Sri Lanka vacation, island explorer

“Small group 2 week tour of the classic sites, but staying in off the beaten track accommodation, such as tree houses or jungle lodges. Transport by bus, boat and rail.”


Dambulla Caves | Polonnaruwa | Rock fortress at Sigiriya | Ritagala ruined monastery and caves | Peradeniya Botanic Gardens | Train journey into Hill Country | Nuwara Eliya | Horton Plains National Park | Yala West National Park | Tangalle | Whale watching (optional) | Udawallawe National Park and Elephant Transit Home | Galle


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04 Mar 2017
US $ 1720
excluding flights
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08 Apr 2017
US $ 1720
excluding flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 08 Apr 2017 departure
08 Nov 2017
US $ 1725
excluding flights
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24 Dec 2017
US $ 1725
excluding flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 24 Dec 2017 departure
Our top tip:
Bring lots of small coins for tipping. It
Trip type:
Small group vacation, max. 12 people.
Flights, accommodation, all breakfasts, some meals, guide, activities, all transport.
Eclectic bed hopping, with tree houses, safari camps, jungle lodges and beach chalets.
Solo travelers welcome. £275 supplement for own room.
Vacation type

Small group vacation

This is a 'small group adventure' - you will be sharing your experiences with like minded people. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 11 persons, a genuinely small group. Experience has taught us that smaller groups are less intrusive to local cultures and environments whilst allowing more interaction with local people. Furthermore it means greater flexibility on a day to day basis and on a social level it proves to be fun. Whether you are traveling alone or with friends/family its good value, and a great way to meet new people! The intention is to travel as a group of friends rather than a typical tour group, so don't expect stick-on name badges or any following the umbrella.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Sri Lanka vacation, island explorer


The Sri Lanka Island Explorer tour introduces travelers to the culturally rich and environmentally diverse island state of Sri Lanka, with an emphasis on contributing to the local economy and community projects while respecting local traditions and the natural environment. Sri Lankan guides are at the heart of the tour, whether driving visitors around the island, taking treks at Horton Plains or leading safaris in Yala West National Park. Some of the guides come from community-led projects such as the Woodlands Network, which helps local people gain access to education and employment. Visits to the Turtle Conservation Project at Rekawa are also encouraged. The tour stays in family-run guesthouses and eats at local restaurants, which not only enables visitors to meet local people and enjoy authentic home cooking, but also contributes directly to the local economy and provides much needed employment. Travelers are also encouraged to be aware at all times how to create a positive impact on the environment and local people.

Information: Providing suitable, relevant information for our customers; to help them to gain a wider understanding of our style of tourism that focuses on learning, genuine interaction with the local communities, reciprocity and cultural exchange processes. To be aware of the potential impact of tourism on the local society, culture and environment, and to behave and dress appropriately with a respect and appreciation for local customs, mores and traditions and a respect for the ecology of areas visited. Our guides and leaders thus facilitate communication of our values to both travelers and local communities, educating them in sustainable tourism practices

Group sizes: By limiting groups to small sizes we aim to reduce the impact on both local communities and the environment whilst allowing for greater genuine interaction with said communities. It also results in a higher guide/customer ratio thus greater facility for supervision and individual assistance and allows us to use smaller hotels and restaurants and employ the services of more genuinely ‘local’ operators perhaps not otherwise well equipped for larger groups.

Destinations: We combine the well known tourist sites with many off-the-beaten-track, rarely visited destinations thus diverting tourist revenue and contact with responsible tourism into areas not usually benefiting as well as providing a more authentic view of the region visited.

This tour supports various environmental initiatives including bird watching in Kalametiya Sanctuary, visiting a Turtle Conservation Project in Rakawa, the Yala West and Horton Plains National Parks and 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Entrance fees to the National Parks contribute to conservation projects throughout all national parks.

Accommodation used on the tours employs local people and the majority are locally owned. The accommodation used in the Cultural Triangle has been built and refurbished using reclaimed materials from decommissioned tea factories and the site was left undisturbed with no trees cut down or lakes drained. All vegetarian food is grown in its local gardens. The tree houses are built from local materials and any building in this area is compelled to contribute to the agriculture of the area. The owner grows fruit and vegetables for our clients and also enables local people to cultivate their own plot on his rented land. The Palm Paradise Cabanas at Tangalle, although situated in a palm grove were constructed without any palms being cut down and cabanas and villas are again built from local material. They are very active in water and power conservation and educating their clients to take conservation seriously and responsibly.


Local products: As much as possible we aim to employ local personnel, (guides, drivers, agents etc), use local restaurants and smaller privately owned accommodation. Customers are also encouraged to buy and use local products and services as much as possible in order to support and stimulate the local economy.

Instruction: By explaining our methods and the reasons behind them local agents, guides and hotels are encouraged by us to adopt further responsible tourism practices themselves and guides and drivers are provided with additional training in this respect.

