2 Centres to double your pleasure – some cultural touring and then the ultimate chillax! Sri Lanka & The Maldives are a marriage made in heaven! by Gill Lindley

After a very comfortable flight with Sri Lankan Air from Heathrow I landed in Colombo. From the air the view is very lush and green and the warm air welcomes you from the minute you alight from the plane – I couldn’t wait to explore the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’.

After a short transfer to Negombo I had the Indian Ocean stretching before me. The beach is wide, long and uncrowded. There is a good choice of Hotels here to relax  in before starting your Sri Lankan Adventure. I stayed in one of the Jetwing properties – Jetwing Sea, which opens directly on to the beach. Although very warm there is a good strong breeze to cool you.

Sri Lanka offers a blend of unforgettable landscapes, ancient cities of lost civilisations, colossal rock sculptures, towering temples and an abundance of nature
which all make a rich diversity to explore. I set off to capture the essence of all this.

After an interesting drive inland along roads packed with Tuk-Tuks and colourfully dressed people I reached the Rock Temple also known as the Golden Temple, in Dambulla. Here a seated Golden Buddha presides over the beautifully preserved caves that contain 2100sq mtrs of murals and statues relating to Lord Buddha and his life from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. There is quite a climb up many steps as the rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains – but it is well worth it. A small fee ensures your shoes are well looked after as you proceed with bare feet. A replica of the tree that Buddha first found enlightenment under decorates the courtyard and the series of 5 Caves containing the magnificent tributes are opposite it.

From here the views are far reaching and another great landmark, Sigiriya Rock, is clearly visible. The rock is a Fortress said to have been built by King Kassapa in the 5th Century AD. It was built as an impregnable retreat of steps and stairways with a Palace crowning the summit, now enjoyed by many who climb it. There is a pocket in the rock on the way up containing frescoes of the ‘Heavenly Maidens of Sigiriya’ – remnants of a gallery, which once contained 500 frescoes. The Lions Paws, what remains of a hugeLion statue, signals the last steps to the top. Once reaching the top the carefully designed palace with swimming pool, entertainment area and soothing water features can been viewed. The panorama from here is breathtaking, far reaching landscapes of tropical rainforests, lush vegetation and a Buddha statue signifying one of the last remaining Buddhist countries in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the climb and would encourage all visitors to visit Sigiriya.

 

An overnight stay in Habarana allows for easy access to Sigiriya and I enjoyed the delights of the 4 Star Chaaya Village where I went on an elephant safari around the banks of the beautiful lake. The food here was second to none and the rooms were designed as cottages set amongst the trees. It’s sister property next door, Cinnamon Lodge, is a 5 Star property set in acres of woodland which offers a slightly more luxurious stay.

The drive back to the airport from here took approximately 4 hours and gave a unique insight into the diverse lifestyles and landscapes where human deprivation and stark poverty contrasts with immense shows of wealth. Truly a land like no other.

Let me plan your tour of this unique destination for an unforgettable experience.
The Maldives are a great extension to your holiday – where better to relax after all that touring in Sri Lanka? And it’s just an hour and a half’s flight away. Just north of the equator the temperatures remain high year round with two monsoon seasons. A double chain of twenty-six atolls, oriented north-south, the atolls are composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, situated atop a submarine ridge
960 kilometres (600 mi) long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean.

There are 192 inhabited islands and the resort Islands offer a choice of escape to suit everyone. I experienced four very different islands using the two modes of transport available to travellers – Speedboat and Seaplane.

Meeru
The first island was Meeru about 55 minutes by speedboat from Male airport. A superb 4 Star resort for families with plenty of activities on offer as well as Adult only areas. A selection of accommodation is available ranging from garden rooms to Jacuzzi Water villas and very special Honeymoon Suites. An all-inclusive option gives good value. It has the gentle buzz of a friendly resort.

Maafushivaru
After a breathtaking 25mins flight over the North Atoll from Male I arrived in the sea just off the island of Maafushivaru. A lovely boat came out to the landing platform to meet us and I was soon walking down the jetty to the beautiful 4.5 Star property. This is the epitome of an island hideaway and it had a very calming peaceful ambiance. The villas are built in a contemporary style – some face the beach with a pool some over the water but all very stylish. The open-air movies, the Japanese style restaurant and various boat trips offer very select ways to enjoy your time there. However the uniqueness of this island is in the small-uninhabited island of Lonubo just a short boat ride away that offers picnics, candlelit dinners or even a romantic overnight stay for that real ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience. This island is exclusive to Kuoni, and feels like a luxurious ‘get away from it all’.

 

Kuramathi
Another magnificent flight brought me to the 4 Star island of Kuramathi. This is a great island that blends nature with a contemporary feel. The eco centre is great for kids with inquiring minds – once you have looked at the pictures of all the marine life go and see it for yourself with the help of the excellent watersports centre! The whale skeleton on display will also wow them. The sunsets at the top end of the island are not to be missed and shortly afterward, in the same area, the Stingrays come to be fed every night. Sit back with a cocktail and watch these intriguing creatures wait for their supper with the crabs scuttling away and a hopeful crane or two waiting for a spare fish to come their way. This island mirrors the laid back Maldivian lifestyle but with a vast range of facilities.

Kurumba
As my dream trip to the Maldives was drawing to a close I took the short 10 minute speedboat transfer from Male to the original Maldivian resort of Kurumba. This is an excellent value for money choice but with all that 5 Star luxury has to offer. There is a great choice of accommodation, restaurants and bars. There is a very impressive Royal residence for that extra special occasion. An excellent watersports centre that also offers coral gardening – great fun but also great for the conservation of the reefs.

This island is very convenient, due to the short transfer, for that relaxing add on to a more extensive tour elsewhere but gives you all that a luxurious beach getaway offers. The Maldives are the Palm fringed white sand and sparkling turquoise water islands that you imagine. There is an island to suit everyone so come and see me, and we’ll be sure to find your island paradise.

If you’d like to know more email me: gill@hallmarktravel.com

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