Although I had a whistle stop tour of this country (trying to squeeze a 15 day itinerary into 9 days was no easy feat!), I still experienced some of the most incredible, wildlife, people, environments (....and weather!).
If you don't have time to read this, please do see the small gallery above and video at the bottom of the page which shows some of the highlights of our existing Sri Lanka Explorer itinerary (below). They don't include all aspects of the itinerary...as unfortunately, I just couldn't fit everything in (this just means I'll have to go back!).
I was lucky enough to visit 'Monkey Camp' in the North Central Province, which is home to the world's longest comprehensive primate study (40+ years!). Here our teams will work alongside the experts (including 'Dr Wolf' himself!) collecting data, creating monkey ID cards, monitoring behaviours in and between social groups, and searching for the elusive Slender Loris as night falls.
I travelled to Wasgamuwa National Park to meet some of the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation team- they are doing exceptional work to minimise the human/elephant conflict in the area and address a multitude of environmental, land use, and livelihood issues caused by people, elephants and other wildlife who share the National Park. Just as I did, our teams will learn from and be inspired by the people who have dedicated their lives to this ongoing project, and experience a game drive with the researchers themselves, learning about previous attempts and successes of human-elephant conflict resolution and plans for the future.
Another key element of my trip to Sri Lanka was a vistit to the rural community project locations for our teams in the next couple of years; there is a lot of work to be done and we hope we can help the local communities for many years to come. Again, I was inspired by the passion and commitment of some individuals who strive to enhance the lives of the locals. I met the families in the village where our teams will stay (there is a photo of the head chef in the album) and put a together a programmme to include with the worthwhile work that can be carried out by our students, both in the village itself and at a local school (I could write an essay on this alone). This year's teams will be the first group to stay in this area making it extra exciting and insightful for everyone!
As well as a white water rafting adventure down the Kelani river, I managed to fit in time to see the sacred pilgrimage site of the Dambulla Caves, and saw a glimpse of the Sigirya Rock (some of our adventurous Sri Lanka expeditions include a climb to the top). There is so much to learn about the history of Sri Lanka, from ancient history to more recent events, both real and mythological.
On the last day of my time in Sri Lanka, I took a gamble, sacrificed a few hours in bed, and travelled to the south of the island. Despite it being the very tail end of the season for Whale Watching, I was able to tick one item off my bucket list and see a Blue Whale...the biggest animal in the world (ever!) just off the coast of Mirissa. Students travelling in October/December/Februrary or Easter will have this chance too.
I have absolute confidence that the expeditions heading to Sri Lanka in 2017 are going to have the time of their lives; budding biologists, conservationists and geographers NEED to visit this country at some point in the near future. We have more adventurous itineraries for those who don't want the specific biology focus; these include white water rafting, trekking and biking, so do feel free to get in touch to see what else we can offer.