Discover the birth of contemporary and modern art originating from non-other than its capital Colombo. Witness its evolution through half a century inspiring and captivating young talent from around the island.
The tour will start at the house of an artist and then proceed to The Sapumal Foundation where we will explore their private collection and focus on four key artists who contributed immensely to the art circle in Colombo.
Then we have a brief stop at Saskia Fernando’s art gallery before driving past the works of Colombo’s Street Art Painters. Our next stop is the Academy of Design Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, where we get in insight into the story of the present art movement in the city. We conclude our tour by appreciating an exhibition of art at the Barefoot Gallery.
We can tailor-make the experience for families with children where the kids get to have a hands-on painting class with your host at their residence. Your host will also do their explanations at the art galleries you will be visiting in a way the kids will also understand the story of art in Colombo.
This tour is very interactive. It gets more and more interesting as you partake in conversation with your host.
Trip Report- Wildlife Safari in Sri Lanka’s last frontier
The Classic Destinations- Sri Lanka Team, headed to explore some of the lesser-visited wild corners of the island this October, starting with Nilgala, Gal Oya, Lahugala and Kumana National Parks. We seek to showcase the true essence of Wild Sri Lanka in more secluded, less crowded locations to our valued clientele.
Starting from Nilgala Conservation Forest, located in the Uva province of Sri Lanka. Being one corner of the giant Gal Oya National Park, Nilgala is one of the most unique ecological habitats on the island. Consisting of a tropical dry evergreen forest.
Nilgala forest is also important as a major watershed for Gal Oya and Panmedilla Oya throughout the year. There are several peaks within the Nilgala forest area with “Yakun Hela” being the highest (700 m).
This is a birders paradise, with many unique species seen nowhere else on the island.
The most famous is the Painted Francolin or Painted Partridge, a beautiful bird with a distinctive call. Further, this region is known for the Yellow Footed Green Pigeon, Racquet Tailed Drongo and the ever-elusive Blue Eared Kingfisher.
The drive from the main turn off from the tarmac road begins your birding quest, as one is surrounded by forest and grassland. The drive which is usually 5-6 km to the park entrance itself boasts of some very productive birdlife.
Despite hearing the call of the elusive Blue Eared Kingfisher our group was unable to have a confirmed sighting. Despite this, we did manage to get a glimpse of a small flock of Yellow Footed Green Pigeons.
This is elephant country, and we did come across three individuals by the side of the trail. Peacefully feeding, we managed to pass them by as we continued on our journey towards the Wildlife Department office.
Finally entering the park, we explored the trails in our trusty 4×4. Despite our continuous patience, we were unable to hear the distinctive call of the Painted Francolin, which was the main target species of the day. En-route back out, we managed to come across a pair of Racquet Tailed Drongo close towards the park gate. Some of the more common species encountered during the venture were – Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Thick Billed Flower Pecker, Common Iora, Scarlett Minivet, Small Minivet, Ceylon Small Barbet, Brown-Headed Barbet, Lesser Hill Mynah, Crested Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Common Kingfisher, Oriental White Eye and Sri Lanka Swallow.
Few butterfly species identified – Sri Lanka Birdwing, Blue Mormon, Dingy Lineblue, Chestnut Streaked Sailor, Golden Angle and Baronet.
Despite our short time in Nilgala, this truly is a park that required further exploration and study. It holds a place as one of the most important ecological sites in the country and is excellent for all-round birding.
For accommodation, we inspected the up and coming Wild Glamping- Gal Oya, a new venture by Theme Resorts which is a 30-min drive from Nilgala.
The property will be completed by the end of November 2021 and will consist of 10 glamping tents complete will all modern amenities.
The camp will be facing the majestic hills of Gal Oya and will employ members of the Indigenous Veddah Tribe of Rathugala.
We were honoured to meet one of their elders Gunebandara Eththo. He explained the significance of the forest to his people and how they continue to preserve their “hunter, gatherer” lifestyle. The property hopes to introduce many hikes with the Veddah people in the surrounding forest along with culturally immersive experiences. We are excited and honoured to be the first DMC to visit the property and look forward to showcasing the wonders of this region to our clientele.
