1 independent reviews for Tailor made wildlife tour of Sri Lanka

Reviews for Tailor made wildlife tour of Sri Lanka


review 20 Mar 2017

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

Gal Oya National Park, where just the two of us and our guides were able to watch 5-6 different herds of elephants quietly feeding approximately 300 m away. We were the only people present and we did not disturb the animals; furthermore, we did not feel rushed but were able to simply enjoy the experience. Wasgamuwa National Park was also worth visiting; this park is not well-frequented by tourists and so the guides and drivers seemed to genuinely value our presence there. The park provided viewing opportunities for a range of mammal and bird species, without the aggressive and intrusive behaviour that we witnessed at sites such as Yala National Park. Our driver was also informative, courteous, incredibly friendly and unfailingly considerate of our needs/desires. The interaction that we had with him, as well as with a range of other guides, drivers and locals was a stand-out highlight of the trip.

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

Be aware that most of the safaris are very sedentary - you're unable to leave the vehicle except at particular 'rest stop' areas. That's completely understandable given concerns about interactions with large mammals such as leopards and elephants; however, if you're a physically active person, then ensure that your itinerary specifically itemises some walks, not just safaris. We thought that Udawalawe National Park's Elephant Transit Home could be missed if you're interested in ecotourism - it was overflowing with visitors and seemed to be predominantly a tourist attraction. Seeing wild elephants was far preferable. Also, the Mirissa whale watching needs to be very carefully considered or, at least, the tour operator carefully selected. Most of the boat operators do not abide by the international whale-watching standards and jostle with each other to be disturbingly close to the whales. There is also much chasing of the animals, which is distressing to view. Once an animal is seen, a multitude of boats (up to 12 on our day) encircle the animal so that its only means of escape is by deep-diving. The staff were well-aware of the animal's behaviour (distress), since they were able to impeccably predict when it would deep-dive (they would shout "tail up, tail up"). On our boat, there was also absolutely no interpretation provided; most people would not have even known which species of whale/dolphin they were viewing. Immediately after the last whale was seen, the tipping box was brought out, with the staff literally standing over the patrons whilst they scavenged around in their wallets for the requisite money. Unfortunately, the means by which the whale/dolphin sightings were obtained marred our experience.

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

Generally, yes. We felt that there was greatest benefit felt in the less-frequented locations, such as Wasgamuwa, Gal Oya, Sinharaja National Parks and Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary. Here, people were genuinely benefiting from our visitation and there was a more authentic interaction with rangers/guides/drivers etc. Broadly, it seems that the ongoing presence of national parks in Sri Lanka is deeply reliant upon their value as a tourist attraction; their inherent value is not yet well-understood. For example, there have been instances of less-visited, lesser-known parks having sections excised (revoked) and developed. There was, however, wide variability in the environmental credentials of the accommodation in which we stayed. For example, Gal Oya Lodge is exemplary in its approach to minimising environmental impacts and we really enjoyed our stay there. However, W15 in Weligama had a nightclub, party-centric feel and did not have any environmental credentials whatsoever; we were confused as to why we were staying there given our strong preference for small, family-run and environmentally-conscious accommodation. On a final (and unrelated) note, we felt that the arrangement for providing money to our driver could have been better. Our driver was given funds for payment of entry fees, some accommodation etc. However, this was provided in a piecemeal manner; i.e. every couple of days, money would be transferred to our driver's account. We would then need to find a bank so that he could access it; this was occasionally difficult given bank opening hours, our remote location and/or the unavailability of some ATMs and/overflowing queues at some town banks. It would seem preferable for the driver to be provided with all of the money as a single lump sum at the commencement of the tour.

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

We would highly recommend that people visit Sri Lanka so as to experience a country and people filled with genuine warmth.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Laura, Thank you for taking the time to post a review of your vacation. We're delighted to hear you had such a good trip in beautiful Sri Lanka. I'm particularly pleased to hear how much you enjoyed the abundant wildlife in the less 'obvious' places you travelled to with us. I do agree that Yala gets too crowded as it had been long advertised. On the other hand I am glad that you have had great time in Gal Oya and Wasgamuwa National Parks. I really love them too - so peaceful and relaxing safaris that you do not disturb animals. I also do prefer most off the beaten tracks places as is more personalised and you do not feel like a number. I am hoping that Sri Lanka will bring more regulations for safaris and whale watching as these are so important to preserve and protect their natural environment. I can see already many improvements over many years I visit these places but the changes come slowly. It is a developing country that it had so many problems in the past but the ‘good’ changes are being implemented slowly. We are happy that you have noticed that the tour was overall beneficial to local people and to the environmental. It is our goal and we do appreciate your comments about whales and Yala so we could implement this as an advice for future tours. I have to explain to you and whoever take this tour in the future about the drivers founds for the entrances and other spending. We do provide him all necessary founds from the beginning but he has to be precautions with carrying large amount of money. Yes, some places are remote and do not have many ATMs, unfortunately it is not same as in the Western world. I am very happy that you did appreciate Sri Lanka and you had a great time. There's plenty more to see, so we look forward to helping you discover even more of this wonderful country. Thanks again for taking the time to write. All the best

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