Sri Lanka vacation, island explorer

“A perfectly paced two week introduction to Sri Lanka, with Cultural Triangle sites, wildlife watching and time on the beautiful south coast, too.”

Highlights

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
Responsible Travel, Travel Team

Travel Team

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11 Nov 2019
US $1925
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23 Dec 2019
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12 Jan 2020
US $1975
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16 Feb 2020
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15 Mar 2020
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12 Apr 2020
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Our top tip:
Bring lots of small coins for tipping. It
Trip type:
Small group vacation, max. 12 people.
Included:
Flights, accommodation, all breakfasts, some meals, guide, activities, all transport.
Accomm:
Hotels, safari camps and beach chalets.
Solos:
Solo travelers welcome. £375 supplement for own room.
Vouchers
Accepted
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 12 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

Environment

Overall, the intention is to combine the well-known tourist sites with off-the-beaten-track, rarely visited, destinations so spreading tourist revenue and contact into areas not usually benefiting, as well as providing a more authentic view of the region visited. Group sizes are deliberately kept small in order to limit impact on site and communities as much as possible. (Groups of less than 12) Small numbers also permit us to use local cafes plus street and market stalls for drinks, meals and shopping.

We include Horton Plains, Kalametiya and Udawalawa national parks on this tour as well as Ritigala Nature Reserve where entrance fees help park authorities finance upkeep, maintenance and conservation projects as well as providing employment and revenue for local residents as drivers, guides, park rangers and staff etc.

Projects we support include the Elephant Transit Camp rehabilitation center.

They also make visitors aware of the potential impact of tourism on the local society, culture and environment, and explain how to behave and dress appropriately with a respect and appreciation for local customs, mores and traditions as well as having a respect for the ecology of areas visited.

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.

Group Sizes: By limiting groups to a maximum of 12 persons 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 offering a greater facility for supervision and individual assistance and allowing us to use smaller hotels and restaurants and employ the services of more genuinely ‘local’ operators on a personal and friendly basis rather than dealing with establishments primarily equipped for larger groups.

Community

Hotels are, as much as possible, small and independently owned with proven responsible travel policies and our emphasis is on eating and drinking in local cafes and restaurants

All ground staff – drivers, guides and tour-leaders – are local and fully licensed. Leaders and guides provide 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.

9 Reviews of Sri Lanka vacation, island explorer

4 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 23 Feb 2019 by

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


I am a frequent traveler on group vacations, but this tour company were exceptional. This independent family run company is able to operate with a flare and flexibility that would not be possible with the larger, more conventional travel organisations. The richness of Sri Lanka's wildlife, natural environment and
culture have been rightly praised by travelers to this lovely island. The tour company allows its small groups to enjoy all these aspects in a special way: always ready to respond to the particular interests of the group, and with the imagination to look beyond the usual tourist hotspots. The hotels we stayed in were varied, each with their own character and charm. Our knowedgeable guide drew our attention to so many birds, animals, trees and plants that we would
otherwise never have noticed. Refreshingly there was also enough leisure time, amidst all the exciting activities, to relax and thoroughly absorb the atmosphere of the place.

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


If you have one, bring your best camera. There are so many oppotunities for taking really memorable photos on this trip. For the same reason a pair of
binoculars would also be useful. This is a moderately active vacation and you need to be prepared for different terrains from wildlife parks, to rocks, temples, beaches etc.

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


Yes. The hotels we stayed in were generally run by local people rather than large chains and we ate many delicious meals at local restaurants. In the wildlife
parks the public are made aware of the dangers of plastic waste and the need to care for the environment. We were accompanied by 3 local people on our
trip: a guide, a driver and assistant.

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


This was a very special vacation. A big thanks to the tour company for making it possible. This is the first time I have travelled with this company, but it will
certainly not be the last. Their intimate knowlege and affection for this part of Asia shines through, and enriches the experience for its customers.

