Friday 31 March 2017

Sri Lanka - a free day

After ten days of travelling the group was looking forward to some free time. As expected we all used it in different ways. Sleeping was but a dream as the body is now trained to wake up before 6  am. There was time for those boring things like washing clothes and re- organising suit cases.

Some went across the river in the boat to the village of Ambalangoda, which apparently was extremely hot and they found themselves attracting sales offers of all sorts. I have been sick for several days so I stayed home in the air conditioned comfort of the resort and blogged!

Some went swimming in the pool, some went to the beach and swam in the Indian Ocean, some did both.

Lunch time today was the first time we have been able to order a la carte so many took that opportunity to eat something different.

Today was also an opportunity to have a happy hour before going to dinner. 

Two different venues were chosen for dinner so I can only report on the genuine Sri Lankan dinner that we enjoyed. The delicious selection of dishes were somewhat chilli hotter than previously experienced but we were fine with that. The Sri Lankan speciality desserts were outstanding. There was also live music from a Sri Lankan group which added to the evening.

Thursday 30 March 2017

Sri Lanka - stilt fisherman, Galle Fort, the Ramsar Wetland and sea turtles

Another big day with lots to interest us all. A vegetable stall can be anything from a cloth spread out with a few carrots and leeks on it to a more permanent structure. This morning we stopped at a group of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, spices and treacle.

Our morning break was a beautiful beach side location straight from the travel brochures.

The next stop was to see the stilt fishermen at Koggala. A very strange way to fish but apparently they move to the furthest poles at night and are quite successful with their rods. They are a very popular tourist attraction now.

We arrived at Galle Fort in time for lunch. Galle Dutch Fort is another World Heritage site and has an interesting collection of architectural styles. It has both Dutch and English influence in its buildings, a Dutch Reformed Church and an Anglican Church. In fact, it is a little village within the fortress walls.

From the fort walls you can see into the Galle International Stadium cricket ground. This was destroyed in the 2004 tsunami  but has been re- built and can house 35,000 spectators for test matches.

I always enjoy a water element in my travel day and today we had a good one. The Madu River Wetland has a mangrove and the lagoon has several small islands. We saw our third different type of monkey here. The poor photo doesn't show it but these were much darker and had a light coloured face and more hair on their tails. The antics were just as entertaining.

The bamboo barriers in the water are fish traps. The fishermen go out at night, light paraffin lamps by the traps and the fish are attracted to to the light.

We visited Cinnamon Island where we were shown how they peel the outer bark from the cinnamon tree branch and then peel away the part used to make cinnamon sticks. This is then rolled and dried. These people also extract oil from the leaves of the cinnamon plant. The Sri Lankans are great believers in the curative powers of spices and it seems cinnamon is no different.

We continued along the south west coast where so much damage and so many lives were lost in the tsunami of 2004. Much of the new development is devoted to tourism as the beaches are beautiful and we are not far from Colombo and the airport.

By now the sun was sinking low but we still had to visit the Induruwa Sea Turtle Conservation Project. The turtles lay their eggs in the sand  but the eggs are endangered by many predators including illegal gathering by people and dogs (and Sri Lanka has a huge population of homeless dogs.)

There are five types of turtles being helped - the leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead, green and olive ridley,

The people working for the conservation gather the eggs and place them in a protected area. When the baby turtles hatch they are placed in water tanks for  24 hours or so then released after sunset. This gives them a better chance of survival, but even then the percentage of survivors is low.

They are able to keep a small number of turtles for research purposes and they also have some disabled turtles and an albino. These would not survived in the ocean.

Because we arrived so late in the day we were thrilled to be able to release a few of the tiny turtles into the sea. They waddled down the sand until a wave caught them and carried them away.

It was dark by the time we arrived at the Centara Ceysands Resort at Bentota. We had to take a boat across the water to get to our resort where every- one is looking forward to a free day - and that includes our Australian guide Jessica, our local guide Don, our driver and his assistant Madu. 

Sri Lanka - Yala National Park

This morning we left Nuwara Eliya and travelled through more hill country where the slopes were steeply terraced and intensely farmed with either tea or vegetables. There are so many vegetable stalls along the road that we wonder how they sell their produce.

We stopped at Ella for a pitstop and ice cream, passed through Ella Gap, stopped at Rawana Falls and arrived at Tissa in time for a late lunch.

This afternoon we did another safari ride, this time through Yala National Park and in a more comfortable jeep. Seats and seatbelts and a more sedate driver made for a less hectic ride, if not as exciting as the last!

The vegetation in the Park is more arid and sandy and the range of animals is excellent. Our first sightings were water buffalo and elephants.

There is a wide variety of birds but the ones we saw most were peacocks and hens, two types of eagles, various herons, bee eaters, storks and pelicans.

This is Elephant Rock, one of several outcrops of rocks in the park area.

Lotus ponds and flowers.

There is also a good variety of animals and we saw water buffalo, wild boar, spotted deer, samba deer, elephants, a mongoose and a large crocodile. There are also bears and leopards.

It was a very entertaining four hours, the only disappointment being that we did not see a leopard. This National Park has the highest number of leopards but they only total less than forty. They are shy and timid animals so I guess we can't be too disappointed.