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Combining an actioned-packed ten day journey across Sri Lanka with a relaxing traditional Dhoni cruise in the Maldives is a winning combination! Explore jungles, discover Buddhist relics, take part in a cookery lesson and tour ancient temple sites on mountain bike, it's all part of the adventure in this tropical paradise known as Buddha's Island.
Day 1: Join trip in Colombo
Arrive in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital city situated on the Indian Ocean.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Colombo at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Colombo's Bandaranaike International airport (airport code CMB), which is 26km, between 45 and 60 minutes from the hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Day 2: Drive to Anamaduwa and stay in the eco-friendly Mud House
After breakfast in Hendala Wattala depart for Anamaduwa, driving along the old coastal road north, passing small fishing communities and the old dutch canal. En route we make a stop at the fish markets in Negombo.
Our accommodation today is an eco-friendly Mud House which is a unique property where accommodation is in a series of well designed huts - all have outdoor showers, indoor bathrooms, a dining and lounge area and hammocks where you can relax. There is no electricity on site thus lighting is provided by candles and lanterns. When arriving at the Mudhouse, we have a walking tour of the property and farm area, have lunch and then cycle to Paramakanda Temple in the afternoon which is a rocky outcrop with spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding area before returning for dinner at The Mud House.
Day 3: Activities at the Mud House
We spend the whole day at the Mud House with the opportunity to participate in a range of activities including bird watching before breakfast to view the 100 species of migratory and endemic birds that reside in the area, kayaking and swimming at Uriyawa (which we get to by either cycle or tuk tuk), a cooking lesson after lunch and then time to relax in a hammock or enjoy the numerous nature trails that have been designed to explore the various different habitats in and around the surrounding area. One trail identifies the different species of trees and plants along the pathway and looks in more depth at the overall concept and landscaping on the area. Dinner is by the campfire this evening where you can reminisce about the day's events.
Day 4: Travel by tuk-tuk, try a canoe ride and have a cooking lesson before travelling onto Giritale
Boarding our minibus, we drive inland to Habarana where we take a short tuk-tuk and bullock cart ride to a nearby village. We then board our canoes and visit a local farm and return back to the village to meet a local family for lunch and a cooking demonstration. We continue to Giritale after our adventure.
Day 5: In Giritale; explore the nearby countryside and villages
In the morning we use the most common and versatile mode of transport used by the villagers of nearby farming communities, a 'Land Master' (a two wheeled tractor with a trailer). We visit a nearby village to experience the day to day life of a typical rural Sri Lankan. This afternoon, we explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa by bike (with the option to travel in our bus). The site has many interesting and spectacular buildings and monuments including the Royal Palace Group with its audience hall, bathing pool and quadrangle which is a very compact collection of ruins. Close by is the Circular Relic House, a curious round structure with a beautifully preserved 'moonstone' carved at the foot of a flight of steps. Another famous feature of the deserted city is the group of carved images of the Buddha known as Galvihara. Here there are four colossal figures, all of which are hewn out of solid granite. The Reclining Buddha is no less than 14m long!
Day 6: Drive to Sigiriya; visit Sky Fortress
We drive to Sigiriya for a morning climb up to the Sky Fortress. The ruins of this 5th century fortress are one of Sri Lanka's major attractions, a stupendous sight to behold and a feat of consummate engineering skill. A switchback series of steps (sometimes very steep) ascends to the top. Halfway up, tucked beneath a sheltering overhang of rock, are the famous frescoes - the Sigiriya Damsels, their colours still glowing. Magnificent views can be enjoyed from the summit of the rock palace (200m high). On our descent we board the bus for a short drive to Giritale. In the afternoon we visit nearby Minneriya or Kaudulla National park where we take a jeep safari on the look-out for wild elephants in their natural habitat.
Day 7: Drive to Kandy via the botanical gardens at Peradeniya. Walking tour of lake side town of Kandy
Leaving Giritale in the morning we drive to Kandy via Peradeniya which is located just outside the city. We wander through the lush Royal Botanical Gardens which boasts more than 4000 species of plants, including orchids, medicinal plants and palm trees. Afterwards, we travel by tuk tuk to the University complex before joining our tour leader for a walking tour of Kandy which will include visiting the town's narrow streets lined with old buildings and colourful and interesting markets. You may wish to continue shopping at the Kandyan Art Association's workshops, which has plenty of brassware, batik, lacquer work and other craft items which make excellent souvenirs or presents. The town was captured by the British in 1815, and is known more for its cultural and spiritual importance rather than its history. Buddhists from all over the world come to this delightful old highland town specifically to visit the Temple of the Tooth, the Dalada Maligawa.
Day 8: Visit a tea factory in Nuwara Eliya and catch a train to Bandarawela
This morning we head off across the highlands visiting a working tea factory en-route to the hill station of Nuwara Eliya. We take a look around this little town, known as 'Little England', which is famous for its lake, golf and race course and well-manicured gardens. We then take a train through the mountains and around green rolling hills covered in tea plantations arriving in the late afternoon at the hill town of Ella.
