Combine a deeper exploration of Sri Lanka and the Maldives in one journey, creating a nuanced trip that looks beyond the headline beach bliss. Compare and contrast both destinations’ inspiring conservation projects, wildlife habitats, intricate cultures and local rhythms to gain distinctive insight into Sri Lankan and Maldivian ways of life.
Experience the beauty of Sri Lanka’s lush landscapes and wildlife conservation by exploring National Parks and hillside trails, before heading across to the Maldives for a different angle. Take to the water to see the region’s diverse marine life and discover more about the delicate ecosystems and the projects working tirelessly to preserve them. Experience Maldivian culture, and life beyond the reefs, as you discover how the local community is playing a vital role in protecting their natural paradise home.
Start your Sri Lankan travels with some well-deserved relaxation in a very special setting: the Horathapola Coconut Estate, which is both a working coconut farm and peaceful retreat. Located just an hour away from the airport, this elegant, tea plantation bungalow, set within 50 acres of lush grounds, presents a comfortable and stylish way to begin your journey.
The garden is full of wildlife and the farm is home to livestock (including ponies and buffalo), whilst the kitchen serves up a variety of delicious, traditional Sri Lankan dishes. Take a dip in the saltwater pool, explore the extensive grounds, or venture a little further with visits to nearby villages by bike for a deeper taste of the area’s beautiful countryside.
The Mudhouse is an off-grid haven full of unconventional appeal, comprising a handful of bungalow-style ‘huts’ that boast outdoor showers, open-sided walls and no electricity. These mud-made houses promise a predominantly alfresco experience amidst locally-sourced decor, tree roots and bamboo wind chimes. It’s a fantastic escape for anyone who really wants to experience something outside the norm, from families to intrepid adventurers, and we absolutely love it.
There’s no better place to fully immerse yourself in the wider Sri Lankan landscape and discover some of the country’s less-lauded wildlife. Abundant birdlife fills the surrounding forests where you can take gentle strolls or hardy hikes, keeping a look out for mouse deer, jungle fowl, porcupines, tortoises and monkeys. Head out at twilight and you might even catch sight of a shy slender loris. Take part in impromptu cooking classes, cycle out to explore further, or just soak up the tranquillity.
Taking part in a Sri Lankan safari, to spot some of Asia’s most iconic animals in their natural habitats, is definitely one for the bucket list. Luckily, Sri Lanka has 26 National Parks where creatures large and small can be glimpsed with help from expert guides. Wilpattu is the largest, offering sightings of elephants, crocodiles and deer, as well as a plethora of exotic birdlife, between its lakes known as ‘villus’. The park is also home to the elusive leopard, with dusk and dawn being the best times to head out in the hope of a sighting.
Located on the edge of the National Park, Wilpattu Safari Camp’s intimate set-up is easy to reach by road and offers a really special glamping experience. Managed by a team of wildlife photographers and active conservationists, it offers valuable insight into the conservation issues in the park and the measures being taken to mitigate them, as well as experts to guide you to the most considerate observation spots.
The highlands north of Kandy present a refreshing counterpoint to the city’s energy. The landscape begs you to stop and soak up the views as you hike, or watch the sunset from a tea estate terrace. Nestled in these highlands, the Ashburnham Tea Estate offers an intimate setting to round off your time in Sri Lanka. The characterful 1930s house, set within its own 100-acre tea estate, features opulent touches with distinctive, old-world charm.
Take a guided tour of the tea fields, try your hand at tea-picking, join a guided walk through the estate and dine on Sri Lankan classics before learning how to whip them up for yourself in a cooking class.
Begin the Maldives part of your journey on the small island of Villimale, just 10 minutes from Malé Airport, where you can take in the pastel coloured houses and enjoy the quiet atmosphere of a locally lived-on Maldives island. Learn about the impact of development on the archipelago’s coral reefs and the initiatives fighting for their conservation, such as Save the Beach. This inspiring NGO works to maintain the Maldives’ aquatic ecosystems by monitoring the reef, organising beach cleans and boosting local engagement through education programs.
Hop across to Hulhumale, nestled in the North Malé Atoll, to discover an island which offers a down-to-earth alternative to the flagship Maldives opulence. While it may not boast a 5-star resort, Hulhumale is the perfect hidden gateway to the Maldives. There is a selection of cafes, restaurants and shops where you can rub shoulders with the locals, and a stretch of sandy beach that’s perfect for a leisurely swim.
Back in the capital, discover the delights of Malé city as you listen to the stories of Hukuru Miskiy (the Friday Mosque), take in the sights, sounds and smells at the markets, and learn the deeper history of this unusual cluster of islands.
At the heart of Mathiveri island stands a majestic, 500-year-old Banyan tree - a landmark visible from the ocean - which marks it out from the others nearby. Despite being very small in size, the island has a thriving local community. Get a taste of traditional Maldivian culture at a local cafe with 'hedika': an assortment of savoury and sweet treats paired with black tea that’s usually eaten in the mid afternoon. When you need to unwind, Mathiveri boasts a private visitors’ beach equipped with sun umbrellas and loungers – the perfect spot to relax.
Embark on an underwater adventure at Mathiveri’s house reef, where a kaleidoscope of marine life hides amongst the colourful coral. Sadly, these rich marine ecosystems are under serious threat due to climate change and human interference. Discover more about the Maldives’ delicately-balanced habitats, and the measures to protect them, through the inspiring Olive Ridley Project, who work to mitigate negative impacts through environmental monitoring and turtle studies. Be sure to take an underwater camera with you when snorkelling so you can contribute to their vital photo database.
Ukulhas is a vibrant island covered in lush greenery, with a white sandy beach that spans nearly the entire perimeter. The island is deeply connected to the fishing industry, providing an ideal opportunity to learn about the Maldives' fishing heritage and its cultural significance. Gain insights into the pioneering sustainable practices employed by local fishermen, highlighting their dedication to maintaining a delicate ecological balance, and learn about the valuable work of the Manta Trust who focus on environmental monitoring and manta ray studies.
Snorkel over Ukulhas’s house reef, which is accessible straight from the beach, in seas teeming with marine life including turtles, stingrays, eagle rays and reef sharks. Embark on a sunset kayaking or SUP tour, paddling through the serene lagoon as the setting sun turns the sky pink, or relax with a picnic lunch on a nearby sandbank or uninhabited desert island.
As the gateway to the top of North Ari Atoll, Rasdhoo Island is renowned for its proximity to some of the finest dive sites in the Maldives. Set out by boat to snorkel over nearby reefs in the hope of seeing vibrant schools of reef fish, batfish, tuna, and parrot fish. Rasdhoo's top claim to fame lies in the black and white tip reef sharks that circle in its waters, so keep your eyes peeled as you cruise...
This area is also home to dolphins, and lucky visitors get to see them gracefully jumping through the waves. Learn about the diverse dolphin species in the region from an experienced guide, and discover more about their habits, social dynamics, and the integral role they play in the ecosystem, before returning to shore to give back to this beautiful country by participating in a beach clean.
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