our own curry paste and cook them in claypot. If you have any questions about planning the perfect trip to Sri Lanka, please contact us at Khiri North America.