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Elephant Paradise - Family Holiday
Transport - Charter vehicle, 4WD, on foot, dugout canoe, local catarmaran, elephant.
Accommodation - Hotels (12nts), resthouse (1nt, basic), tea plantation camp (1nt)
Meals - 14 breakfasts and 1 dinner
ReviewsDon't take our word for it - read through our customer reviews. All of these have been published without any editing.
We wanted to experience the colour, smells and culture of a different continent but hadn't the time or confidence to piece together a trip from scratch. So we put ourselevs in the hands of The Adventure Company. The decision was completely vindicated.
This was our first holiday with The Adventure Company and we intended it as the big 'final' holiday with the kids (our children being aged 17 and 20). We picked Sri Lanka as although we'd travelled extensively in Europe and the US we'd never been to Asia or the Indian subcontinent. We wanted to experience the colour, smells and culture of a different continent but hadn't the time or confidence to piece together a trip from scratch. So we put ourselevs in the hands of The Adventure Company. The decision was completely vindicated.
From the moment we were met off the plane by our representatiuve Pathi (pronounced Patty) he looked after everything, smoothed our way, sorted out problems of our own making (including an early and potentially disastrous problem with our luggage), accomodated our various likes and dislikes and generally made the holiday totally wonderful for us and our kids. If I say that our kids usually emerge from bed at not much before lunchtime but that on this holiday they were springing out of bed at 6am so that he could take us for a great mornings exporing before we hit the pool, you can tell how much of a hit he was. He was always around, no matter what we needed. Fantastic.
Sri Lanka itself was a revelation. We haven't been to India but some people describe Sri Lanka as India with a soft landing and without the overcrowding. In fact only 20 milion people live in the country so unless you are on a train (of which more later) it doesn't feel too in-your-face. The holiday involves quite a bit of travel but it's worth it as there is so much to see and so many different climates packed into a relatively small country. On one day we were in a jungle in the morning and getting refreshingly drenched in a rain forest that afternoon. Some days we were in the dry zone where water is carefully conserved in huge and beautiful man made lakes, and on others we were walking in cool tea plantations or crossing savanna style areas roamed by wild elephants and buffalo.
The history of Sri Lanka is equally interesting. We visited at least three ancient cities where the capital of Sri Lanka had resided for extensive periods, and as a result there were plentiful ruined palaces and huge ancient towns, some stretching back to 400-500 AD. Some, like the mountain plateau palace at Sigiriya, (approached incidentally, via a mountain path past some very active hornets nests that required us to don beekeepers outfits!) were absolutely spectacular. Buddhist and Hindu temples abound, with huge carved reliefs of Buddha everywhere. The wars between the Hindu Tamils and the Buddhist Singalese majority, that have blighted countless lives and the tourist trade are now over (although the impact on the Tamils is still felt) and the people are extremely warm and friendly. While you are there you get to ride an Elephant, which is fun, but grab a ride in one of the omnipresent three wheeler Tuk Tuks, and even travel a couple of stops on the most overcrowded trains you'll travel in. They make the Tube look airy and spacious, but these are are the sort of more spontaneous experiences that make the holiday so memorable. Oh, and the dusk flight of the fruit bats is extraordinary!
Pathi was fantastic. There for us all the time. He drove the minibus, sorted out our problems (of which there weren't many), advised us on what was and wasn't expected or advisable, and was a constant guide on what we were seeing, or experiencing. We would not have anjoyed the holiday anything like as much without him.
The elephant ride, the overnight camping at Banderawella, the visit to the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy, the journey to Nuwara Eliya through the tea planations and holding the turtles at Kosgoda.
[Least enjoyed] The stray dogs, particularly on the beach stay near Tangalle.
Our guide was excellent; he was extremely knowledgeable about local fauna and flora, had a great sense of humour and was excellent with the children in our party.
[Accommodation] We did have one concern: our hotel in Polonnaruwa was having some renovation work done on it. The whole of one side of the hotel therefore was missing its wall! This highly dangerous situation was neither cordoned off nor signposted. When my husband pointed out the danger to the hotel manager, he said he was too busy to deal with the matter. As a result of strong words and some shouting from my husband, the manager then printed off some warning signs.
Cannot praise the group leader enough - he was simply excellent!
Mrs M - Travelled in August 2012
***** Comment from The Adventure Company ******
We have asked our product manager for this trip to ensure that the hotel in Polonnaruwa takes action to ensure that the hotel meets our health and safety requirements. If this does not happen we will review whether we continue to use this accommodation.
We enjoyed seeing so much of the country and our guide was so knowledgable that we feel to have gained a very good understanding of the country. The itinerary was excellent and the coach so comfortable that travelling was an enjoyable experience. The accommodation was generally better than we expected and we especially loved the resthouse at Kitulgala and also the night under canvas!
[Least enjoyed] We found the hotel food rather predictable and we tried to eat out locally, but this was not always possible.
