World largest Animal on earth – Blue whale watching

(Season starting from May at Trincomalee)

Whale-watching-Sri-lanka

World largest animal on earth - Blue whale watching (Season starting from May at Trincomalee) Sri Lanka has become the latest hotspots for the Blue whale, the largest Animal on earth. Blue whales were killed in thousands for their body fat in the early 1900’s which drove them almost to extinction until the protection by the international community in 1966. The blue whale population which was estimated around 300,000 before the whaling boom had come down to just 650-2000 whales by the time the ban was introduced. The population growth after the ban as been very slow and a 2002 report estimated a worldwide estimation between 5000 – 12,000 after almost 40 years of protection. The Blue whale is still classified as a Endangered Species. While the world was counting whales elsewhere a small population of whales around Sri Lanka, was growing unseen and unchecked by everybody due to the 30 years of terrorist war. After end of the war in 2009, 3 locations around Sri Lanka was found to be bubbling with Blue whales, Ocras (killer whales), Sperm Whales, Pilot Whales, Whale Sharks and large pods of Dolphins What is unique about the Blue whales around Sri Lanka are that some colonies remain in the same area through out the year while most whales worldwide travel thousands of kilometers each year in search of food sources. Therefore whales can be seen through out year in Sri Lanka but there are peaks months where the migrant whales joins the feast.

There are 3 areas which has become world hot spots for Blue whales which is said to have 70% – 90% strike rate based on the time of the season.(Trincomalee,mirissa kalpitiya.)

Dolphin Watching Sri Lanka

 

The seas of Trincomalee was knows the whale population since 1980. Today few small boats operates off coast of Trincomalee which is more suitable for watching dolphins. Currently only the Sri Lankan Navy operates a ship with adequate facilities for whale watching. The whale watching season for Trincomalee is May to August

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Choosing a Tour Operator in Sri Lanka

If you are planning to visit Sri Lanka for your next holiday, one of the most crucial decisions apart from what you want to do and see in Sri Lanka would be to find a suitable and reliable Tour Operator. This can be a daunting task to ensure language ability, knowledge on the places visited, punctuality, personality and above all integrity.

Here are a few guidelines on how to find that perfect Tour Operator to suite you and what to expect from Tour Operators in Sri Lanka.

1)      You should first look for a tour operator attached with a reputed travel agency that offers all major tour and travel related services under one roof. This will not only ensure the best rates as they will enjoy bulk booking discounts from trade partners but you will also benefit from their assurance and standard of service offering.

2)      Choose a travel agent based in Colombo to organize and handle your tour. Why? Because your tour will start at the Colombo International Airport and agents based in Colombo will offer transport and guides from Colombo, which is cheaper than having your vehicle transported from anywhere else on the island.

3)      All travel agents are supposed to be registered with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board. You can check on the tourist board website to see if your chosen travel agent’s name is registered.   (http://www.srilanka.travel/index.php?route=travel/travelagents&operator_alphabet=R&operator_district=Colombo)

4)      Having a professional and informative website may be another good sign of a reliable agency. Websites are expensive to design, develop and maintain and agencies that do have a good website would have invested heavily and is a good sign of its longevity and commitment to providing the highest quality of service.

5)      Look for agencies that are owned and managed by groups. This is another reliable aspect as the agency will have to maintain reputable standards to ensure the good name of the group it represents.

6)      You can also search online to learn more about the travel agent’s reputation and recommendations by other travelers.

Things you should avoid when choose a Tour Operator or Travel Agent:

1)      Although there is a very strong and active tourist police division, there are many unlicensed touts that operate outside the International Airport and at many popular tourist destinations. You should avoid these at all times as there are an unreliable source of information and can be dangerous to you and your fellow travelers.

2)      Avoid planning and booking your holiday on arrival. Unlike other well developed countries, Sri Lanka’s tourism services are still at its infancy. There are no proper service providers at the airport, accept for representatives from major star category hotels in Colombo.

