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SRI LANKA AND THE MALDIVES: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
The moment you leave Colombo Airport, you know you’re somewhere exciting. The smell of Sri Lanka hits you, a scent that can only be described as tropical—an incredible blend of heat, flowers and spice. You walk through the airport doors, breathe in, and just know you’re about to have the time of your life. Sri Lanka is a unique island in The Indian Ocean, directly below India and sitting just above the Maldives. This geography creates the most wonderful blend of culture, food and landscape. Beaches, jungle, cities: Sri Lanka has it all, and you really get the flavour of it on this week-long leg of the G Adventures tour.
Beginning in the pretty beachside resort of Negombo where you meet your group and CEO, the tour takes you deep into the heart of Sri Lanka. The mountain roads weave you through a patchwork of tea and spice plantations, and you’ll get to enjoy guided tours of both. Accommodation is clean, comfortable and wonderfully varied. We stayed in hotels in the beautiful green countryside; on a small tea plantation high in the hills above Ella; and luxury camped just outside Udawalawe National Park. Each day was completely different, and we got as much out of our week as possible.
Hiking above Ella; riding a train over the famous Nine Arch Bridge; tea tasting; a traditional cooking class; an afternoon safari in a National Park; exploring colonial Galle and Kandy—there really is something for everyone. What's more, none of the itinerary feels rushed. With good time spent in each destination, and transport between locations by private vehicle, you really soak up as much as you can at an enjoyable pace. You get plenty of opportunities to sample the local cuisine, with the majority of breakfasts included, but also to pick up your own lunch and dinner. Not sure what to try next? Your CEO is more than happy to make recommendations.
After an activity-filled week travelling around Sri Lanka, it's time to relax. And where better to head to for some rest and recuperation than The Maldives? Oh yes, the next stop on your Indian Ocean adventure is just a short flight south. The sand is as white as you’ll find anywhere on earth, the water is absolutely crystal clear and the sunsets are out of this world. It’s easy to see why this is one of the most sought after destinations: it is truly unforgettable.
Sailing around The Maldives is the ultimate way to see this beautiful and unique part of the world. Although the hotels on the islands offer undeniable luxury, they often don’t deliver on environmental sustainability. Luckily, G Adventures offers a compromise-free combo of comfort and responsible travel—exploring The Maldives aboard a dhoni boat!
The dhoni is a clean, comfortable, and spacious base for your week exploring the atolls. The large rear dining area offers a welcome shady break for delicious meals, all prepared by the (very talented) on-board chef. Nothing works up an appetite quite like a morning in the water, and you’ll need it for the amazing selection of international and local dishes put before you. Dietary needs are considered by letting the team know in advance, and each meal has a wide range of dishes. Eating is a relaxed and informal experience, and a chance to bond with your group and CEO over what you’ve seen that day. All meals are included on the boat, and you can buy alcoholic drinks like wine and beer at the bar. Fresh drinking water is free of charge at all times, along with reusable bottles.
Snorkelling the clear blue waters is the main event on this part of the tour, and fins and masks are provided. Turtles, dolphins, reef sharks, barracuda, sting rays: we saw an incredible variety of marine life in addition to the exotic fish we swam with each day. The underwater world is a colourful, exciting and endlessly surprising place of wonder. Thanks to its geography and ocean currents the water in The Maldives is warm year-round. What could be a better winter getaway than warm waters and tropical sea life?
The tender drops you off at the starting point of your snorkel, and as a group you gradually meander your way through the coral, guided by your CEO. If anyone gets tired or wants to go back to the dhoni, a staff member picks them up by tender. The beauty of moving around is that each snorkel spot is different, meaning the scenery and aquatic life change from one day to the next. Everything on the boat is optional. If you want to stay behind and soak up the sun on a comfy lounger instead of snorkelling—go for it!
As well as exploring the underwater world, this tour opens up a cultural side to The Maldives that most visitors don’t get to experience. We were fortunate to explore one of the local islands, with our CEO providing a guided tour and some history about living there. It gave an interesting contrast to our time spent in Sri Lanka, with the majority of Sri Lankan’s identifying as Buddhist compared to Islamic in The Maldives. With many visitors only setting foot on the island that their resort is on, we felt extremely privileged to experience the local way of life.
Too soon, we found ourselves heading back to Malé for our flights home, reflecting on the two weeks we’d spent together exploring two different but equally amazing countries. This trip really does provide the best of both worlds, and the combination makes it an extremely special experience. Both destinations have their own appeals, but together they truly are a match made in heaven.