Our Elephant Pilgrimage has been designed for nature-loving families. The Asian elephant has been an important part of Sri Lanka’s culture and ecology for thousands of years (10% of the world’s elephant population is concentrated in this small island). This fascinating animal provides the central focus of this holiday, but there is plenty more packed in besides including exploration of the island’s rich history and the palm-fringed south coast. As usual with our holidays, if required, we can modify this itinerary and use different hotels to better suit the specific needs and interests of your family.
Watch orphaned elephants river bathing
See young baby elephants at play and being milk fed
Climb Sigiriya’s rock fortress
Explore ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa
Take an elephant jungle ride in Habarana
Find elephants in Minneriya, Uda Walawe and Yala game parks
Visiting the Elephant Transit Centre in Uda Walalwe
Relax on palm-fringed beaches of the Galle coast
Surf and snorkel in Unawatuna and Mirissa
Go whale and dolphin spotting off the coast of Mirissa
Explore Galle’s 17C Dutch Fort
Upon arriving in Sri Lanka, transfer to the Wallawwa in Kotugoda, a boutique villa housed in a refurbished colonial bungalow situated just 15 minutes from the international airport. Relax and unwind after your flight, preparing yourself for the adventure ahead.
The Wallawwa is a stylish boutique hotel nestled amidst lush tropical gardens and situated just 20 minutes from the International Airport. This peaceful and luxurious setting is an ideal first or last stop on a holiday to Sri Lanka. The sandy beaches of Negombo are just 30 minutes away and the capital city of Colombo is one hour away. The Wallawwa is en route to the Cultural Triangle, hill country and the southern coast. The Wallawwa is easily accessible yet entirely secluded – a luxury private
Day 2, 3 & 4
After an early breakfast, travel to Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle via the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, a remarkable project that protects the island’s abandoned or orphaned wild elephants that would otherwise have surely died. From small, modest origins it has grown into one of Sri Lanka’s most famous attractions. Pinnewala enthralls adults and children alike. Roaming free within the Sanctuary, except when occasionally shepherded by their Mahouts (keepers) the elephants’ highlight is their regular bathing sessions. The sight of herds of elephants splashing and playing in a river has charmed countless visitors. During your time at the orphanage you’ll be accompanied by a wildlife guide who will be able to give you background information on elephants in Sri Lanka and their remarkable partnership with man. We also recommend a visit to the nearby Eliphus Maximus project that produces beautiful paper out of recycled elephant dung – a fascinating project for children and adults alike. Maximus creates awareness regarding elephants and provides much needed employment to the village community. Maximus Elephant Dung Paper was the winner of a World Challenge 2006 conducted by BBC and Newsweek.
After lunch we set-off for the cultural triangle – another 2 hours drive – and check into Cinnamon Lodge. The following day you can enjoy a long lie-in and a relaxing morning at the hotel, lolling by the poolside or perhaps hiring one of the hotel bicycles to explore the lake. In the late afternoon we will organise a one-hour elephant ride through dryland jungle. Wake up early the following day for a morning safari at Minneriya National Park, best known for the biggest gathering of Asian Elephants. This 8,890 hectare park of dry evergreen forest, scrub jungle, grassy plains, is dominated by the Minneriya Tank. During the dry season, herds of upto 150 elephants can be seen here. Sambar deer, toque monkeys, as well as plenty of birdlife, including cormorants and painted storks can be seen.
Explore the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before visiting the sites, stop at the Polonnaruwa museum will provide an overview of this ancient city which was Sri Lanka’s royal medieval capital in 1073 up until the late 13th century. The ancient sites are best explored on a bicycle. Afterwards return to the hotel for dinner.
Cinnamon Lodge belongs to the exclusive Cinnamon properties of the John Keells group. Situated in the village of Habarana, within the heartland of the Cultural Triangle, Cinnamon Lodge is a convenient base from which to explore the ancient heritage sites of Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and the Minneriya wildlife sanctuary – all comfortably within an hour’s drive. The ancient city of Anuradhapura is one-and-a-half hours away. Habarana is a four-hour drive from Colombo.
Day 5 & 6
After breakfast checkout of the hotel and drive to Sigiriya Rock, one of Sri Lanka’s most fascinating UNESCO world heritage sites. No matter how often you climb to the summit of this one-time hilltop fortress built in the 5th century by King Kasyapa, the pleasure barely diminishes. The remains of this fortress atop the tabletop mountain, coupled with the colourful frescos and the symmetrical royal gardens, are amazing feats of this period. The surrounding Sigiriya sanctuary is home to numerous species of birds and monkeys including the dry zone race of the endemic Toque Monkey, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and the Grey Langer. Continue on your journey towards the central highlands and check into Mas Villa overlooking the picturesque Kotmale Reservoir about 45 minutes south of Kandy. Explore the village of Kotmale with its wattle and daub village homes, terraced paddy fields, tea estates, and Buddhist temples. Go hiking, biking or bird watching in the surrounding area. Visit the Kotmale Hydro power plant which at one time, along with the other Mahaweli projects, supplied more than half of Sri Lanka’s energy requirements. Spend a morning’s excursion in the city of Kandy and visit the Temple of the Tooth where a sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha is enshrined. A day trip to the hill station of Nuwara Eliya is also possible from her
Mas Villa is a seven bedroom boutique hotel housed in a fully refurbished, century old Kandyan wallawwa overlooking the picturesque Kotmale reservoir in Kandy. The rural village of Kotmale is situated about 1.5 hours from Kandy town and is en route to the hill station of Nuwara Eliya, which is about an hour away. The journey from Colombo’s international airport will take about 4.5 hours.
