Today I am going to tell you all about this weekend. I went to Sri Lanka, which was beautiful and spent the day on a tour with Sammy tours.
We looked up many different companies when we first planned to go to Sri Lanka and Sammy kept being recommended. The trip was booked only 2 days before we went, as it was touch and go whether my boyfriend was coming with me – or if I was going solo!
Itinerary and pricing
Lots of different itineraries for a Colombo day trip kept coming up when we searched and the group was divided between two different options that Sammy offered. One option we would visit Galle, see the fisherman on stilts and go on a boat trip in the mangroves. The other option was to visit Pinnawella elephant sanctuary, a spice garden, Kandy for a cultural show and the temple of the tooth.
Sammy was really great and swapped the cultural show for a visit to a tea factory for us instead.
As the was 9 people, we agreed on the price of 55 USD dollars per person or 9625 Sri Lankan Rupees each. (Correct in November 2018)
The price included entry tickets to all of the places we went to see and lunch, which most similar priced tours didn’t include.
Colombo day trip pick up
Sammy was great and changed the pickup time to accommodate our group. We were staying in two places and was great about collecting us in two places.
Then we were on our way. We knew the drive was going to be a couple of hours to see the elephants, so everyone settled down for a long drive.
About 3 hours later, after a quick stop, we made it to the elephant orphanage.
Pinnawella Elephant Orphanage
We pulled up and Sammy went off and bought our entry tickets. Most of us were UK citizens and there were different prices for foreigners and SAARC countries.
Then we walked down the lane towards the elephant bathing area. Pinnawella had a schedule so we could know where to see them. The elephants are not tame, they are wild and the sanctuary started with 5 baby elephants. Now they have over 80 elephants, who live in a herd and are looked after through funds from visitors.
The elephants walk to the river twice a day to bathe, which most people go and witness from the hotel nearby. We stood there and it was amazing to see them looking content and felt much more natural than my other elephant experiences. (Read about my thoughts on animal tourism here.)
Some people bought bananas which the elephants tried to reach from the lowest balcony. That was the only interaction between the elephants and humans.
Bhargav asked why a couple of the elephants were wearing chains, the keeper explained that the female wearing them was the matriarch and the chains were there in case someone’s safety was at risk.
The elephants then headed back up to their free area and we moved on with our tour.
Elephant poo paper
Along the street, Bhargav and I bought our famous fridge magnets for our families collections. Then we all went to a factory where they explained how they make paper out of elephant poo.
I think it is a great sustainable way of making paper without cutting down trees as the dung is a waste product.
While we were on the street, suddenly lots of people started blaring horns and pulling us into shops. What we then realised was a few of the elephants were being walked down that way to the river.
This is how close they got.
The Elephant Sanctuary free area
We then walked around the sanctuary and watched the elephants in their free area.
It was lovely to just watch them walking around. The sanctuary was building a new viewpoint so people are going to be further away from the elephants.
Where we were watching from was very close to them, but we were not at a touching distance or anything from the elephants. They were 3 or 4 metres away behind some big rocks.
There were baby elephants that were being bottle fed in one area – but they were chained which felt a little wrong (although we were assured it was for 10 minutes only – the same way to strap a child into a high chair)
Although we saw two other babies being fed by their mothers on the other side – they actually drink over 35 litres of milk per day!
After we had our fill of elephants for the morning, we got back on the bus and after 40 minutes we pulled up at the spice garden.
Our guide knew that time was an issue so he showed us the highlights.
We saw these super cute red pineapples (full-sized) and also a rubber tree. Bhargav loved how rubber tapping worked.
After our tour of different trees, herbs and a demo of a natural hair remover on one guy’s leg hair. We got to sit down and try some travel sickness preventing tea.
He did keep saying ‘I am not a businessman, I am a herbalist’ – so many times we stopped believing him!
The shop was interesting, with many natural products claiming to do all sorts of medical miracles – like curing diabetes. But I didn’t buy anything, especially after one member of staff asked if I needed some weight loss drink. (Hmmm… no thanks, if you’re that rude!)
Normally the tour would drive to Kandy and have lunch at a buffet there. However, we were running late and it was now 2.45pm so we ended up stopping off at a rock view restaurant.
The food was nice and the views were just amazing. Many Instagram shots were taken from up here and lots of cute group pictures too.
The Tea Factory
Rather than race to Kandy and see everything there super fast. Sammy made the decision to go to the Tea factory first as it was closer to us. The factory also closed at 5 pm so we would be pushed for time.
The lady on the tour was lovely and showed us everything used in the process of making tea.
We saw some plants – although it didn’t look like the sweeping tea plantations in Ella. I found it interesting to learn the difference between black tea, green tea, white tea and gold tips.
The machinery was quite old as well, some dating from the 1920s but it still worked. We learnt about the drying process, separating and also the different types.
Then it was tasting time – we tasted the FPOP type which was apparently very nice. Bhargav said it was the only tea he enjoyed without needing milk or sugar. I tried it but I am not a fan of tea so I just didn’t like it.
Around 4 pm we made it to Kandy on our Colombo day trip. The journey took another hour from the Tea factory and we drove around the lake in Kandy. It was beautiful, we all wanted to stop and take pictures.
We pulled up by the temple of the tooth in Kandy which is the main sight to see in Kandy.
The dress code is STRICT! I was wearing a full-length dress, which has a dipped hem on the sides so it comes to below my knee on the sides. I was told my dress was too short which is crazy.
Some of the others weren’t allowed in with leggings or tights on and we had all gone for the shoulders and knee rule that is standard for religious places.
The boys were not allowed in while wearing shorts – despite Bhargav’s shorts being past the knee length. Eventually, another woman persuaded the strict lady to let me in – especially when we argued that someone else had been allowed in with shorter clothes on.
Bhargav had to wear a nice tablecloth as a skirt!
We learnt that the temple of the tooth was not about the fences like I had thought – but it is named because the temple houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Until recent times, Kandy was the capital of Sri Lanka and it is believed that whichever city the tooth is in is the city who should hold the power of the country.
Dinner and hometime
Once we had completed our tour of the temple, we posed for another group picture and then headed back to our bus. The AC minibus had kept us cool all day, but by then was pretty cold! We took some nice pictures of the lake in the dark and the Buddha on the hill that was lit up.
We stopped at another buffet place for dinner around 9 pm but this one was not as tasty. Everyone was shattered by then and wanted to sleep. I can’t sleep on buses so hadn’t managed to sleep for the whole journey.
The group discussed children’s TV programmes we remembered and it just felt like a very sweet moment on our 4-hour journey back.
We got dropped off at our hotel around 11.30pm and went straight to sleep. (despite saying we were going clubbing) It had been a lovely day, we had seen some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I believe that Sri Lanka has stolen a piece of my heart -I will be back again for longer next time!
A big thanks to Sammy for looking after us all day and his driver too. He was a great company and I hope he enjoyed the day as much as we did!
Until next time,
The Great Ambini
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