Reviewed on 18 Feb 2019 by

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


I loved the two safaris- cleverly
programmed for different times of the
day to afford maximum variety. Our
tour leader was a superb birder which
added value.

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


Arrive a day early to get acclimatised
and to get maximum benefit from the
hotel facilities - it was right on the
beach and the 2 swimming pools were
very good. If you are very unfit you
might struggle.

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


I think that tourist always bring
revenue to the local community.

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


Very well planned and constantly
under review to bring maximum
benefit and enjoyment to the group.
Expectations should of course be
commensurate with the very
reasonable cost of this vacation.

Reviewed on 06 Feb 2019 by

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


Eating the local food, often with local people. Vacation was so exceptional overall that it really is difficult to pick just one
highlight!It felt like a two week immersion course in Sri Lanka, rather than a sequence of “tourist” activities.

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


Pack as lightly as possible (you will get hot and sweaty,but it’s possible to have laundry done fairly cheaply on the 2 night stops)
don’t forget flipflops and shorts/skirts which cover the knees for temple visits.

Research ahead and if you are keen on birds (or even if not!) check out Buddhi’s Eco birdwatching trip at Kalamatiya, near
Tangalle.

Do eat as much of the lovely local food as you can. Try Lime juice with salt rather than sugar.(honest)

Consider having a few extra days at the end, just to flop. (Ging Oya Lodge nr Negombo suited us admirably)

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


Absolutely, especially eating out in local restaurants rather than in the hotels (spending money in small, non-chain hotels also
benefits local people too, of course) . Hopefully, Sri Lanka will one day be able to provide drinking water points in hotels, so that
plastic water bottle use can be avoided.

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


Ooooooooooh! This was the perfect vacation for us, comfortable, reasonable hotels, right balance between traveling time in the
bus, visits to sights, freee time. Group size ideal, even smaller could also be good, but you might then be stuck with just one or
two people who irked! We saw much, much more of SL than we ever could have done on our own, in the given time. We have
returned feeling that we really did see some of the “real” SL.

Reviewed on 02 Mar 2017 by

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


Getting up early to climb Sigiriya and the visits to the national parks.

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


Some longish days in the minibus but worth it to see a variety of places, experiences and give a good introduction to the Southern part of the country

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


Yes generally, although that wasn't the main purpose of the trip.

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


Very good, itinerary was varied and interesting with a few early mornings to make the most of some of the places visited and avoiding worst of the crowds and the heat of the day. Guide was excellent, very good at sorting things out (including retrieving lost/left items) and willing to change itinerary where it made sense as well as being fairly open about the history of the country and the issues is currently faces.

Reviewed on 23 Feb 2017 by

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


Too many to mention. Apart from all the amazing places we visited, we had some very interesting evening discussions with our tour leader which further enhanced our understanding of Sri Lanka and its people

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


Go for it; there is something for everyone on this trip - Culture, beautiful natural features; a great variety of wildlife and of course excellent food.

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


Our leader fully endorsed the idea of responsible travel; avoiding several tourist hotspots and occasionally taking us to eat at "ethnic" restaurants off the beaten track. However, the jeep tour in Yala Nat Park whilst in general well handled, produced almighty traffic jams when animals such as leopards were sighted. Not sure how that could be managed differently, but eco-tourism went out of the window in the 4WD scrum !!

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


Excellent. Very varied and well organised with a charismatic and informative tour leader

Reviewed on 19 Feb 2017 by

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


The people :-) Especially our fantastic tour guide Indika who went beyond the call of duty and made Sri Lanka come alive.

Our driver Anil and helper Hermanda were also extremely conscientious in keeping us safe and happy. Too many highlights to mention!

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


Take some good binoculars to magnify the stunning scenery, animals and birds.
Don't miss the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy but try to avoid a Poya (Moon day) if you don't like crowds.

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


Definitely. The elephant transit home at Uda Walawe is well worth a visit and deserves donations above and beyond the small entrance fee.

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


Apart from one hotel that fell below par all our accommodation and food was excellent.

The best run tour we have ever been on.

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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