The next day, our group journeyed towards Arugam Bay, located on the far South-Eastern corner of the island. Passing through Gal Oya National Park and the giant Senanayake Samudraya Reservoir which borders the park, the drive was very scenic and beautiful.
Arugam Bay, known as the surfing capital of Sri Lanka, is a wild country, with two amazing national parks nearby, Lahugala Kitulana National Park and Kumana National Park.
Arugam Bay itself is located bordering the wilds of the South East, and hence seeing wild elephants on the beach, and mere meters from the hotels is a very common occurrence. Our accommodation for the next two nights was Blue Wave Hotel a lovely 3-star property located in Arugam Bay. Consisting of 30 beautiful rooms, the hotel is an ideal location to base oneself while exploring this region.
The objective of the day was to visit Lahugala Kitulana National Park for an afternoon game drive. Known primarily for its large 3 lakes which attract large herds of wild elephants who gather to eat the succulent Beru grass found here, the park has a largely unexplored area with many forested roads which are home to a vast array of wildlife.
What we discovered was this park is one of the best-kept secrets of Sri Lanka. The jeep tracks in the forest are very scenic and full of bird and wildlife from large herds of spotted deer, grey langur and toque macaque, along with birdlife especially Little Green and Blue Tailed Bee Eaters, Grey Hornbills, Malabar Pied Hornbills, Greater Racquet Tailed Drongo, Red Vented Bulbul, Common Iora, Sri Lanka Jungle, Forest Wagtail, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, White Rumped Shama, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Gull bill Tern.
The biggest surprise came when we took one corner of this forested road when a large owl flew across being chased by Greater Racquet Tailed Drongo while carrying some sort of prey. Initially thinking it’s the more common Brown Fish Owl we took the bend and scanned the tree line. We spotted the bird perched on a tree, but the view was obstructed to get a clear ID. Using the binoculars, I managed to identify it immediately as a Forest Eagle Owl, or Spot Bellied Eagle Owl, one of the rarest and most sought after birds to see in Sri Lanka. The prey it was holding in its clutches was a Black Naped Hare. Elated, we observed the bird being chased from its perch to another one by the aggressive Drongo.
Thereafter perched in a clear area, we were able to get a good view of the bird and capture some amazing pictures. The owl was a young individual as from the observations it wasn’t fully grown. Being the largest owl species in Sri Lanka, they are imposing individuals. Local folklore states the owl known as the “Ulama” in the native tongue is the open of death, and when the village hears its eerie call at night, they fear someone in the village would die. Hence the owl was given the title of the “Devil Bird” in local folklore.
While heading to our final lake on the forested jungle roads, while taking another bend, we came face to face with a young Leopard seated in the middle of the road. In shock as not expecting such a sighting, given the park is not known for leopards, we managed to capture a few photographs of the elusive cat as it paused to look at our vehicle before slinking into the bush.
In disbelief, we were overjoyed with this sighting. Predicting the cat would come back to the road again, we reversed back keeping a large space between us and waiting. After over 20 min of waiting, we decided to pass the spot where the leopard went in, and drive ahead before turning back and slowly returning. Hoping the cat would come back to the road, this is a tactic which I have used very successfully in other parts of the country. As we were driving past the spot where it slunk in, I noticed the leopard seated under a bush by the roadside. Pausing for that moment, we managed to observe the leopard for a good two minutes before it went back into the bush. This was a young male leopard, and from our encounter with him, it seems the animal is not too fearful of people of vehicles. Overjoyed and in shock we discussed our encounter with the park officials, who confirmed good sightings of leopards in the park along with Sloth Bears, which was very promising news for us. Being a park visited by no one, this could prove to be a haven for Classic clients for private and intimate wildlife safaris. The potential for this park is immense, and we plan on working with the park officials in visiting regularly and further studying its wildlife potential and sightings.
Lahugala has proved to deliver beyond our expectations, and we hope to include the park in all our future tours to this region of Sri Lanka.
