Two weeks along the Sri Lankan south coast and we could easily spend another two weeks here. I’ve heard such great things about this country and it did not disappoint. My only regret is that we don’t have longer to travel on to appreciate more of the greenery and hiking opportunities here. A good excuse to return in the future.
Warning: this will be a long blog.
Alice and I started our trip by receiving a concerning message from my friend Robbie, who was supposed to be meeting us the following evening. For reasons that I will not go into detail on, because he asked me to save him the embarrassment, he had missed his flight and was not sure if he would make it to Sri Lanka at all. For those of you who know Robbie you will understand that these kinds of things happen to him quite frequently. There was nothing we could do to help so we were just left wondering if he’d ever show up. If you want to know about all that drama you’ll have to ask him.
We spent the first afternoon traveling to Tangalle to meet Alice’s friend from home Katie. I met Katie briefly in Penang last year and after spending two weeks with her she’s become a firm friend of mine too. We spent four hours in a taxi holding our breath and closing our eyes at the erratic and sometimes downright mental driving attitude of Sri Lankans. It makes Penang driving look like a walk in the park. We arrived to prosecco, creme eggs and mini eggs (thanks Katie) and spent the first evening having a prosecco party in the room.
Tangalle is nice with a long stretch of beach and it was almost deserted. However the waves are very big and it’s not advisable to swim.
We spent the first day lazing around and had a couple of cocktails to celebrate our holiday.
That afternoon we left to travel to Tissamaharama where we would go on safari into Yala National Park. We were supposed to be meeting Robbie here, sadly he was not yet present. We had the most incredible array of curries at Smoky Kitchen and I have to say Sri Lankan curry may be my new fave thing. You get at least 4 dishes per meal and the majority is vegetarian and so tasty. If you’re going to Yala, check this place out.
We stayed at Green View and had the cottage. It was really lovely.
That night I got bitten to shreds so make use of the mosquito net. We also had a frog in our room so Alice was not happy. I slept very badly here and a lot of that was down to a large amount of movement outside our room. I got up to peer outside but it was too dark. It could have been an elephant. It could have been a demogorgon. No one else woke up so it could have been my imagination. We will never know.
The next morning we were supposed to get picked up at 5.30am and our lovely hotel owner made us a packed lunch even at that early hour. 6.00am came and went and still no driver for the safari. After asking to borrow a phone (WhatsApp not a thing in Sri Lanka everyone has late 90s mobile phones here) we established no one was coming because we hadn’t reconfirmed that we were attending the safari 24 hours before…
Eventually we set off and it was an amazing experience. We had a really friendly driver who looked about 12 and got very excited when he spotted a ‘wild bird’ on the safari. It was a chicken. Turns out the chicken population are thriving in Yala. We saw elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, wild boar, different monkeys, mongoose and lots of birds of prey and other birds. We sadly didn’t see a leopard or a bear but we were OK with that because the scenery was beautiful and the jeep ride was fun.
The only downside to this safari experience is that the rangers have made a law to say no jeeps can drive between 12 and 2pm. This means you are stuck for 2 hours in the heat with a family of cocky, thieving monkeys raiding your life. The monkeys cleared out the jeep as soon as it stopped and stole Katie’s sandwich out of her hand. They stare at you from the trees. After Penang monkey experiences they’re not my favourite animals and these ones were the most ruthless I’ve seen. To pass the time we talked about what you’d do if you went to use the toilet and there was a leopard in there handing out toilet paper. What would you do?
From Yala we cut our stay a night short because Robbie finally got on a flight and we decided to meet him at Hiriketiya. Hiriketiya is a small bay known for surfing. There’s not a lot there but it’s got a great atmosphere. We stayed at Breath House which had an amazing breakfast and really great balcony. We played Mario Kart, we went body boarding, we sunbathed and we met ‘Freckle Face’. This name is just because that was her distinguishing feature and is not an insult, we all have a lot of time for freckles.
Anyway FF appeared one day asking to borrow sun cream. Apparently she came to Sri Lanka to sunbathe without it. When Alice reluctantly gave her some she remarked ‘This looks expensive’. The following day FF asked for a lighter. We wondered what else she would ask for…a section of the sunbed? To share a tuk tuk? To have one of her nails painted during a manicure? FF caused a lot of hilarity. Thanks FF for the jokes.
Hiriketiya was a beautiful beach. There were cows and dogs on the beach. Dots beach cafe does a good dacquiri. Robbie finally arrived!
A highlight of our time here was when the beach umbrella, attached to the sunbed, started to fall backwards causing the sunbed to flip and Katie to do a backwards roll. Alice, texting in one hand caught the sunbed with the other hand and prevented serious injury. Katie claimed it was ‘so much fun’. A man came over to rescue her. Several people laughed.
Oh and I won one race of Mario Kart after losing several times. Proud.
The next stop was Mirissa to try and catch a glimpse of a blue whale. Whales have been my favourite animal and fascination since childhood and the anticipation of potentially seeing one in the wild was intense. We chose to use Raja and the Whales as the company and we couldn’t fault them. They were passionate, knowledgeable and respectful to the whales.
