Interesting? Very. Fascinating? Absolutely, no question. Beautiful? Sure is! The island of Sri Lanka is fondly known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” So I was extremely delighted to see that the island has, just this month, been named Travel and Leisure Magazine’s “World’s Best Island 2019.”
Here’s what Travel and Leisure had to say… “Located just south of India, this roughly 25,000-square-mile island tempts travelers with a diversity of experiences. Along the stunning coastline, the marine national parks make this destination a surfer’s, snorkeler’s, and diver’s dream. Inland, tea plantations await exploration, as do wildlife parks, which teem with animals, including elephants, monkeys, and one of the world’s largest populations of leopards. Luxurious lodgings suit all tastes, from the eco-friendly, five-star Jetwing Vil Uyana, comprised of thatched dwellings set amid paddies and marshes in the Central Province, to the beachside Amanwella, a 30-suite property that embraces Aman’s dedication to understated indulgence. As one T+L reader wrote, ‘No wonder it is called the pearl of the Indian Ocean’.”
The accolades brought back memories of my journey there in 2015; elephants lovingly cared for at an elephant rescue centre along a river’s edge; climbing the stairs built alongside the massive wall of Sigiriya, a spectacular UNESCO world heritage site; visiting the wonderful orchid house with its many colourful varieties; a picturesque drive past small towns, rice paddies, terraced fields with mountainous backdrops, all very lush and beautiful. A turtle rescue centre displayed the caring and gentle nature of the Sri Lankan people. A guide explained how the turtles are rescued and nursed back to health and how staff are able to take the eggs and have the turtles born at the rescue centre. About 100 were born on the day we visited and were swimming in a separate pool. They would soon be released to the ocean. I remember an absolutely delightful lunch in the middle of a rice paddy. We walked along a narrow path through the paddy and came to a thatched hut where a long wooden table was set up for our group. We sat on benches as women in their traditional dress presented delicious dish after dish which we ate from our straw basket plates. As we ate, we watched men and women working just beyond us in the rice fields…so natural, so authentic, so amazing to experience. How interesting to see the fishermen on shore, laying out their catch on old cloth fabric set on the sand and seeing the stick fishermen perched high atop their narrow wood sticks, fishing from near the shore. And, of course, no tour to Sri Lanka would be complete without a safari or two in Yala National Park. How thrilling to be so up close to elephants, leopards, water buffalo, wild boar, samba deer and many varieties of birds!
Is Sri Lanka a safe destination? It certainly is. The people are friendly, welcoming, gentle and so happy that we had chosen their country for a visit. I would have no hesitation in boarding a plane tomorrow and heading once again to that pearl in the Indian Ocean.
Visit Sri Lanka on our next journey February 10, 2020.