CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home

Unique Places To Visit In Sri Lanka

CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home

While there is a sense of comfort and familiarity in exploring popular places in any country, the real joy of travel and exploration comes when you venture off the normal tourist track and experience some of the lessor known attractions, don’t you agree? While most visitors to Sri Lanka have probably heard of Mirissa, Ella, Colombo or Kandy, there are many more truly unique experiences to be had in this beautiful island nation that are equally enchanting. With its diverse landscapes, Sri Lanka has many options for any kind of traveler.

For those seeking lesser-known attractions, here is a list of some of Sri Lanka’s unique experiences that are well worth the visit.

Earlier in the year, Karthika Gupta had an opportunity to spend 10 days exploring Sri Lanka with the country’s Department of Tourism. She is sharing some unique experiences to be had on a visit to this amazing country.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Sera Ella WaterfallFrom Karthika,

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving – Lao Tzu

While Sri Lanka is definitely a traveler’s delight in all the amazing things that one gets to see and experience, there are so many hidden gems in this beautiful island nation that are not on the regular tourist track but so well worth the visit. Here are some of my favorites.

#1 Dolphin watching in Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya is about a 4-hour drive from Colombo along the west coast of Sri Lanka. It is along a small lagoon and is an ideal spot for kite surfing – an addreline filled sport that is quite popular in Sri Lanka. Another activity that is gaining in popularity in Kalpitiya is dolphin and whale watching. Kalpitiya is near where the continental plates meet close to land, so the chance of meeting dolphins without having to travel too far is quite high. While Sri Lanka has many whale and dolphin watching tours around the island (Marissa being the most famous), Kalpitiya is quickly becoming a place to see these animals in their natural habitat.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Dolphin Watching in Kalpitiya CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Dolphin Watching in KalpitiyaA few things to note about the dolphin watching experience in Kalpitiya

  • Peak dolphin watching season is from November to May
  • Peak whale visibility is mainly in March
  • Renting a boat in the morning is better for dolphin watching as the waters tend to get choppy by mid-afternoon on account of the winds.
  • There is a “naval hut” along the beach in Kalpitiya where torurists have to register with the coast guard because this lagoon is quite close to Sri Lanka’s neighbor, India. So, the navy needs to keep a track of who heads out, and who heads back in.

CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Dolphin Watching in Kalpitiya

#2 Exploring historic forts in Kalpitiya

Another great thing to do in Kalpitiya is to see Kalpitiya Fort. It is also called the Dutch Fort as it was built by the Dutch around the 1600s. The then King of Kandy had asked the Dutch to help him regain the land around the Puttalam Lagoon from the Portuguese (who had taken it). The Dutch helped gain the area back but retained control by building a fort for themselves. The Dutch ruled the trade in the area through the fort, as it was in such a strategic place overlooking the bay.

The fort was designed in 1666 and the construction of the Dutch fort in Kalpitiya was completed in 1676. As the entry point to the Puttalam lagoon the Kalpitiya fort was key in the trade of cinnamon reflecting the might of the Dutch East India company.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Kalpitiya Dutch Fort CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Kalpitiya Dutch FortWhat is unique about this fort is that it has only one entry point which faces the lagoon. The yellow bricks that made the entrance arch is said to have been bought down especially from Holland. The layout itself is very simple. The fort has four bastions with the two on the lagoon side being smaller than the two on the land side. The fort walls are massive where the Dutch had used coral and limestone from the sea and soil from the land.