Around one hour after we set off we saw a pod of approximately 800 Spinner Dolphins. They were incredible. They were all around us as far as the eye could see. It was truly breathtaking to see them in their natural habitat and in such a large group.
I was already excited enough by the dolphins but shortly after we saw a Sperm Whale. Katie spotted it first and we were lucky enough to see it for a few minutes before it dove to the depths. Raja (we don’t know if he really was the original Raja but we like to think he was) knew to the second when the whale would appear and disappear.
Next up, the Blue Whale! It was enormous, obviously, but in reality it was truly enormous. I was overwhelmed with adrenelin and forgot to breathe. Raja told us again exactly when the whale would surface again and we got to see it pretty close to the boat.
Hands down one of the best moments of my life. On the way back we saw a very curious Whale Shark which was an added bonus. Amaaaazing day. Please use these guys if you want to see the whales in a safe and respectful way.
People who were annoying on the boat:
-When we got on the boat I sat next to a woman who had her large rucksack taking up a seat. I moved the strap to the side because it was digging into me and she spent the remainder of the morning clutching her bag and giving me evils. I didn’t come on a whale watching trip to steal from you Susan.
-Caroline. Not her real name. Caroline got onto the boat and complained about there being no seats upstairs. She complained about being served a cup of tea late. She complained about it potentially taking hours to find a whale. She was sick in a bag. Karma. Then she handed the bag to a member of the crew to dispose of. No one likes you Caroline.
-Small blonde child who cried the entire way. You were too young to be on a boat at 6am. Very annoying.
The rest of Mirissa was spent enjoying the coast line.
Parrot Rock (doesn’t look like a parrot).
Coconut Tree Hill was really cool and an amazing place to watch sunset. Beware of falling coconuts. We discussed the probability of being hit by one and got paranoid and left. On the way back I spotted two sea turtles. For a while no one else could see them so I thought it was the night time elephant/alien invasion situation all over again but eventually everyone spotted them.
Robbie, Alice and I got shirts in Mirissa because this is what all the shops sell.
A button came off mine after about one second. Still a great purchase.
The last day in Mirissa we went to Secret Beach. It’s not a secret but it is a nice beach. Unfortunately a tour of people got off a boat in the afteenoon and ruined it and a Robbie had to wait 2 hours for a sandwich.
After four days in Mirissa we moved on to Galle, to meet up with Alice’s friend Sian and her boyfriend Jack. I knew all about Sian because she has an adopted one eyed cat. Fellow cat ladies are friends for life. Galle has some nice buildings, a light house and a fort. Once you’ve walked around it there isn’t so much to do. There are some really great restaurants and they have a cool shop that raises money for the street dogs.
After this photo we ended up in an argument over the bill and were not welcome back.
We spent a day at Jungle Beach which is between Galle and Unawatuna. We didn’t know there were steps to it and ended up fighting through the jungle to find it. This was the first decent snorkeling we found and the first exercise any of us had done in Sri Lanka.
Again, a very nice beach and clear water. There was some live coral and a lot of fish. I read yet another book. I’ve read a book a day and it’s been amazing.
The next day we went to Dalawella to find the famous tree swing from Instagram. At 300krp you have to get your swing right for the photo. I’m a grouch and refuse to pay for things like this but Sian had a heroic attempt that ended up with her flat on her face in the sand. The video is hilarious but not mine to post soz. There is also good snorkeling here when the tide is out and you can swim amongst tunnels of coral. Beware of the current.
Sadly we said goodbye to Sian and Jack here because they had only just started their holiday and were going in the opposite direction to us. The tuk tuk driver on the way back was insane. That evening we also said goodbye to Katie and Robbie, Alice and I continued on to Hikkaduwa. Katie you were wonderful to get to know and to travel with. See you soon xx
Hikkaduwa has some great coral and a lot of fish. If you’re lucky you can find huge sea turtles in the shallows. Please don’t touch them. It made me sad to see people touching them and crowding them. Alice and I went on some snorkeling adventures and met a very aggressive, angry purple fish that bit us both and caused me to inhale a lot of sea water. Beware of fish with an attitude. We also saw a huge eel which was stressful. Life under the water is both fascinating and scary.
We stayed at Hotel Finlanka which has a lovely pool area and huge rooms. Downside is it’s next to a train line which means you can watch people walking on the track and be concerned about them and you can also hear the trains at all hours.
I’m so tanned I look like I’ve changed race. We video called Beth and she said I didn’t look like myself. Robbie left us to return to the UK and Alice and I will fly back to Penang tomorrow after one more day in paradise.
If you are a fan of a beach then the south coast is perfect for you. The beaches were all beautiful and the water was clear and full of life. The food in Sri Lanka is wonderful and the people are friendly and welcoming. The roads are scary and you will get people bothering you to buy things a lot. It’s not that cheap as Asian countries go but if you’re used to European prices it’s a dream. There’s lots of wildlife to see and people seem to genuinely care about the sea life and the coral. We loved every day and we laughed a lot, felt safe and found it very easy to travel around.
Thanks travel buddies for a great trip! The memories will last a life time. We talked about periods every day, toilet issues (there were many), childhood, Tinder, travels, books and all things. Robbie had a life story for every subject and kept us, and the people next to us, entertained each night.