Ayurveda in Sri Lanka
With the renewed interest in alternative forms of therapy in the Western countries, Ayurvedic healing in Sri Lanka has become a serious subject for research and scientists have begun exploring the island’s wealth of wild plants. There has been a regeneration of special Ayurvedic herbal cure centres, which are increasingly attracting foreign visitors. Day treatment centres can be found around Kandy and most large hotels now have Ayurveda massage centres within the hotel complex. A number of authentic specialist Ayurvedic ‘resorts’ are opening up, especially along the west coast; some of these are simply exquisite (such as the Ayurveda Pavilions in Negombo).
Ayurvedic Spa retreats can be organised for those looking for complete Ayurdevic experience.
Birdwatching in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an ornithologist’s paradise with 233 resident species, of which 26 (mainly in the Wet Zone) are endemic. Together with almost 200 migrant species recorded, bird watching is highly rewarding. Sinharaja Forest Reserve, the Peak Wilderness sanctuary and the Ruhuna-Yala National Park are particularly rewarding since they offer diverse habitats, while the reservoirs and coastal lagoons to the southeast (especially Bundala) attract a large variety of water birds.
The ancient Buddhist centres hold great attraction for visitors and certainly for
those interested in the living religion. Sri Lanka provides rewarding opportunities to discover more about the practice of Theravada (Hinanaya) Buddhism and meditation. Several centres offer courses on Buddhism in English (and occasionally in French and German). Those that are interested can contact us for a list of retreats which accept foreigners for teaching and meditation.
Also see our website a few Buddhist Pilgrimage tours that cover the key Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka.
Many visitors come to Sri Lanka to support their touring cricket teams. Sri Lanka is the home of some of the most magnificently sited cricket grounds in the world, and the vibrant buzz at a Test or One-Day international is unforgettable. ln early 201 1 Sri Lanka co-hosted the Cricket World Cup with Bangladesh and lndia, and made it to the final (lndia won by 6 wickets). Games were played in Colombo, Kandy and the new stadium at Hambantota.
A typical Cricket season tour will include tickets to all the major matches and all ground services and reservations.
An increasing number of tour operators, both within Sri Lanka and abroad, run mountain bike tours of the island. A way marked National Cycling Trail has been developed, which runs for 240 km along the length of the southwest coast from Wadduwa (near Kalutara)to Koggala, and into the interior. The trail covers varied terrain and is divided into sections of 20-30 km (approximately 2 hrs of cycling), taking in hill country, Ancient Cities and parts of Sabaragamuwa province.
Diving and water sports
The warm waters along Sri Lanka’s palm-fringed coast are dotted with beach resorts ideal for swimming. Dec-Mar is the only suitable time to swim on the west coast, while Nov and Apr are usually also fine on the south. Avoid swimming outside these months, when the southwest monsoon batters the coast – there are a number of drownings each year. Particular care should be taken of rip currents; check the situation locally. Many large hotels have excellent swimming pools and will usually accept non-residents for a small fee, or even for free.
Dive centres on the west and south coast have equipment for rent and some offer a full range of PADI courses. Diving is best avoided during the monsoons. The best time in the southwest is the winter (Nov-Mar) when the sea is relatively calm and clear. The far south and the east coast are better Apr-Sep (but avoid Jul).
Several popular beach areas offer good snorkelling at reefs within walking
distance of shore, notably Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Mirissa and Polhena (near Matara), while the clear waters of Pigeon lsland, a short boat ride from Nilaveli near Trincomalee, are also once again accessible.
The surf at Arugam Bay on the east coast is regarded as some of the best in Asia, though only Apr-Oct. Hikkaduwa is the main centre during the winter (Nov-Ma0, sometimes attracting international tournaments, while Midigama and Mirissa are smaller and quieter. Surfing equipment can be bought or hired and cheap accommodation aimed at long-stay surfers is available.
Larger hotels on the west coast offer windsurfing, parasailing and waterskiing.
Bentota is said to be the best spot for water sports in Sri Lanka.
A legacy from the British period, there are some excellently maintained courses in Colombo, Nuwara Eliya and on the banks of the Victoria Reservoir east of Kandy, and recently the Navy based 9 hole golf course in China Bay.
There is little organized trekking in Sri Lanka, but some richly rewarding countryside to explore, especially in the hill country. Existing paths include ancient pilgrim routes and colonial-era bridal pathways. Moderately fit walkers should not miss climbing the sacred mountain of Adam’s Peak, especially during pilgrimage season (Dec-May), while Horton Plains offers crisp mountain air and stunning views at World’s End with the option of camping. The Knuckles Range (Dumbara Hills) has some hard treks, while Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Haputale are particularly good bases for walkers,
Whitewater rafting and canoeing
Kelani river, which falls through a rocky gorge just above Kitulgala, is the most popular area for rafting and canoeing, offering grade IV-V rapids. Gentle rafting is possible on the Walawe River in Uda Walawe, while the Mahaweli Ganga, Sri Lanka’s longest river, offers more challenging opportunities
Sri Lanka’s wildlife reserves are home to a wide range of native species, and
wildlife safaris’ offer the chance to see elephant, spotted deer, buffalo, wild boar, jackal, sambar and, with time and luck, the leopard and sloth bear. Around 24% of Sri Lanka’s land area is covered by forest, most large tracts of which are protected by the government. The Forestry Department runs the island’s forest reserves (such as the Knuckles Range) and biosphere reserves (notably Sinharaja), while the national parks, sanctuaries and nature reserves, which offer the best chance of wildlife spotting, belong the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Most of Sri Lanka’s national parks are in the Dry Zone areas of the north and east, the most frequently visited by tourists being Yala National Park, where a remarkable array of bird and animal life is easily visible; Uda Walawe, famous for its elephants; and Minneriya to the north. Closed for many years owing to the civil war, the island’s largest reserve, Wilpattu re-opened in 2010.
All national parks are open from 6.30am to 6.30pm. Entry to the parks isn’t cheap but is fully worth it and the money is ploughed back into wild life conservation. Most people choose to visit the parks on a day trip. Bungalows and campsites are available but these are difficult to arrange and often booked up well in advance.