Sri Lanka community-led projects: The Asian Tsunami highlighted the plight of coastal communities in Sri Lanka and our initial projects were targeted at Sri Lankan individuals and communities devastated by the tsunami (please ask us for details). However, many other communities away from the coast also lack essential materials and services and our objective is to offer long-term support to such Sri Lankan individuals and communities. By channeling all donations received by Forgotten Village Sri Lanka (a charitable organisation currently applying for charitable status with the Charity Commission) into community-based projects on the island, we hope to provide sustained assistance to these communities in their endeavour to improve their lives. We make a contribution to Forgotten Village Sri Lanka for every vacation booked.

Reviews of Sri Lanka vacation, island explorer

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 03 Feb 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Sri Lanka had everything we love in a vacation, Culture, Wildlife, lush contryside and beautiful beaches. The forest lodge in Habarana was excellent off the beaten track with wonderful hosts. Seeing the baby turtles hatching at Rekawa and the leopard at Yala was also an exciting experience.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Some of the details regarding the accomodation differed from what was written on the itinerary and although we dont have any issues with the places we stayed we thought it would be better to leave the details off the itinerary rather than get peoples expectations up. For example the Hotel on kandy was not set in a quiet and secluded location and the guest house in Nuwara Eliya, was not mock Tudor-style and didnt have a bar with snooker table (it didnt have any alcohol).

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Most of the places we stayed were run by locals. The tracking down of the leopard and the turtles did feel a bit stressful for us so I am not sure how this would effect the animals. Lots of people crowded round for photos.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

The trip was excellent I would recommend it to anyone.

Read the operator's response here:

We are so please Amanda enjoyed Sri Lanka and her experience of traveling with us. We
wholly agree with her comments concerning the details of certain hotels and we will be
amending the itineraries within the next couple of days to avoid disappointment.

Reviewed on 18 Mar 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The variety of landscape in Sri Lanka, the cave temple at Damballa, the train journey from Kandy, the views from Ella, the night stay in the tree house camp in Yala national park and seeing leopards, elephants and beautiful birds on safari in the park.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Make sure they check the details of the itinerary with the guide and check the accommodation is correct with the company before the tour starts. Make suggestions for extra visits/changes to the itinerary if they have a particular interest as the guide may not be forthcoming with ideas.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Not particularly. Local guides were not used; the tour guide covered all site visits. Apart from the use of a safari camp in the national park, which was also supporting tree planting, there were no off the beaten track visits to local projects etc.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Very enjoyable and Sri Lanka is a beautiful, friendly and fascinating country, but the tour guide needed more training in leading a small group and some improvements are needed to the itinerary and choice of certain accommodation/resorts.

Read the operator's response here:

We thank Barbara for her comments on the tour and are so pleased she enjoyed the variety that the itinerary offers. It was good to know that the tree houses which was an alternative to the camping on the itinerary proved to be a high point (literally).

We are sorry however that Barbara felt that the guiding fell below our high standards. The tour was escorted throughout by a Sri Lankan national who is, of course, a local guide and use National Park guides whenever we are visiting the National Parks. We have a number of Sri Lankan guides working for us and this guide has proved popular on previous tours, we are looking into why he was not at his best on this occasion.

As part of our Company's commitment to responsible tourism, we keep small groups (max 12 and on this occasion 5) which enable us to eat in local restaurants, stay in locally run hotels and reduce environmental impact on places we visit.

We will be using Barbara's comments as part of a review of the tour and also looking at accommodation used to keep the itinerary exciting and fresh. We will be happy to highlight any changes made with anyone wishing to join one of these tours.

Reviewed on 18 Nov 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Sri Lanka and the tour aspect was well organised. We particularly enjoyed the variety of activities and accommodation. Best bits were the trip to the rock fortress and Yala where we saw leopards and a big black bear which apparently was very rare. The train journey was iconic and breath taking.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be prepared for the cultural diversity with this country and keep humour and kindness when dealing with local demands. Accept that the people are by nature friendly and are not always trying to fiddle you. However be aware that some of the locals are strapped economically and are trying their best for themselves and their families.
Be prepared for sometimes not getting straight answers to political questions you may ask, there is some anxiety and fear experienced by people who are undergoing transitions in political management.
Be prepared for the heat and how it tires you out, watch the bottom of your feet they get burnt if you are a temple seeker, take an old pair of socks .

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, although at times I felt I didn't get the tips right, either too much or too little. The issues regarding tourist build up and the effects on local population was a concern at times. I felt the country needed to tidy up a bit with rubbish on streets and awareness of litter, this was particular noticeable in the built up areas. I don't want to sound a prig but honestly some of this was not nice.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Excellent fantastic guide [Oscar] who we really liked and respected, very erudite and balanced, he felt like a member of the family when we finished our tour. We were only 3 people on our tour and some people may be disappointed with this if they joined a trip to make mates and the social aspect. We got on very well and it was not a problem, however it could have been if the dynamics were different.

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