Day 7 & 8
After breakfast we transfer out of the hills and head south to Uda Walawe, one of the island’s most popular wildlife sanctuaries with open parklands, where over 500 wild elephants roam free. Wild buffalo and deer keep them company along with mongooses, bandicoots, monitor lizards and crocodiles. We recommend that you spend two nights at the Master Campers mobile tented safari camp within the Uda Walwe National Park. Set off on an early morning wildlife safari into the jungles; return to the camp to a leisurely breakfast followed by a dip in the river. By nightfall, relax with a drink by a roaring bon fire and enjoy the magical night in the wilds. A truly memorable experience.
Visit the Elephant Transit Camp at Uda Walawe run by Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Department. Here about 22 young elephants, mostly babies, who have been orphaned or recovering from injuries, are being rehabilitated before release into the wild. The elephant population in Sri Lanka was at one time as high as 20,000 on this island. Unfortunately, today it has come down to 3,500. Conservation efforts such as the Elephant Transit Camp in Uda Walawe are vital to the future of this endangered species. The orphaned baby elephants reside at the transit camp for about four years until they are old enough to be weaned of milk and learn to eat grass and other vegetation from the bush. Each infant has to be fed on milk formula five times a day first the first six months. Much funding is required for this expensive feeding process. The Wild Life Department has initiated a Baby Elephant Adoption Programme where individuals can provide funding on a monthly basis and become a foster parent to a baby elephant of their choice. Support this valiant effort at conserving the dwindling elephant population of Sri Lanka.
Master Campers offers mobile tented safaris just outside of the major National Parks including Wilpattu in the North West, Uda Walawe in the south central region, and Yala in the deep south; as well as beach camping on the North Eastcoast. They also offer camping just outside the Bundala bird sanctuary and the Sinharaja rainforest. Guests are expected to arrive at the Master Campers site by 12:00 noon to fully benefit from the stay.
Day 9 & 10
Journey further south east to the Yala National Park. You will stay two nights at Chaaya Wild, an eco-friendly game lodge scattered over 10 acres of scrub jungle bordering Yala National Park and the secluded Palatupana-Kirinda beaches and located just 10 minutes away from the park entrance. The next morning go for a game drive in Yala. The vast 97,900-hectare park consists of varied terrain including semi-arid thorny scrub, dense secondary forest, mangroves on the lagoons, sand dunes behind the beaches and coral reefs. For many visitors the search for the park’s elusive leopards – there about 30 in the park – is a major attraction as Yala’s males are know to be quite bold. Elephants are another major attraction and early easily seen close to water from Jan to May – the dry season. Other game includes macaque and langur monkeys, sambur, spotted deer, jackal, wild boar, buffaloes, sloth bears, crocodiles and over 130 bird species.
Cinnamon Wild is an eco-friendly, four-star wildlife resort scattered over 10 acres of scrub jungle bordering Yala National Park and the secluded Palatupana-Kirinda beaches in the Deep South. Cinnamon Wild is conveniently located just 10 minutes away from the park entrance. Yala can be accessed via the south coast and from the hill country via Wellawaya. Two bird sanctuaries, Bundala and the Kelametiya wetlands, are also within easy reach. Tissamaharama with its ancient temples and lotus-fille
Day 11,12,13 & 14
Journey along Sri Lanka’s picturesque south coast until you reach the fishing village of Thalpe, just 15 minutes away from the historic city of Galle. Stay the next four nights at Apa Villa, a small boutique hotel set on an idyllic stretch of beach. Spend your days taking in the sun and sea. Plenty of watersports including snorkelling, surfing, scuba diving, sea kayaking, and sailing are on offer nearby at Unawatuna and Mirissa bays. The south of Sri Lanka beyond Dondra is also considered one of the best locations in the world for spotting Blue Whales, Sperm Whales and Spinner Dolphins. These gigantic marine mammals can be spotted in the deep seas off the coast of Mirissa. Whale watching excursions into the deep seas is organised by Mirissa Water Sports during the season from December to April. Go on a boat ride on Koggala Lake for an experience of rural village life and nature. Explore Galle’s 17C Dutch Fort. Several hours can be spent wandering along the narrow cobble stone streets lined with small manor houses, Dutch and British period buildings still in use; well preserved ramparts, the lighthouse, colonial period churches, a growing collection of museums and art galleries, interesting shops, cafes, and boutique hotels. The thick, high ramparts that protect and distinguish the Fort are today used for romantic evening strolls, early morning power-walks and convenient viewpoints to catch the action of impromptu cricket games and the internationals held in the stadium below.
Apa Villa is a seven-suite boutique hotel set on an idyllic stretch of beach in the coastal village of Thalpe just eight kilometres south of the historic town of Galle. The journey from Colombo’s international airport takes about two hours via the Southern highway. Avoid road travel and take the air taxi to nearby Koggala