The following day, to reach the Kumana National Park gates by 6.00 AM we set off from the hotel at 5.00 AM sharp with packed breakfast from the hotel. Reaching the village of Panama (pronounced Paanama), we switched to our safari jeep and headed towards the park gate. The drive to the park itself is a safari unto its own. Being on the East Coast of the island the sun rises earlier than the rest of the country. As we drove past the buffer zone of the park, we came across some amazing sights such as two Brown Fish Owls beautifully perched atop a rock in the open plains, large herds of Spotted Deer, troops of Grey Langur and even a lone Elephant. Given the sun rises at approximately 5.45 AM this gives enough light for good photography during this drive.
Reaching the park gates at 6.00 AM sharp, after purchasing our tickets and permits, we were joined by a seasoned tracker from the park office, and we set off on our full-day safari.
Kumana National Park which was known back in the ’70s and 80’s as a prominent bird sanctuary has grown to be an excellent Leopard viewing park. With many individuals being identified in recent years, the park has an excellent habituated leopard population, and unlike the more mainstream national parks, Kumana has very few crowds and visitors, with some days where one’s jeep being the only visitor in the entire national park. This gives the perfect backdrop for some secluded, private game watching, ideal for the discerning clientele.
Our tracking of leopards began immediately, as there were fresh tracks even in the park office where the tracker mentioned there is a female with semi-adult cubs roaming around. Taking a by-road that borders the park office, we searched the area. Returning back on this track we heard the distinctive alarm calls of the Grey Langur, but the Leopard/s seem to be deep in the bush.
Continuing on our safari, passing the Bagura Plains, we turned inward to a jungle road which while driving we came across a large bull elephant with ivory known locally as a “tusker”. As bulls with tusks are very rare given that only 3% of males produce tusks in Sri Lanka. The Tusker was quietly drinking water from a small pond, before slinking quietly into the bush. Known as “Kalinga” this is a prominent bull elephant in the Kumana landscape.
Continuing towards Kumana Villu, which is a natural marshy lake that is fed by the overflow of the Kumbukkan River which flows into the Indian Ocean at the estuary is located in the park. The villu is home to a large number of nesting Painted Storks, Black Headed Ibis and Asian Open Billed Storks. The number of birds has lessened over the years, as those who recall the 70’s and 80’s mention thousands of nesting birds in this villu.
Kumana was once out of bounds for visitors during the long civil war when terrorists roamed these lands back in the late 80’s and 90’s.
Our tracker mentioned that the water levels of the villu (local word for natural lake), was very high a few weeks before our arrival and was host to a flock of Knob Billed Ducks, also known as Comb Duck and also a large flock of Glossy Ibis. But as the rains ceased, these birds seem to have moved on.
Stopping over at the watchtower in the Villu provides an excellent vantage point to scan the entire area.
While exploring the park, we came across many species of birds as follows Richards Pipit, Paddy field Pipit, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Gull billed Tern, Great Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Brown Headed Gull, Common Hoopoe, Indian Pitta, Jerdons Bushlark, White Rumped Shama, Jerdons Nightjar, Black Headed Ibis, Greater Thick-knee, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black Necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Greater Egret, Little Egret, Pond Heron, Crested Serpent Eagle, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, Grey Headed Fish Eagle, Brown Fish Owl, Red Wattled Lapwing, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Lesser Sandplover, Rose ringed Parakeet, Alexandrine Parakeet, Blue Faced Malkoha, Sirkeer Malkoha, Sri Lanka Redbacked Woodpecker, Black Headed Cuckooshrike, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, Indian Peafowl, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Little Green Bee Eater, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Sri Lanka Small Barbet, Brown Headed Barbet, Jerdons Leaf bird, Painted Stork, Wooly Necked Stork, Asian Open billed Stork, Little Cormorant, Indian Darter, Purple Swamp hen.
From mammals, we observed Spotted Deer, the most common herbivore found in the park, Grey Langur, Toque Macaque, Black Naped Hare, Sambhur, Sri Lankan Jackal, Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo, Stripe Necked Mongoose, Ruddy Mongoose, Wild Boar (very numerous), Sri Lankan Elephant and Grizzled Giant Squirrel.
