As a kid who grew up in Colombo, going to the Zoo was definitely a highlight! I used to love going to the zoo and vividly remember being taken to the Dehiwela Zoo as part of the annual Grade 5 class trip. We spent the day roaming around the Zoo learning about the different animals. Of course at that age we were simply fascinated by seeing wild animals in real life and didn’t pay much attention to what was being taught to us! The day ended with the Elephant show followed by the Seal show.At that young age we had no idea of how depressing it must be for these animals to be caged up and put on display.
I’m fascinated by Elephants. Though I’m utterly afraid of them, I have a lot of love and respect towards these majestic creatures. And without question, I would jump at an opportunity to spend some time with them! If you’re up in Kandy and it’s not Perahara season, the best place to go see Elephants is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
The Asian Elephant is smaller than the African elephant. But, it’s still the largest land animal living in Asia. Given the scientific name Elephas Maximus, Elephants have been part and parcel of Sri Lankan culture and heritage. These gentle giants who roamed abundantly during the time of our ancient kings have now been listed as endangered on the Red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Doha City Tour is a complementary tour package provided to all passengers who fly with Qatar Airways and have a transit of 8 hours or more at the Hamad International Airport. The tour is free and you don’t need to have visa to enter Qatar. Bear in mind that the tour departure times are fixed; this means that even though you have a transit time of 8 hours, eligibility for the tour depends on the departure time of your next flight.
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Source – https://www.qatarairways.com/en/offers/doha-city-tour.html
The Doha City Scape
We came across many interesting and iconic places as we headed to Matara from Galle along the Matara-Galle main road. For someone who doesn’t plan on making any stops in between, the drive from Matara to Galle is roughly about an hour. You can take the highway if you want to get there faster, but for a more aesthetic driving experience I recommend the Matara-Galle main road.
The Dondra Head Lighthouse
Matara is a busy town, especially if you go there during the season. Ironically, this commercial hub isn’t exactly a tourist destination. But, there are a few attractions within the limits of this fast paced city. We, however, decided to drive through Matara and make our way to the first location in our list of places to visit in Matara.
There are times that you wake up on a Sunday morning and think to yourself, what do I do today? Do I take it easy and relax a little? Do I find a quiet spot and lose myself between the pages of a book? Or do I hit the road and go for a drive? It just so happens that on this particular Sunday morning, the last day of the year 2017, my wife and I decided that we should hit the road and go somewhere that we’ve never been before. Having decided to spend New Year’s Eve in Galle, our choices were somewhat limited, but, we unanimously picked Matara as the destination for the day.
They say, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” and the journey to Matara from Galle is a living testament to this statement.
If you live on the West Coast, it will take you quite a long time to get to Arugam Bay since you will have to cut across the breadth of Sri Lanka and end up on the East Coast. Irrespective of which mode of transport you take, it’ll take you somewhere around 8-12 hours or more to get to Arugam Bay from Colombo. If you’re travelling specifically to Arugam Bay, I suggest you leave out 2 days for travel (one day to get there, and another day to get back). From the perspective of travel time Arugam Bay may not be the ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
There are a few route options available when travelling to Arugam Bay. If you’re up for a long drive, and starting the journey from Colombo, you can take the rout through Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, UdaWalawa, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya to ArugamBay. From Kandy you can drive to Mahiyangana via the 18 hair-pin bends on to Bibile, Monaragala, Siyambalanduwa, Pottuvil Town and reach Arugam Bay. From the south, you can take the highway to Matara, and drive through Tissamaharama and Buttala via the Kataramaga road to Monaragala and continue to Arugam Bay. Of course you don’t HAVE to drive, when travelling in a group the best option is to hire a van or small bus based on the number of travellers in the group.
Before the Southern expressway, going down south was a drive along the Galle road. Once you leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city, you can enjoy a calm drive along the coast through some of the famous fishing villages in Sri Lanka. During some part of the drive, you are sure to roll down your windows to let in the refreshing sea breeze. Intoxicated by the salty air, you find it hard to resist pulling over to the side of the road and running off to the beach.
The most popular coastal destination that you come across en route to Galle is the seaside resort town of Hikkaduwa. The entire stretch is littered with hotels, luxury resorts, restaurants and bars. The Hikkaduwa season, which falls between November and April, brings large crowds of tourists from all parts of the world. The peak of the season is between January and March during which time almost all hotels and rest houses will be booked, beaches will be crowded and it may be very difficult to get into some of the popular restaurants.
After spending a majority of the previous day travelling from Kandy to Katharagama, I wasn’t pleased with the prospect of waking at 4.00 a.m.the next morning. But none the less, on this cold October morning, I woke up excited for the main activity planned for the day! I packed my camera equipment and headed off to Tissamaharama where we rendezvoused with our Guide. From Tissa we drove our Safari jeep to the main entrance of the Yala National Park.
I remember the first time I visited Yala. It was during an annual company excursion. I remember it being a lot of fun because the colleagues who were in my group were all wildlife enthusiasts and we engaged in a very interesting and informative discussion with our Guide that included many stories based on his personal experiences. I also remember Yala being very dry, warm and dusty! I spent hours cleaning my camera after we got back to the Hotel. Sadly the only animals we were able to see were Wild Boars, lot of Peacocks,a couple of herds of Elephants and Deer, Crocodiles and a variety of Birds.
Growing up in an average middle class family, the idea of camping seemed to be somewhat farfetched. To be honest, when we were growing up, we didn’t have the opportunities or facilities available today for camping. As far as I know the only people who regularly went camping those days were the scouts. The family camping trips and father-son camping trips were “cool stuff” that happened in soaps and movies.
My first taste of camping was at Interact Youth Camp at Pedro Scout Camp, Nuwara Eliya. And boy that was one heck of an experience! Trekking through the forest on treasure hunts, having to face different physical challenges like crossing a river on a rope bridge and completing obstacle courses, learning how to build a fire and make ‘roti’ for dinner, sitting around a bonfire singing songs and spinning yarns were some of my most cherished memories. I honestly feel that youth camp changed me for the better! It took me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to rough it in the great outdoors!
What threw me off the most about spring time in Stockholm was the extended day time. I woke up at around 6:00 AM and the sun was already up, I went to sleep around 10:00 PM, the sun was still up! The first few days I had mini panic attacks thinking that I’ve overslept!
Excited for the second day of sightseeing, we had breakfast and made our way towards the Tram stop! From SicklaUdde we enjoyed a nice morning tram ride to Globen and walked to the Ericsson Globe. The Ericsson Globe originally known as the Ericsson Globe Arena is the largest hemispherical building in the world! It has a diameter of 110m and an inner height of 85m with a seating capacity for an audience of 16,000 for shows and 13,850 fans during Ice Hockey games. This iconic Stockholm landmark is home to SkyView, where you can get on a gondola that departs every 10 minutes and scale up the side of the globe to get a fantastic view of Stockholm. A Swedish work colleague who interned at an elevator company told me that the gondolas on the Globe are categorized as roller-coasters because of the curved track that they move on.