Day 9: Visit Elephant sanctuary and game drive in Udawalawe National Park
We journey to the lowlands, offering fantastic views of the plains and the mountains above us, to Belihuloya which is a picturesque hamlet situated about 160km east of Colombo. The area experiences a specific climate linking the wet and dry zones with the hill country and the low country, all combining to make this an area of the country with a wide range of bio-diversity. We explore the surrounding villages on foot (a very easy walk), travelling through paddy fields and down to the nearby lake. On return to Belihuloya we may have time to bathe in the natural rock pool and have lunch. This is a unique place where the Belihuloya and Galagamaoya streams meet which creates a natural swimming area with clear unpolluted water. We leave in the early afternoon and drive to our camp on the Eastern border of the Udawalawe National Park stopping on the way to visit the orphaned elephants at the Elephant Transit Home.
Day 10: Visit Turtle Hatchery; drive to Hikkaduwa
Today we drive along the scenic southern coastal road until arriving at Galle. Here we explore an ancient Dutch Fort, which is a World Heritage site, complete with its well preserved ramparts that were built during the 1800s. We then proceed to Hikkaduwa where we stop for the night. In the evening we will visit a turtle hatchery in nearby Kosgoda to see the breeding process of the endangered sea turtles. It may be possible to even release some little baby turtles in to the sea. If you are lucky you might get a chance to see the mother turtles coming on to the beach to lay eggs later in the evening. Our hotel is located on the beach in Hikkaduwa, which is famous for it's marine sanctuary, and if we're lucky we may get to see turtles and other marine life just off the beach.
Day 11: Fly to the Maldives and join our Dhoni cruise boat
Today we leave Sri Lanka and drive back to Negombo for an early afternoon flight to the Maldives. Transferring to our traditional Dhoni boat, we will travel along the remote atolls of the Maldives for the next four days. After settling into the cabins, the crew goes through the safety brief before cruising for a few hours to Gulhi, an island in the South Male Atoll. Dinner is served on-board.
There are normally two Dhoni cruise boats that travel together on this tour with a capacity of up to ten per boat. The cabins are small and simple but adequate for sleeping and changing. In most of the cabins there will be bunk beds and so the person on the top will need to be prepared to climb up to their bed, many customers choose to enjoy the tranquillity of sleeping under the stars on deck for at least some of the nights. Facilities are shared, and each boat has 3 or 4 toilets and 2 or 3 showers on board. There are plugs available in each cabin with electricity available when the boats generator is running (when the boat is moving or the crew are cooking meals) so it is possible to charge cameras and phones during the tour.
Day 12: Cruise to Kudhi Boli, tour of the island and snorkelling
The boat departs early in the morning to cruise for a few hours to Kudhi Boli with a traditional Maldivian breakfast being served on-board. Kudhi Boli literally means small shells and is famed for its very beautiful reef with a small strip of beach emerging with each low tide. We then take our first snorkelling lesson in the clear turquoise waters with the chance to view the marine life of the Maldives or you can sunbath and relax on the white sandy beaches of the island. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy with a light lunch being served on board. We visit the Island of Fulidhoo this afternoon where we have a tour of the idyllic island. Dinner is served on-board and we are entertained tonight by locals who perform on the famous Boduberu (traditional big drums).
Day 13: Cruise to Rihiveli, cooking lesson and beach BBQ
After breakfast we cruise to Rihiveli with the chance to prepare a traditional Maldivian dish taught by the boat cook. Further snorkelling opportunities are available throughout the day over the beautiful coral reefs and we also have time on the beach. Lunch is on-board our boat with further time in the afternoon for more snorkelling, swimming, fishing or to become acquainted with some local board games. During the course of our Maldives cruise we have on occasions arranged a football match with local kids from the islands. The day will end with a wonderful beach barbecue if weather permits.
Day 14: Cruise to Hullhu Male with visits to Male's markets
After breakfast will set sale for the South Male Atoll for a morning of snorkelling at Turtle Reef, near Rihiveli Boduveli. We have one final snorkelling opportunity at the Laguna sand bank (around 45 minutes away) with lunch served on board.
Late afternoon we return to the capital, Male for city tour of this thriving city with its mix of lively markets, old harbour and ornate architecture. We start with a tour of the Hukuru Miskiiy also known as the Friday Mosque, with its beautiful architecture and magnificent golden dome. The mosque can hold up to 5,000 worshipers and dominates the skyline of Male.
Our next stop is the fish market (via the Presidential Palace). The fish market is one the most exciting places to visits in Male, bursting into life in the afternoon when dhoni's or the local fishing boat start arriving with their catch.
Day 15: Tour ends in Male
Included meals: 14 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches and 8 Dinners
All transport & airport transfers
Award-winning Explore leaders
Local guides and drivers
Maldives - cruise around the islands with crystal clear waters
Polonnaruwa - Explore this deserted ancient city and see the huge reclining Buddha
Sigiriya - climb to the top of Lions Rock for incredible views
Wildlife - search for groups of wild elephants, buffalo, deer, Samber, Wildboar and Crocodile in Udawalawe National Park
Anamaduwa - stay in a 'mud-house' eco-lodge with kayaking, cycling and nature trails all included
Please note, prices listed are guide prices only and are based on 2 people sharing and don't include any additional supplements. Holiday prices are fluid and dynamic and may be changed at a moment's notice, prior to booking, at which point they are confirmed. Please call the team free on 0800 707 6229 for more departure dates available and a quote.
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