We drove all the way up to the Kumbukkan River close to the Kuda Kebilitte Devalaya. The park is home to ancient shrines which devotees visit during certain times of the year.
Heading back towards the park gate by afternoon, we heard the alarm calls of a Grey Langur and immediately came to a halt. This is when I observed a leopard slinking through the bush away from the road deeper into the bush. Circling around on by roads we hoped to encounter the leopard but to no avail, as we believe due to the harsh sun by afternoon, the animal was resting in the shade of the bush.
Continuing towards the park office, we were welcomed to a lovely picnic lunch arranged by our local supplier from the Panama Village. The Park office is the ideal location for lunch given the proximity to the leopard habitat, and suitable picnic tables and summer huts available for clients to relax and enjoy a good view of the nearby waterholes filled with life while enjoying a meal. Meals can be arranged either from the village or brought fresh from the hotel to be served ready at the park office. The park office washrooms were well maintained and clean, which is excellent for our clients.
After a well-earned lunch, we set off on our safari once again by around 2.00 PM. As we circled the Bagura plains and returned back towards the office, Hetti our seasoned naturalist spotted a leopard in the plains a distance away. The leopard was very relaxed as it started grooming itself, and from our binoculars, we observed it was a male leopard. He was very relaxed as it rolled on the grass and was taking short naps as we observed. It was quite relaxing to be the only vehicle a sighting and to observe the behaviour of this majestic predator at leisure. This was an amazing sighting, and it was less than a Kilometer from the park entrance.
Our search continued as the light was fading. Heading towards Kirigal Ebbe which is a point that leads to the Indian Ocean, we observed a family of Sri Lankan Jackal by the beach was an interesting photographic opportunity.
Returning out of the park as the light was fading, we observed yet another leopard perched high atop a rock outcrop. This time it was a larger male, who was quite calm and relaxed as it sat atop the large rock. As time was running out, and the light was fading, after taking our share of pictures we headed back towards the park office.
The full-day trip was very productive and gave us three individual leopard sightings as well as some amazing overall wildlife and bird sightings.
This concluded our reconnaissance tour to this region, and we are very happy with the experience and product of Lahugala and Kumana both very viable national parks for our discerning clientele.
Both locations are isolated and remote enough to have very few visitors, giving private, secluded wildlife experiences, and the wildlife and bird density very productive with great photographic opportunities.
We would like to offer both locations to our list of products and tours and hope to see you all on safari on the last wild frontier of Sri Lanka.
Located amidst rubber plantations, the ancient ruins require a short trek. At first sight, the caves would be hard to truly make out, as it magically appears as the trees part ways to bring to the fore two massive rectangular rocks which lean on each other. The eerie cacophony of bats who call these caves home welcomes the visitor who dares to enter these dark caves.
There are several ancient carvings on the walls of these rocks, and they have been numbered by the Department of Archeology. With a flashlight, it is easy to make them out. The markings range from ancient scribbles known in the local language as “kurutu gee” and also the carving of animals of which the most well-known is the carving of an elephant and its calf.
A major breakthrough for the country’s history and archaeology the discovery of these caves and subsequent excavations revealed the existence of ancient civilization during the Neolithic Period which is the transition period between the Stone Age and Copper, Bronze and Iron Ages which gradually arose with farming. The carvings on the rock seem to have been made with iron tools, and some further excavations revealed evidence of millet grains, fireplaces and even pottery that were unearthed in the caves. It is believed to have been home to two or three families.
An off the beaten track and yet an interesting site to visit to discover our ancient past, the Dorawaka Caves are one of many amazing Neolithic sites found in Sri Lanka.
Kirigalpoththa is the 2nd highest mountain of Sri Lanka after Pidurutalagala. With a peak elevation of 2,388 meters above sea level, Kirigalpoththa is the highest point in the Horton Plains National Park and also the highest peak accessible to the public.
First of all, how to get there. There’s always the train or the bus. We recommend you reach Nuwara Eliya early, the day before and then start your hike early morning. Or, you can do what locals do, which is stretch the hike to two days, by starting a trek along the Idalgashinna Rail Hike, spend the night at Ohiya and then leave for Horton Plains early the next day.
