When we planned our family vacation, it was always the neighbouring Asian countries or the far West. We never considered Sri Lanka as a destination until we were invited to a friend’s birthday celebration there. We thought, “Why not?”
Friends who had been to Sri Lanka sing praises of the beautiful nature, the serene beaches and the best seafood found on these shores. Naturally, we were excited.
As we were a party of three families, we chartered a bus and tour guide for the week we were there. After getting our local mobile phone numbers (gotta stay connected with the world), we set off to our “home” for the next five days – Club Villa Bentota.
Our tour guide was a cheery young 28-year-old eager to “present” Sri Lanka to us. He regaled us with stories of royalties, the origins of Sri Lanka and the histories that came with it.
Having been to India, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean Sri Lanka was. The natives were very nice, friendly and hospitable. Along the way, we saw many stupas and religious idols in glass cases. I was surprised to learn that Buddhism makes up the largest religious sector (57%) in the country, followed by Catholics, Hindus and Muslims. Unfortunately, I did not get any good photos of these religious sites.
Travelling along the roads of Sri Lanka proved to a major challenge on this trip, especially as we had young kids with us. We did not anticipate the 5 long hour journey to our hotel. And despite our queries about the new highway that will cut our travel time by 60 percent, our tour guide insists on taking the ONE long straight road. You can imagine the number of stops we had to make for emergency toilet breaks!
Read more about our stay at Club Villa Bentota.
Another challenge we faced was the food.
It wasn’t so much the quality of food as the WAIT for the food. In our search for authentic Sri Lanka cuisine, our guide took us to a couple of “authentic” Sri Lanka restaurants. After placing our orders, the adults relaxed with beers in hand while the children entertained themselves.
30 minutes later and there were still no sign of any food. No French Fries or pizzas. No pasta or rice. Not even chips that we could munch on. One by one, the children begin to show symptoms of malnourishment as they either wilt like undernourished stems or begin to throw tantrums. To appease our hungry little demi-Gods, we served them sweet offerings of oreo cookies, chips and biscuits.
When the food finally arrived, it was two hours later and the kids were full from the sweet offerings. Much of the food were left untouched.
After a second similar experience, a fellow traveller griped about our plight to the hotel manager who looked at us incredulously and burst out: “We can cook authentic Sri Lanka food here for you, sir.”
Gobsmack! Why didn’t we think of it before? Thanks to Nader, we had delicious Sri Lankan hoppers… that very night and the next day.
My only disappointment was not getting any of the humongous crabs Sri Lanka was famous for. Apparently, all the big ones have been exported overseas. They only have small ones left in the country. Looks like I’ll have to go back to Jumbo Seafood in Singapore for my Sri Lankan crabs.
As for the kiddos, there are plenty to do in Sri Lanka. Here are some of what we did.
1. Sea Turtle Sanctuary
Sri Lanka is home to 90% of the sea turtle population. We were lucky to stumble upon this little sea turtle sanctuary about five minutes walk from the resort we were staying in. Admission is by donation.
2. Sri Lanka Elephant Rides
One of the highlights of this trip were the rides on the Sri Lanka elephants. Fees vary; so negotiate first with the elephant guide.
3. Cruise Down Bentota River
Next, our guide took us on a river cruise down the famous Bentota River. This is one of the best ways to see the wild life in Sri Lanka. We were amazed by some of the sightings and the unspoilt natural beauty of the mangroves.
The highlight of our water cruise down the Bentota River must be the 2-month old baby crocodile who sportingly posed with all of us.
4. Water Sports
What’s a vacation without some outdoor sports? Jet-ski on the Bentota River and ride on banana boats and Fun Foam dragged by a speed boat.
5. Beach and Pool
If all else fails, there is always the hotel pool and beach to lounge around in.
Our local guide, activities and local travel arrangements were made by Island Leisure Lanka – 157, Model Farm Road, Colombo 08, Sri Lanka. You may contact them at +94 115 235 617 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
We only saw a bit of Sri Lanka on this trip, but I’m sure we will return some day to discover the rest of its charms.