Our guide, Rohan was a major factor in our enjoyment of the holiday. We feel very lucky.
Mr D - Travelled in August 2012
The wildlife in general, birdlife in particular
[Least enjoyed] I really thought the overnight camping was totally pointless. I am a keen camper but regarded this as an unnecessary event. Camping on a beach, an island or a cliff by the sea would have been great; but camping on a gravel ledge in a tea plantation was no fun. And that decision was made before my daughter had her favourite book ruined by rain pouring in through the leaky tent and soaking our belongings. I also found the two days at the beach rather frustrating and the trip notes misleading. They said we would be staying at Tangalla which, acccording to my Lonely Planet guidebook, has places to eat and idyllic safe beaches a short distance to one side (I think it was to the west) of the village. When we arrived at the hotel, I discovered that we were many kilometres from Tangalla or any town or village or safe beach. The hotel was great, and on the beach side, but the location meant that it was always too dangerous to go into the sea. Furthermore, there was only the hotel restaurant to eat for three days and, although it was good, it was a bit repetitive. My daughter is a keen swimmer and even brought her snorkel set; she was frustrated at not being allowed in the sea and I was quite stressed at having to watch her constantly (as we walked on the beach) to make sure she stayed out of the water.See above regarding the negative aspects. Most of the trip was thoroughly enjoyable. We loved the nature reserve, seeing elephants and other animals in the wild. The actual elephant ride was ok but I did not like seeing elephants in chains and would rather have given up the chance to ride an elephant and have them released into the nature reserve instead.
Hotels varied remarkably. I guess this was down to location. e.g. the first (and last) night's hotel (Tamarind Tree) was perhaps the most expensive in terms of meals, but the setting (bungalows under palm trees) and location (ten minutes from the airport) more than made up for this. The Kandy hotel and food were pretty grim but quite close to the city so I suppose there was a lot of demand. The hotel near Tangalle was luxurious and not at all expensive, but as mentioned earlier, the location frustrated me. I can go to a luxurious hotel in the Mediterranean and lounge by the pool.
He (Pathiraja) was just superb. We quickly learnt to trust him and he quickly realised that if we said "we don't want to visit a silk factory" or "can you arrange a bullock cart ride" (great for birdwatching, by the way) he would comply with our requests. I don't need to go on other than to say he was extremely helpful at all times.
Mr H - Travelled in August 2012
Our guide - Ruwan - was outstanding for the entire trip.
A little more free time would have been nice for the children to use pools etc.
Miss B - Travelled in August 2012
Rafting, camping in the tea plantation. The kids loved the turtle hatchery. The adults loved the 3 nights at Rana212
[Least enjoyed] Galle city tour. it was too hot for just walking around a city. We either needed to stay longer or go earlier/ later. Also it was a shame the tea processing factory was not operating when we got there. More could have been made of the camping trip. Ie picking our own tea then seeing it processed. It would have been educational to experience life as a tea picker.
Some hotels were excellent ie Rana 212. Some were poor ie Orient. Others better than ecpected. So all in all good.
We have done 7 of these types of holidays. Nala is one of the best we have had.
Mrs C - Travelled in July 2012
The guide, Nalaka Palipane, was excellent. My highlight in terms of activities was the white-water rafting. The standard of hotels was very good - overall higher than my expectation.
Although beach hotel was lovely, it would have been good to have stayed somewhere where it was safe to swim in the sea.
Mrs S - Travelled in July 2012
Loads and loads of highlights! To mention a few: camping in a tea plantation,which was a surreal and amazing experience even though it rained; riding elephants and also seeing them close up in the wild; visiting the spice garden, dolphins and all the beautiful temples. We loved it all!
Ms O - FSL27MAR10
'We all enjoyed the elephant ride, and most of the family got to sit directly on the elephant with feet behind the ears. It was great to feed Kandula (the elephant) and we enjoyed getting wet too! The safari was also fun & we managed to see lots of animals. The long periods of travel were always balanced by fun activities & the people of Sri Lanka made us feel like royalty as we passed by.
Su was a fantastic guide. He was very knowledgeable and extremely committed. His english was second to none & we had lots of laughs on the trip. Su never stopped smiling!!
Mrs H - Travelled in July 2011
Elephant safari, paddling in the river with the locals and then white water rafting on Christmas day
On several occasions we missed lunch or got a snack very late as the guide forget to ask the driver to stop.
The guide didn't give us any indication of what activities would involve and suitable clothing etc needed. This meant that we often seemed to be wearing inappropriate clothing when we got soaking wet.
Optional activities were ignored unless we specifically asked for them to be booked.
The trip to a tea factory did not happen despite it being discussed earlier in the day. We did not get any explanation as to why this was.
Mrs M - Travelled in December 2011
Price include flights, transfers, all accomodation and entry fees, and a selection of meals.
Price includes everything listed above, excluding flights and transfers.
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