Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Abundant with natural resources and beauty, our island has all it takes to be called the “Paradise Island”. From long sandy beaches to breathtaking mountain landscapes and everything in between; she is a nation with a diverse population and a proud heritage. Sadly, our home was plagued by a thirty year civil war. Beautiful locations in the island were unreachable, whilst many resources were made unusable and precious human lives were destroyed. But that’s all in the past! Since the end of the war, we’ve seen considerable growth in the travel and tourism industry fed by both local and foreign travelers eager to experience Sri Lanka in all her glory!
Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean is known for her beautiful sandy beaches! Travelers from all corners of the world visit our country to experience the 3 S’s – Sun, Sand, and Surf! Luckily we have enough and more beaches around the country to accommodate the large volumes of travelers who are drawn to the beach. What is fascinating about the beaches around the island is the fact that each beach has a unique “selling point”. Some beaches are by definition tourist hot spots that emphasize on fun and entertainment! The beauty of the beach is complimented by the activities that go along with them. Snorkeling, Scuba diving, traditional surfing, and kite surfing are gaining popularity with each passing day.
As with all our trips down south, we were up early in the morning and heading down the E1 highway to Galle. But unlike many of our trips down south, this time we were traveling as a pack. Together with my cousins and cousins in law, we were speeding long the highway in the wee hours of the morning with the hope of reaching the Galle Navy Base by 6:00 AM.
The Galle Navy base is situated in the vicinity of the commercial Galle Harbour. One of the most active ports in Sri Lanka, the Galle harbour is a natural harbour that has been recognized by the International yacht societies as one of the world’s best attractions for yachting. Galle harbour has been Sri Lanka’s most important harbour until the artificial harbour was built at Colombo in 1873. Along with the construction of the Galle Fort, the harbour was one of the major ports in the Indian Ocean for over 200 years.
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.
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.
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.