The fort is still considered a military site with active military still on site but visitors are allowed to explore the fort for free.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Kalpitiya Dutch Fort

#3 Nature trails in Riverston

Riverston is a part of the Knuckles Forest Reserve and mountain range nestled between the town of Matale and Kandy in central Sri Lanka called the midlands. The Knuckles mountain range is a World heritage Conservation Area that has a diverse terrain of grasslands, rugged mountain peaks interspersed with streams and cascading waterfalls. It has an equally unique biodiversity in terms of the animals and plants that call this forest home. Knuckles range is home to mammals such as wild boar, spotted deer, giant squirrel, barking deer, purple faced leaf monkey, mongoose and porcupines.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Riverston Knuckles Cloud ForestThe Cloud forest within the Knuckles range is a unique eco-region and is only found above 1000m in the central highlands. This is characterized by a persistent fog at the vegetation level, resulting in the reduction of direct sunlight and thus of evaporation. Within cloud forests, much of the moisture available to plants arrives in the form of fog drip, where fog condenses on tree leaves and then drips onto the ground below. The high humidity changes this place into an evergreen forest. One of the best ways to explore this unique landscape is to go for a guided hiking/walking tour with a local naturalist. The forests of Sri Lanka contain many unique and threatened species with many unique lizards and spiders that are infact indigenous to this area alone. Owing to their rich biodiversity, this region is considered a super hotspot for Flora and Fauna and is of global importance.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Riverston Knuckles Cloud Forest Unfortunately, less than 5% of Sri Lanka’s original cloud forests remain due to widespread clearing of forests for cultivation of commercial crops, primarily tea. So being able to visit this was a truly unique experience.

Mini World’s end which is at a height of around 1192m is an observation point located at the southern end of the Knuckles range. From this location, you can get a panoramic view of the knuckles range and some of the villages situated in the foothills.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Mini Worlds End Riverston

#4 Local village tour and lunch in Riverston

There are many remote villages around the Knuckles/Riverston area. Much of the land is still aggricultral with lush green rice fields. In an effort to promote tourism and provide livelihood to the farming community beyond what they make from the land, the tourism board works with local guide to setup tours and experiences with the local communites around the area. Often times, local tour operations will provide walking tours of the village and rice fields ending in a home cooked meal at a local’s home. A great way to interact with communities at a grassroots level. Most of these tours can be arranged via the tourism board and operations such as @lankainmotion – a wellness guide and naturalist – who works with the local communities around Knuckles.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Riverston Local Village Visit CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Riverston Local Village Visit CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Riverston Local Village Visit

#5 Swim in the Sera Ella Waterfall in Riverston

Another must-see and unqiue experience around Riverston is the Sera Ella waterfall. It is a great place to cool off after walking around in the cloud forest. The waterfall itself was beautiful, and you can even go behind it and discover a misty cave. It is more of a local’s hang out and perhaps one of the best ways to explore a place – off the beaten path.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Sera Ella Waterfall CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Sera Ella Waterfall

#6 Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe National Park

The Udawalawe Elephant Transfer Home is a facility in Udawalawe National Park. The transit home was established in 1995 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation with the primary objective to taking in, caring for and rehabilitaiting orphaned elephant calves that would have otherwise eventually died in the wild. The elephant calves are ultimate release back into the wild.

Sri Lanka has one of the largest populations of Asiatic Elephants and as the human population continues to grow in Sri Lanka, human encroachment on elephant natural habitat for farmland, mining, timber and even trafficking, continues to increase. Human-elephant conflict is a major threat to the survival of elephants in Sri Lanka, with many elephants being orphaned or lost. The Elephant Transit Home is a sort of respite for these elephant calves that have lost everything and would otherwise be unable to survive in the wild. The elephant calves are taken in, nurtured and cared for back to health.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Udawalawe Elephant Transit HomeThe elephants are free to roam around and are never chained. The transit home ensures that human contact is kept to a minimum in order to maximize their chance of survival when they are returned to the wild and re-integrated with wild herds once they turn five years old. Thus far more than more than 120 elephants have been returned back to the national parks around Sri Lanka.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Udawalawe Elephant Transit HomeAlthough visitors can watch the elephants being fed from a fair distance they are not allowed to touch or otherwise interact with them. All care at the facility is by trained staff, and efforts are made to minimize contact between elephants and humans to keep the elephants from becoming acclimated to humans. Visitors can watch the baby elephants being fed four times a day – 9.00am / 12.00pm / 3.00pm and 6.00pm. All proceeds from the visitor entry fees, donations and elephant sponsorship programs are used to help run the transit home. This is definitely one of those activities that feels good not just for your heart but also your soul. Plus, it is an ethical way to spend your tourism dollars when it comes to wildlife/animal encounters.

