From the busy streets, colourful markets, tucked away temples and shrines and sophisticated restaurants of Colombo you’ll journey deep into Wilpattu to see a wide range of game, exotic birds and reptiles.
You’ll visit the Cultural Triangle with its astounding rock fortress at Sigiriya. You’ll see Anuradhapura’s procession of temples and monuments dating back to the 4th century BC, the awesome statues of Buddha at Polonnaruwa and Dambulla’s atmosphereic cave temples. You’ll watch swimming elephants in Gal Oya and bathe in the Indian Ocean, from a stunning beach at Passikudah.
Arrive in Colombo early morning. You’ll be met by your driver, with a welcome pack that includes a mobile phone so you can contact him at any time. He will drive you to your hotel, a sanctuary of serenity and elegance built in the traditional Dutch warehouse style, just a few miles from the airport.
Stay: One night in a garden suite at The Wallawwa.
Today your adventure really begins. A scenic three hour drive takes you to your safari camp, deep into the Wilpattu National Park. With over 50 natural lakes and any number of watering holes you’re sure to see a wide range of wildlife on your six game drives. Have your camera ready; Wilpattu is one of the largest and best established of Sri Lanka’s reserves, and is famous for its elephants, sloth bear, leopards, buffalo, sambhur, spotted deer and mongoose. The park’s birds include painted storks, little cormorants and many species of owls, terns, gulls, eagles, kites and buzzards, plus various wetland bird species. You may also see monitor lizards, mugger crocodile, pond turtles and various snakes.
Stay: Three nights in a luxury safari tent at Leopard Trails.
After a final safari your next drive takes you into the Cultural Triangle, and you’ll stop at Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka’s first capital, founded in the 4th century BC. Over a 1000 years the royal family built a fantastic array of temples, stupas, palaces, ponds and gardens – two of which are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites – as well as one of the earliest and most advanced irrigation systems in the world. You’ll be able to visit the Sacred Bo-Tree; a sapling from the tree under which Buddha reputedly gained enlightenment and, at over 2200 years old, the oldest documented tree in the world.
At Polonnaruwa, also a World Heritage Site, you’ll see splendid upright, sedentary and recumbent statues of Buddha dating back hundreds of years, ruins of royal palaces and the Audience Hall, Lotus Bath and Parakrama Samudraya Lake built by King Parakramabahu. Not to mention the Shiva Temple, Galpotha, Kiri Vehera and Lankathilake.
The next morning sees you visiting one of the most astonishing royal citadels on the entire island. Sigiriya is a rock fortress of unusual beauty, rising 200 metres above the jungle on the monumental Lion Rock. It’s a daunting climb, but on the way you’ll pass the mirror wall and frescoes of the heavenly maidens. And at the top are the remains of the palace and sensational panoramic views. In the afternoon you’ll have another – less challenging – climb to the most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples at Dambulla. Expect five caves containing 150 images of Buddha – the largest being a colossal, rock-carved statue spanning 14 metres.
Stay: Three nights in an Ulagalla chalet at the Ulagalla Walawwa Resort.
Today a six and a half hour drive takes you to Sri Lanka’s forgotten National Park. Gal Oya has the country’s largest lake and invites you to take an unforgettable boat safari to see swimming elephants and all manner of birds and wildlife at the water’s edge. Crocodiles bask in the shallows or on the mud banks, watching as deer warily come down to drink. You’ll also explore this game-rich park on foot, walking with an expert naturalist as well as taking drives into the jungle. On your final day in Gal Oya the chief of the local Veddah tribe will introduce you to the jungle of his ancestors, explaining the traditional use of medicinal plants, and show you ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings whilst giving you an insight into the lives of jungle hunter-gatherers. You’ll also take a safari through the park’s Nilgala region.
Stay: Three nights in a bungalow at Gal Oya Lodge.
And relax. After a feast of wildlife watching and historic sightseeing the chance to stretch out on a spectacular beach beside the welcoming Indian Ocean is irresistible. As well as fine white sand, blue waters and shady palm trees you can indulge in all the luxuries the Uga Bay Resort has to offer; infinity edge pool, ocean view rooms, charming service and totally delicious food.
Stay: Three nights in an ocean view studio at Uga Bay.
Passikudah – Batticalao – Colombo – Home
From Passikudah you’ll be driven to Batticaloa to meet your flight to Colombo. You’ll be met at the airport and taken to your hotel, on a beautiful beach in the seaside town of Negombo just outside the bustling city of Colombo. The next day you’ll be driven to Bandaranaike International Airport for your return flight home.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room in Jetwing Blue in Negombo.