3)      Planning your trip on arrival can also be very expensive as you will pay the “walk-in” rate, as suppose to the discounted agent rates enjoyed by travel agents. Representatives and touts at the airport also know that you have no choice and will hike prices.

4)      Avoid using “tuk-tuk” drivers as tour operators.

5)      Guides and chauffeur guides are NOT travel agents and will not get agency discounted rates when booking hotels. Hence you will pay the “walk-in” rates which are much higher plus local taxes. They will also not have access to emergence services and backup.

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Weather in Sri Lanka – Best time to visit Sri Lanka

The best time to visit Sri Lanka is during December & February. The climate in the lowland areas are cooler, it’s the season for the West Coast beaches and has moderate rainfall. Having said that Sri Lanka is a year round destination. During July to September, during the European and Middle Eastern summer, the tourism industry is at its busiest with many traveling to enjoy the crystal blue waters of the East coast beaches. The rest of the year too visitors can enjoy the sun, travel to different parts of the island and enjoy similar experiences with less crowdWeather in Sri Lankas at cultural sites and without the peak-period surcharges.

The coastal regions and the lowland areas of Sri Lanka is always relatively hot and humid. On the central mountain region of the island the temperature reflects the degree of cloud cover. In Nuwara Eliya, over 2000 meters up in the central highlands, the average daytime temperatures hover around 16 degrees Celsius, but you need to be prepared for the chill in the evenings. Only the northeast occasionally experience temperatures of above 38 degrees Celsius.

Ideally, when you are packing for your Sri Lankan holiday, pack for a hot tropical climate. That’s cotton or linens, modest/decent (Sri Lankas are generally conservative and you might want to be respectful with your choice of clothes) shorts and singles, stick to light colours that won’t absorb the hot sun, plenty of sun block, hats and sun glasses. Even if it rains, the temperature is still warm and all you may need is a rain coat or umbrella. All tour guides will carry a set of umbrellas in their vehicles.

If you are planning on visiting Nuwara eliya or the Mountain region of Sri Lanka a pull-over cardigan and a few socks is all you may need.

Sri Lanka’s location, just north of the equator, places it on the main track of the two monsoons which dominate South Asia’s weather systems. Derived from the Arabic word mausim(meaning season), the ‘monsoon’ is now synonymous with ‘rains’. Strictly however it refers to the wind reversal which replaces the relatively cool, dry and stable northeasterlies, characteristic from Oct to May, with the very warm and wet southwesterlies from May to October. However, the northeasterlies, which originate in the arid interior of China, have crossed over 1500km off the Bay of Bengal by the time they reach Sri Lanka, and thus even the northeast monsoon brings rain, especially to the north and east of the island.

Nearly three quarters of Sri Lanka lies in what is widely known as the ‘dry zone’, comprising the northern half and the whole of the east of the country. Extensively forested and with an average annual rainfall of between 1200-1800 mm, much of the region does not seem unduly dry, but like much of southeast India, virtually all of the region’s rain falls between October and January. The rain often comes in relatively short but dramatic bursts. Habarana, for example located between Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura received 1240mm (nearly 20inches) of rain in the three days around Christmas in 1957. These rains caused catastrophic floods right across the Dry Zone.

The ‘Wet Zone’ (the mountains and the southwestern part of the country) also receives some rain during this period, although the coastal regions of the southwest are in the rain shadow of the Central Highlands, and are much drier than the northeast between November and January. The southwest monsoon sweeps across the Arabian Sea like a massive wall of warm moist air, often over 10,000m thick. The higher slopes of the Central Highlands receive as much as 4000 mm during this period, while even the coastal lowlands receive over 500 mm.

From late October to December cyclonic storms often form over the Bay of Bengal, sometimes causing havoc from the southern coast of India northwards to Bangladesh. Sri Lanka is far enough south to miss many of the worst of these, but it occasionally suffers major cyclones. These generally come later in the season, in December and January and can cause enormous damage and loss of life.

The Wet Zone rarely experiences long periods without rain. Even between the major monsoon period’s widespread rain can occur. The occasional thunderstorms bring short cloudbursts to the south and southwest between March and May, and depressions tracking across the Bay of Bengal can bring heavy rain in October and November.