The walk is easy, you are literally walking amid bushes in the plains, and the weather (at least in March) is arid and hot, with a stiff breeze cutting across. It is advisable to wear sturdy shoes and long pants because you are going to be pushing your way through much dry underbrush. There is also a couple of forest-like areas which you will pass through as well as a cool and refreshing stream. There will be moments where you must scramble through a rocky slope or two (nothing so severe that you will be on your hands or knees), and voila! You are halfway there.
You will then come across an observation point ( a ledge, actually) before you reach the super cool summit (maybe even cooler than the summit itself honestly). Here, there’s a steep drop-off to the other side, so you must be very careful if you’re trying to sit at the very edge. The last bit of this journey might not be for the faint at heart, because the inclination can be quite trippy; it’s all rock, pointed upwards. But with that, you have reached the summit!
Difficulty level – Moderate
Season – Leave out the monsoons from November to January and May to June, unless you love a slippery muddy-trek.
Need a trekker – Absolutely, unless you have done it before.
Backpacker trips are fabulous! Thrilling Adventures on your own! Getting lost on roads, and uncountable memories! But if you had the opportunity to travel with an agent, it probably would be your first option. Being honest, an agent holiday is not cheap, but the perks of the service is truly worth it!
Researchers believe that people who plan their holidays – more of being guided on their holidays – have better insight on their experiences in general. Let’s take a look at the 7 best things when traveling with an agent.
Less Hassle with the Native Language
Communication is the most basic part of human nature. When travelling overseas, being aware of the Native language would be amazing! Most travel companies appoint multi-lingual guides, who are also locals. They would help you with directions, purchasing at local stores and they pretty much know what they are doing. Even if you wish to set out on a solo adventure, you can freely roam the streets knowing that you have your experienced agent just one call away. You could even learn the native language if you interested.
It is important to have your Transportation sorted prior to visiting a foreign land. Especially if the native language is far from your comfort zone, sorting your travel with an expert would help ease your worries. On a guided holiday, travel excursions are the least you need to worry about! Your agent would perfectly plan it for your convenience, so you can enjoy the rest of the adventure just as you hoped you would.
Your Google Guide on Scene
Google GPS is great, but a personal guide who knows navigation more than Google would be ideal on a foreign vacation! That’s where an agent becomes of value. Your Local guide will guide you on where to go, what to see and what to even experience. Some agents provide you sight on hidden untracked destinations which are off regular tourist hotspots and it will save you much Time as you will have an agenda to follow and less time getting lost on roads.
Safety & Security
Safety comes prior to anything, especially a foreign vacation. On a guided holiday, your agent will know which places to go to have fun, which are ideal destinations for your family and kids to enjoy the holiday and besides, they’ll be 24/7 reachable if you need assistance. The biggest responsibility of an agent, is ‘Safety’, they make sure you are secured from start to end of your journey. Beginning with your Travel Insurance, to the food you eat at a local store, you’re secured. So you – and your family- can relax on the vacation.
Crafting your own Customized Holiday
Agents are mostly known for their ready-made packages, hence why people prefer planning holidays on their own. However nowadays guides aim on providing Travel services based on customer requirements.
Customized Holidays are not about agents planning ‘for’ you, but planning it ‘with’ you by advising on the best experiences to gain on your vacation. A personal touch would be the ultimate cherry-on-top for a holiday!
Get treated like a Royal
Who doesn’t desire to be treated like a Royal? Although we – like Lorde -convincingly denies it. A warm welcoming at the airport with a refreshment, comfortable travel arrangements, and a pampered holiday altogether is what makes your agent fee be worth it after all.
Apart from the Royal Experience, traveling with an agent also gives you the insight to all the places you’re planning on traveling to. Information booklets on historical destinations, cultural values and even souvenirs to take back home. So you can sit back and consider it the perfect trip.
Your Agent Worldwide
Most travel agents are based in one country. However there are few agent organizations which are known as Destination Management Companies. They are specialized in connecting you to the best service providers, event coordinators or holiday makers in the country and worldwide. So your next trip is swiftly sorted. That way, you get to save a lot of your time, energy and money and still be pampered with the same extraordinary services as before.
