“Hello palm trees on sandy beaches and the sound of crashing waves!”
Our decent from about 2000m high to sea level began after a delicious breakfast. The estimated time of travel was about 6 hours and although a long drive I was looking forward to taking in the scenic views along the way.
We left Nuwara Eliya on the A7 highway which took us past some beautiful waterfalls. We first stopped to take in the view of St Clair’s Falls which is called the Little Niagara of Sri Lanka followed by a cup of tea at the Tea Castle. From here you can get an impressive but far away view over Devon’s Falls which is the 19th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. Leaving the town of Talawaele behind, we continued to travel through the Ceylon tea plantations and small towns while we meandered downwards. I did have to close my eyes on some occasions as the constant weaving back and forth along the road made for an uncomfortable ride.
Halfway through our journey we stopped for lunch at Kitulgala on the Kelani River which is well known for river rafting. It was very busy with groups of rafters making their way to the river and even the Tuk-Tuks played their part in helping transport rafts on top of their rooves, dwarfing the Tuk-Tuks. The vegetation in this area is filled with the Kitul palm tree. It is the sap from these palm trees that they use to make jaggery. We went to a lovely spot for lunch overlooking the river at Plantation Hotel where we ordered chicken curry and rice. The portion of rice was massive completely filling a dinner plate with our chicken curry being two small pieces in some curry sauce. Nevertheless it was tasty, but might have been wise to share.
A few more hours on the road after lunch and I must admit that I was getting restless sitting in the car, it was very tempting to say ‘Are we there yet?’ every five minutes. We welcomed the on ramp to the Southern Expressway which did speed our journey up a bit.
We finally made it to Induruwa on the south west coast – hello palm trees on sandy beaches and the sound of crashing waves!
The Whispering Palms hotel is really in an idyllic and quiet location – the sandy beach that stretches out in front of the hotel is ideal for long walks. In the early evenings you can watch, as you walk, the hermit crabs scurry into their little burrows the closer you get to them. It is also an ideal place to watch the sunset or evening rain shower. You can view my hotel review on TripAdvisor.
We spent a fair bit of time relaxing at the hotel pool with the occasional swim in the sea. The sea was rather rough and we had a few unexpected tumbles along the way – in fact it took me days to get all the sand out of my hair and scalp :).
As much as I love the beach I had not been to Sri Lanka before and hence exploring was a definite must on our list. First on the exploration list was Galle, a UNESCO world heritage site. The road from Induruwa to Galle runs parallel to the coast line, taking you past lovely ocean and beach scenery along with roadside stores selling fresh king coconuts.
It also takes you past some of the worst hit areas of the 2004 tsunami. Evidence of the destruction can still be seen today with house ruins, houses still being repaired along with the sadness clearly felt when locals talk about the natural disaster that affected so many. As you get closer to Hikkaduwa you can visit the Tsunami museum and view the giant Buddha, Tsunami Honganji Vihara, built in remembrance of those that died in the tragedy.
The town of Hikkaduwa is very vibrant with lots of guesthouses, shops and places to eat, it has been named Hippiduwa by the locals. Although the coral gardens have been placed under protection you can apparently still see an abundance of marine life on one of the many glass-bottomed boat trips.
As we entered into Galle you could feel how busier the town was. We headed straight up to The Lady Hill hotel and their rooftop bar for the views of Galle and the sea. The view does not fail to impress and you can get a good outline of the fort from here. If it wasn’t for the view I personally did not find anything spectacular about the hotel or bar and the service was a little on the slow side.
We enjoyed our time exploring within the fort walls. The old Dutch town centre is still full of colonial buildings, most in good repair. Filled with boutique shops and cafés you could spend hours exploring if it was not so hot. I kid you not – my nail polish on my toes started melting, that combined with a walk on the beach later added texture and glittering sand to my toes, who needs nail art!
We managed to find a table at Poonies Kitchen, an organic health café, on Peddlars street serving some delightful mouth-watering treats and cold drinks. We did not attempt the ‘world’s best’ carrot cake as it was not gluten free. But I think my Dad would be a better taste tester as he has tasted many around the world. It was then on to explore the old Dutch hospital, lighthouse and promenade along the perimeter of the fortifications.
I welcomed the air conditioned car as we made our way back to Induruwa, stopping this time to visit the Sea Turtle Conservation Project. As endangered species they need all the help they can get and these conservation areas provide a safe haven for the turtles to hatch as naturally as possible before returning them to the ocean.
Next on our exploration list was to do a River Safari on the Madu Ganga River. We used the company Nilwala River Safari, mainly as they were quick on answering my questions on Facebook messenger making it easy to book. However, upon arriving at Balapitiya, I suspect that you could easily find other companies to take you.
The area surrounding the river is swampy marshland covered in mangrove forests. They say there are 64 islands along the river, but some are immersed in water. The main source of economy for the locals in the cinnamon industry. We stopped off at one of the cinnamon islands for a cup of cinnamon tea and to get a lesson in cinnamon cultivation, which I must say I found rather fascinating. First the outer peel is removed from the plant, which they use as fertiliser and then the exposed inner bark is then rubbed with a brass rod to loosen the bark. Within two quick cuts the inner layer of bark can be removed in one piece. It is then packed in layers one inside the other and left to dry naturally. You can purchase cinnamon items on the island and we decided to try the cinnamon oil – amazingly my mosquito bite that I got arriving at the river completely disappeared. My husband also applied the oil to his bites and they certainly took the redness and itchiness away. Our precious 20ml of cinnamon oil thankfully made it back with us intact for future use.
The river cruise allows you to take in the views of the river and get up close to the Mangroves, where you should watch out for water monitors! All tours take you to one of the larger inhabited islands ‘Koth Duwa’ which has an ancient Buddhist Temple that dates back to the oldest kings of Sri Lanka. You also have the opportunity to visit an open-air fish massage facility – um, no thanks was my reply! I could think nothing worse than fish nibbling my feet.
Between daytrips and much needed relaxing by the pool we managed to fit in a full Ayurvedic Body massage. I found it rather relaxing and the head massage definitely helped remove more beach sand that had made its home in my hair.
Our time here on the beach was sadly coming to an end, so we enjoyed one last night watching the sunset, drinking chilled white wine and eating freshly cooked seafood.
The next day we were off to Colombo!