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Sri Lanka Airport transfers

Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), is Sri Lanka’s main international airport, and many flights operate to and from here. There is a new and much larger airport in the South know as Mahinda Rajapakse International Airport(MRIA). The number of flights operating from here is limited for now but will grow as the regional traffic increases.

BIA is located in Katunayake, 30km north of Colombo. It has modern facilities including duty free shops which sell many branded goods, liquor, cigarettes, perfumes and a range of white goods. Major banks are represented by branches in the arrivals lounge, offering a good range of exchange, and there is an ATM that accepts most cards. It might be a good idea to register for a local mobile network. The sim card is free and the top ups can be done at any corner shop throughout the country. The mobile usage charges are very competitive and will give you the easy of being connected while traveling through the island.

There is a pre-paid taxi stand and several hotel and tour company booths just after you pass arrivals lounge. Be cautious with the pre-paid taxi stand as at times the vehicles are not available and the money is taken in advance without this aspect being mentioned to the travellers. You can wait as much as 1 to 3 hours for a vehicle to return back from a transfer. Public transport itself does not exist but a very irregular bus service operates outside the airport for local day to day travelers.

Avoid accommodation touts and transportation touts hanging outside the airport. There are many scams and you don’t want to ruin your Sri Lankan experience by making a wrong choice.

Ideally you should pre-book your airport transfer with a reliable tour operator or taxi company. Private transportation is generally expensive in Sri Lanka due to the high tax paid for imported vehicles, so don’t be surprised at the rates quoted.

If you are going to arrive late, it is best to book a hotel or guesthouse in Negombo for the first night (and arrange in advance to be picked up from the airport) and then start your travels or tour the next morning.

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Family Holiday to Sri Lanka

There is no better destination than Sri Lanka for your next family holiday. If you are looking for fancy arcades and shopping malls with theme parks, Sri Lanka is may not be the perfect choice for you. But as one of the last remaining non-commercialized tourist destinations in Asia, Sri Lanka offers a exciting and safe holiday experiences.

Families can choose a range of activities to suite their interests and relaxation.

For Families traveling with Young Children:

Family Holiday - Sharing experiences with local children in Sri Lanka

Family Holiday – Sharing experiences with local children in Sri Lanka

-          Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a must. Although fairly commercialized travelers traveling with young kids can watch the elephants bathing and feeding at close proximity without having to worry about the safety. The march from the orphanage to the river nearby is definitely a highlight of the whole experience for kids.

-          For a little bit of a Cultural Tour experience Kandy is rewarding. There is not much traveling involved in getting to Kandy from Colombo making it comfortable for parents traveling with young kids. The Royal Botanical Gardens is a great place to let the kids stretch their legs and run free.

-          Beaches – The beaches certainly are a rewarding addition to your itinerary when you are traveling with young kids. A carefree relaxing few days to enjoy the tropical beaches with the family will not only help families to bound and play but parents too can sneak off to a well deserved Ayurvedic Spa routine offered at many of the main coast resorts.

-          A wild life safari in Yala is another thrilling experience for children. The thrill of the sighting, anticipated wait and the rugged terrain all add up to an adventurous experience for the whole family to enjoy.

For Families traveling with Teenage/Older children:

Scuba Diving Holidays in Hikkaduwa

Scuba Diving Holidays in Hikkaduwa

-          Hikkaduwa, would be the place you would have to include in your tour itinerary. This is the most popular beach hang out for party goers, surfers and the young sun lovers.

-          For a more adventurous family experience add activities such as White Water Rafting in Kithulgala, Hot air balloon rides, Rock Climbing and Cave Explorations in Sinharaja forest, Wild life safaris at either Yala or Wilpattu, just to name a few.

-          Cultural educational tours are also a great way to build interest amongst the young travelers to the country’s history and past.

Whatever options you choose from and no matter what age group your children are in, if you choose the right mix of activities and places visit, your sure to have a memorable holiday experience in Sri Lanka.

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