MOST visitors to Sri Lanka come away overwhelmed with the many surprises that that this small tropical island set in the sunlit surf of the Indian Ocean springs at them at every corner.
From the seaport commercial capital of Colombo to the hill country capital of Kandy to the hill-top town of Nuwara Eliya, the geographical contrasts and variety that this land provides is amazing.
A trip to the infamous elephant orphanage in Pinnewala is proof enough of why the island is known as Asia’s elephant capital. Feeding is a big attraction and tourists from all over come to watch the world’s biggest orphans gorging on coconuts or being bottle fed with milk.
For those who want to follow the trunk call and have more of ‘elephant entertainment’, there’s the elephant safari park. Many tourists prefer to break their journey from Sigriya to Polonnaruwa to venture an elephant ride. The hour-long jaunt into the jungle led by the elephant’s mahout (trainer) is, most often, one of the highlights of the Sri Lanka trip.
But there’s more to the island than islands. Among the must-see tourists attractions are the 200-m high Sigriya rock fortress, the four breathtaking Buddhas of Gal Vihara carved out of rock, Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth, the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the Dambulla caves and the Hikkaduwa beach resort.
Clearly, nature has also endowed Sri Lanka generously and it boasts the world’s tenth richest biodiversity. From all the fragrant staples of the ancient spice route – clove, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace and paper – to every kind of tropical fruit and more than 500 species of medicinal herbs, you name it, Sri Lanka has it. What’s more, Sri Lanka boasts 170 species of indigenous orchids and 242 species of butterflies, a staggering 441 species of birds, many brilliantly plumaged and wildlife from massive elephant to tiny Loris. Not surprising then that it is emerging as the preferred destination for eco-tourists
No matter where you are – in the dramatic mountain rifts like Hapulate and Ella or the thunderous cascades of Diyaluma or, for that matter, the magnificent harbour of Trincomalee – you are sure to be under the magical spell of this wonderful island. For adventure sports lover, its many beach resorts – especially in the south and west – have superb leisure and recreational facilities and professional services for wind-surfing, water skiing, scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, surfing, boating, jet scooter and fun-tube riding and deep-sea fishing. Resort hotels also offer good in-house entertainment facilities and many have fitness centres and ayurevedic therapy as well.
For travellers from the Middle East, it is worth mentioning that Sri Lanka offers a very Muslim-friendly atmosphere and synergies due to its historic Arabic links. Mosques are located throughout the country and Halal food is widely available.
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