#7 River boat safari in Bentota

The city/suburb of Bentota is quite a popular place among the toursits and locals alike in Sri Lanka. About 62 km south of Colombo in the Southern Province, this city is dotted with palm trees, coastline and a very laid-back serene atmosphere. It is a populat weekend getaway for many residents of Colombo as well. The name is actually derived from a mythical demon ‘Ben’ who ruled the riverbanks or ‘tota’. The Bentota Ganga and Lulu Ganga are two rivers that make Bentota into a sort of peninsula. Being a coastal city, Bentota has a lot of water-based activities and water-sports that attract many visitors to this place. Bentota beach is quite popular. But for a more off-the-beaten trek, you can opt for a boat ride cruise through the mangroves and explore the islands that dot the river. With over 111 bird species, the Madu river is not only a bird lovers’ paradise but also a wonderland for biologists and ecologists, with a rich condensation of wildlife and plant life thriving within these shady mangroves. You can expect to see birds and animals such as crocodiles and water-monitors.CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Bentota River Boat Safari CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Bentota River Boat Safari CulturallyOurs Unique Experiences In Sri Lanka Bentota River Boat SafariWith so many unforgettable experiences that Sri Lanka has to offer, I cannot wait to go back and explore more of this beautiful island nation.

<My trip to Sri Lanka was sponsored by Sri Lanka Tourism, but all opinions and impressions are my own.>

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Leave your comments below

  1. Nancy Hann says:

    Wow! So many unique experiences. I love watching dolphins! They are so playful. I’m sorry to hear about deforestation. It seems to be happening everywhere. 🙁 The Elephant Transition Home sounds amazing. What a wonderful service to care for the calves and release them back into the wild. Thanks for sharing these.

  2. Sharon says:

    What astounding photos! The waterfall, the leaping dolphins, and the elephants — wow! You had quite an adventure in Sri Lanka!

  3. Becki says:

    Dolphins, Elephants, Waterfalls Rice Terraces, wow there are so many amazing things to see in Sri Lanka. It looks like absolute heaven for anyone into nature. I’ve never visited, I was planning a trip then they had the bombs 🙁 but it’s so high on my list I’m hoping to get there soon. I think I might go check flight prices now 😉

  4. Ann says:

    Thats one really wellwritten article, and I know how much time that takes. Job well done!

    I am always amazed by your images, creat capture 🙂

  5. jay artale says:

    It’s good see that the welfare of the elephants has a greater importance than using them as a tourist draw. I’ve seem more and more of this shift from touristic greed and thoughtlessness to environmental awareness. So kudos to them for getting their priorities right.

  6. Sarah says:

    Great article. Sri Lanka has been high on my list of places to visit for a long time. Hopefully when travel starts up again, I will get there. Maybe next year now 🙂

  7. Sue says:

    There are some amazing experiences here & makes me want to revisit Sir Lanka. I particularly like sound of the Elephant Transit Home & how they appear to have a focus on rehabilitation & release rather than a tourist attraction. Good to hear & thanks for sharing. It all looks beautiful!

  8. Sinjana says:

    Sri Lanka is gorgeous. Especially these forest, wildlife and old forts. I’m sure the sea adventures should be fantastic too.

  9. Andi says:

    Sri Lanka had not really been on my radar, but recently I have seen a few posts that make me want to rethink that. It seems there are still corners of the world that are still untouched! Gorgeous photos!

  10. Yukti Agrawal says:

    Sri Lanka is really exotic destination to travel and I love its nature. My favorite was Kandy and that elephant reserve. I never knew about Dolphin watching in Kalpitiya and therefore missed it. But will go for next time.

  11. I am amazed by all of the incredible experiences to be had in Sri Lanka! I want to get there soon very badly once it is safe to travel again. It would be incredible to see those forests, the dolphins, elephants, and even those beautiful Lizards!