Four Weeks in Sri Lanka

by - 09:17

What an amazing month August has been. It has flown by so quickly that, whilst so much has happened that the start feels like a long time ago, it also feels like it began only yesterday. I began my August frantically trying to gather together the last bits in preparation for my biggest and most exciting trip to date: a four week trip to Sri Lanka. 

I have been waiting and planning to go on this trip for the best part of two years, mainly thinking it was an idealistic goal which I would never reach until I actually booked it in January and started my serious saving. Whilst for the past few months I have been saying to anyone who will listen how these four weeks better be worth it for a number of times I had to restrain my self from buying those new jeans or that nice camera, I can now officially say it was worth every single penny.

I feel like this post may just be me gushing at how amazing everything was...

For a bit of background to what I was doing in Sri Lanka, I booked to go with a program called Plan My Gap Year who organise volunteer trips to anyone over the age of 17 in many different countries around the world. I choose to do two weeks volunteering at a children's orphanage followed by two weeks at an elephant home.

They also provide food and accommodation so I stayed in their volunteer house with around 30 people. Everyone was so lovely and we all got pretty close as you are spending a lot of those 24 hours in a day with these people! I've made some friends that I know I will keep in touch, have even planned future trips with, and socially it has really helped me. It is actually very difficult to live with up to 30 people who you have never met and then have to make friends, learn names, find those who you will click with. It is really rather exhausting! 

Being at the orphanage, I came away every day just thinking how lucky I was. It does sound like a cliche but it's true all the same. The kids would get so excited when we brought them some balloons or bubbles to play with. Little things I had in my childhood which I had loved but never really thought much about and definitely weren't the most exciting thing I had. They all had the basic supplies with just the necessities but nothing like we would here in England. I don't have any photos of the orphanage to show you what it was like as we weren't allowed to take photos of the children - a lot of the children have come from bad situations at home so they need to keep their anonymity.

In Sri Lanka, school is only in the morning so we would go in the afternoon to help teach them English or maths which are the key skills they need to be able to get a good job in life and make a living, hopefully, make a difference in their lives. Whilst at the moment I don't have the resources to make a bigger impact on these children's lives, and those in similar situations, there are ways I can make a small difference. Charites like the Samaritan Purse which do Operation Christmas Child will make a huge impact. I've seen what a joy a few balloons can make so imagine what a whole box can do. It really doesn't take a lot to do and hopefully, in the future, I can do something more. 

For my last two weeks, I spent my mornings cleaning up elephant poo and scrubbing a 40-year-old elephant with a coconut. It was a very surreal experience. Every morning we would head down to an elephant sanctuary where the mahouts look after five elephants, normally three at one time, and we volunteers would have to clear out their beds - so removing the day before leaves and the mound of poo which always seemed to be endless. We would then walk them down to a river before getting in the water and scrubbing them clean with some cut up coconuts, 20 minutes on each side. A final feeding of cucumbers or if they were lucky watermelon and then it was off back home. 

In my photos, you may notice that the elephants do have chains which a lot of people will disagree with. Whilst it is wrong, it is the law in Sri Lanka for domesticated wild animals. A week before, whilst a mahout was picking up the elephants poo, the elephant stepped back and crushed the man's chest and sadly he didn't make it through surgery. This was a complete accident but it does show the strength these animals have, even when they're not trying to be strong. These elephants have been domesticated to be used in things like parades or elephant riding but to do this, some of them were mistreated (the 80 year old elephant, Martumae, has a fear that someone will step on her trunk so will only let her mahout near it) so they are now in a better place than they were before. It is not ideal as they should be in the wild as they are wild animals but now they wouldn't survive so this is the best we can do for them. 

How beautiful Sri Lanka is as a country was something I wasn't expecting when I first began the ten and a half hour plane journey. Everywhere is surrounded by greenery, lush trees and beautiful hills filled with shrubbery for miles around and I loved taking the trains as I could just sit and watch this beautiful world go past. One weekend, we went to Worlds End which was given its name for the miles and miles of stunning mountains you can see when sitting on its cliff edge. It was one of the most beautiful sites that I have ever seen and one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. If you ever do get the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka, this is one of the things I would say everyone has to do, it is too good of a view to miss out on. 

Yala National Park has some beautiful views, never mind spotting the many wild animals living there. I was able to go on two safaris and saw so many wild elephants including a one-week old baby. On both safaris, the guys who were driving the range rover had such good eyes, they would spot the smallest gecko in camouflage that would take us about five minutes to find when we were actually in a stopped vehicle and looking for it. I think Yala was my favorite just because you saw a much wider range of animals and it was such a beautiful park to drive through. But if you want to see elephants, Udawalae National Park is the one to go to as I must have seen over twenty elephants that day. It was just amazing and I feel so incredibly lucky to have been there. 

Sri Lanka also has some beautiful beaches to add to its endless list of beautiful places to visit. My favorite was Bentota which was so incredibly picturesque with its green palm streets and clear blue sea making it look as though it has come straight from a magazine. We almost saw an amazing sunset too but a cloud decided it was the perfect time to cover the sun... I was not impressed. What I liked was that there were only a few hotels along the side and there weren't too many tourists or bars so it felt like an escape from the busy, chaotic nature of Sri Lanka. Some more touristy beaches that are perfect for going out with friends are Eunawatuna and Mirissa which have a lot more bars lining the beach but are still as equally beautiful. 

I stayed in a less touristy area in a town called Ambalangoda which is in the South West of the country. Because we could only travel at weekends, I didn't get to explore many places far from where we stayed. I feel like I haven't seen the whole of Sri Lanka, or at least not as much as I want to. I loved it so much as a country I really want to go back in a few years time and explore all the places that I wasn't able to this time. Kandy sounds like a must have; the view from Lions Rock is meant to challenge the one at Worlds End and I hear the east has some amazing beaches that are perfect if you want to try some surfing...

These last few weeks has helped me grow so much, as a person and with my goals to travel and see more of this amazing world we live in. Whilst I do miss having my breakfast looking out onto a breath taking lake, listening to monkeys playing in the trees, having huge monitor lizards casually walk past on a daily basis, and watching the sunset every evening, I have so many plans and ideas of where I want to explore next that I can't wait for the next adventure to begin. 

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  1. It looks wonderful there from the parts you visited, and it sounds like you had such a great time x

    Sophie's Spot

    1. It was an amazing visit and equally as stunning!


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