What more are you waiting for? Plan your next vacation to the Serendipitous Sri Lanka!
Contact Classic Sri Lanka to customize your luxury holiday in Sri Lanka!
The sloth bears, the old man of the forest are one of the most iconic and yet misunderstood and seldom seen big mammals in Sri Lanka. Found exclusively in the dry zones of the island, they are best seen in Wilpattu and Yala National Parks. But the chances of catching a glimpse of one, is at times even rarer and more difficult than seeing a leopard.
The best time of year to visit these national parks and try ones hand at a good sighting of a sloth bear is during the period of June and July, when the berries of the Ceylon Iron Wood tree ripens. These sweet berries are found in abundance across the region during this time and the bears gorge themselves in this sweet treat. Often seen either in the tree tops or grazing for fallen berries at the bottom of the tree, these burly bruins are often too pre occupied with feasting to notice the jeeps of humans watching them.
Often almost intoxicated with the amount of fruits consumed these bears are seen quite easily and are not as shy as they usually are during the rest of year.
Our wildlife experts and seasoned naturalists will ensure an amazing wildlife experience. Come travel with Classic Sri Lanka for your very own ultimate island safari.
Sri Lanka’s food culture is something unique and vibrant, with regional specialties and delicious fresh produce.
One of the most intriguing and yet seldom explored areas of food in our island is street food. Most Sri Lankans enjoy quick snacks during the day and even at night which are delicious, quirky at times and definitely original.
One of the best places to try out different types of street food, is Galle Face Green, in the heart of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Hence we went on a mission to try out some of the popular mouthwatering delicacies found here.
The edge of the green is lined up with many stalls, selling a variety of street food.
The first to try out was the vadey which is a deep-fried lentil based patty. What’s special about the vadey here, is the different toppings they use. There is the variant with prawns, and even a small crab, deep fried to perfection, topped up with onions, carrots and a secret homemade sauce. The taste is delicious and it’s served in a convenient way that one can enjoy this even while on the go.
Next we visited a fruit vendor who was selling forms of pickled fruit, from young unripen mango which is mixed with vinegar, salt and chili powder, to pineapples with salt, pepper and chili, and even a specially prepared pickle of wood apple.
The highlight of the visit was visiting Rauf Nana’s stall. This is the oldest and most original of the Galle Face food stalls. Selling a vast variety of dishes, from prawns, chicken, beef and mutton, these meats are prepared fresh in various forms. We wanted to try two of the most popular dishes here, the Chicken Palandi and the Cheese Kottu.
The Palandi utilizes chopped chicken mixed with onions, tomatoes and green chillies, with a generous portion of buffalo curd to make a creamy spicy concoction, which is enjoyed with some fresh naan. The mouthwatering aromas were justified by the equally exceptional taste of this dish.
Next is the famous Cheese Kottu, which is synonymous with Sri Lankan street food, and often the most popular dinner which is ordered for take away or to have on the go. Made using chopped up rotti, which is mixed along with eggs, onions, and your preferred choice of meat, on a hot pan. The iconic bit of the kottu comes with the blending and mixing up of all these ingredients, which is carried out with two metal blades, used by the chef in a rhythmic “tak tak” beat often to a tune, to finely mix and chop up the dish. A generous portion of cheese and milk is added to give a creamy finish to the dish. This is often compared to a spicy pasta or macaroni. The state varies from place to place depending on the mix of spices and ingredients used. Our version at Rauf Nana was exceptional as they added some pineapple, and tomatoes as garnish. It was a mouthwatering dish with every bite giving a rich creamy and yet spicy flavor.
This was a very satisfying and fun adventure into the world of Street food at Galle Face Green. However Galle Face Green is just one place of such foodie adventures. One would find different cultural authenticities and gastronomical delights across the country and something which we highly recommend you to explore during your next visit to beautiful Sri Lanka.
Convinced to set off on a Foodie Adventure? Consider Sri Lanka your next holiday hotspot!
Contact Classic Sri Lanka to prepare your hand-made vacation to be extra Gastronomical!