Nathan Lake (The Travel Writers) organised a photographic trip to Sri Lanka in 2012 which I was fortunate enough to be part of. I am often approached by young couples wanting something a little different for their honeymoon destination and Sri Lanka definitely fits the bill.
My partner (who is a keen photographer) has suggested we honeymoon in Sri Lanka. I would like to relax and spend some downtime at a beach resort, however I am also interested in experiencing another culture. I am a little concerned at the prospect of going on safari – the closest I have been to an elephant is watching a David Attenborough documentary! Do you think Sri Lanka can offer us both the honeymoon we desire?
Your fiancé has selected a great location for your honeymoon, as Sri Lanka “ticks all the boxes” when it comes to a combination of an exotic location, tropical paradise, photographic opportunities, wildlife safaris and immersing yourself in a different culture. Even the great traveler, Marco Polo, wrote about this beautiful island, which was formerly known as Ceylon.
I had the unique opportunity of visiting Sri Lanka last year with a photographer and was impressed by what this small island has to offer. Images of colonial tea plantations, women in saris, Buddhist monasteries, elephants, beach resorts and sapphire shopping are all fond memories. Sri Lanka is a photographer’s paradise!
Sri Lanka has some wonderful beach resorts that will not break your budget. We stayed at the boutique hotel, Buckingham Place, which is situated in Rekawa Village, Tangalle. The standard of accommodation was extra special and will provide you with relaxing downtime, especially after the stress of preparing for your wedding.
There are also some wonderful hotels that are located just outside the national park boundaries, so don’t get the idea that you have to “rough it”.
Wi-Fi is offered in some hotels, but it can be “hit and miss” when it comes to communication with the outside world. My old cell phone worked fine, but I know of another person with a very modern phone, who could not even get a signal.
A visit to Sri Lanka would not be complete without a safari to one of the many national parks, where you will see elephant, leopard, deer, monkeys, crocodiles, buffalo, pigs and plenty of birds.
Travel companies offer private safaris, which include a vehicle, driver, and tracker. This is good value, as you are nearly always assured of spotting some exotic wildlife. Travel is in an open jeep and the ride can be a bit rough and dusty, but this is a really exciting way of seeing the animals in their natural habitat. Just remember, the animals are usually most active in the very early morning or late afternoon, so pack a rainproof jacket, as Sri Lanka does experience its share of monsoon downpours.
Insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat, scarf (to protect your neck and face from the sun and eyes from the dust) and sunglasses are a must. Don’t worry about “dressing to impress”. The large deer who tried to get into our jeep was much more interested in the apple in my bag than my new shirt! Just make sure you wear comfortable, durable clothing in neutral colors. I found ‘’quick-dry’’ travel clothing the best option, as you will want to rinse out your clothing in the shower each night. If you wear contact lenses, the dust may be a problem, so pack your tinted glasses.
Advise your hotel the night before your safari that you will require a packed breakfast, which usually consists of boiled eggs, a cheese sandwich, juice and a piece of fruit. Take plenty of cool water, but also ask your driver about the availability of washroom stops, as you are not allowed to get out of the vehicle. You don’t want to end up as breakfast for a wild animal!
Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians make for their own unique mix of religions in Sri Lanka. The philosophy and moral code of Buddhism is followed by about 70% of the population. There are many fascinating Buddhist temples, but be mindful of dressing conservatively, especially covering your shoulders and not wearing short skirts. T-shirts and ¾ length pants are a great choice. Remember to wear comfortable shoes that can be easily removed when visiting temples. You will also be expected to tip the person who minds your shoes while you are in the temple.
It is considered disrespectful to pose for a photograph in front of, or beside a statue of Buddha, so just be mindful when taking photos. Check to see if there are any major Buddhist festivals during your stay in Sri Lanka, as you will fit in well with the locals if you are wearing white. Usually, the “Poya” days occur around the time of full moon. Sri Lankans are very friendly people and you will always have someone wanting to practice their English with you, so pack some animal stickers for the children you will meet.
Be prepared that, as a woman and a wife, you will probably not be consulted by your guide in relation to any decisions that may need to be made while you are travelling in Sri Lanka. I think this was the steepest learning curve for me, as I am used to being recognized in my own right as a female, who has views and opinions and does not need a male to make choices for her!
FOOD & SHOPPING
Sri Lankan food can be pretty hot and spicy, but don’t be afraid to ask for the mild version. Make sure you try the buffalo curd (like a Greek yoghurt) with treacle — my absolute favorite! A trip to the markets is also a must, where you will see the wonderful fruits and vegetables on offer. Drink plenty of bottled water, as the climate is quite hot and humid. Consider taking your own water bottle and using water purifying tablets, so that you do not contribute to the litter problem.
When it comes to shopping, the sapphires are simply stunning. I remember a beautiful pale blue stone, but at $30,000, it was a bit out of my price range! The leather goods are a great buy and I am still using my matching handbag and luggage. Remember to bargain! Sri Lanka is renowned worldwide for its quality tea, so make sure don’t forget to have a cup or two. I bought a lovely selection in small wooden boxes for family gifts.
It’s a good idea to pack hand sanitizer and wet wipes in your bag each day, as well as bottled water and some snacks. Protein bars were a lifesaver for me, especially between meals when I wanted something quick to snack on. If you are going to need female sanitary products, it’s best to bring enough to cover the trip, as you might not find the brands or products you are used to while on holidays. Also, make an appointment with your doctor to sort out your vaccination requirements.
I found Sri Lanka to be a wonderful travel destination. You and your fiance will have a memorable honeymoon and best wishes for a very happy future together.