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Accommodation Koh Samui Thailand

The Royal Muang Samui Villas – Your Slice of Thai Paradise

April 25, 2017

If you’re looking for paradise, look no further – we’ve found it at Choengmon Beach on Koh Samui, Thailand!

The Royal Muang Samui Villas have many fabulous room options. They range in price (to suit most budgets) and offer absolutr luxury to those seeking it.  Regardless of your choice, all  79 rooms are tastefully decorated with a mixture of traditional and contemporary Thai styled décor.  The spacious rooms are elegant and comfortable, including lovely touches to help ensure your stay is memorable.

Royal Muang Samui Villas Koh Samui hotel reviewWe opted to stay in one of the Pool Suite Garden View rooms and we were not disappointed – in fact I loved it so much it was hard to get me out!

Our suite included a small but peaceful outdoor terrace and private pool which could be accessed both via the cute outdoor terrace area and conveniently through the bathroom area (which meant we didn’t need to traipse through our room whilst sopping wet).

The bathroom itself was probably bigger than my last apartment and included an amazing whirlpool jacuzzi. It was such a pleasure to relax in the spa bath whilst being treated to stunning views of the pool and garden.

We found our stay at Royal Muang Samui Villas not only to be luxurious but incredibly relaxing and fulfilling – an awesome getaway, without doubt.

Fabulous Facilities

The facilities at the resort are first class through and through.

Cave Rai Ra Beach Spa is a unique spot that’s beautifully styled.  Located behind the waterfall in the pool area, treatments are provided in a cave-themed environment which is both inviting and exotic.

The spa is open from 10.00am – 10.00pm daily and offers various spa treatments and packages.

If your idea of relaxing requires a little more energy, there’s a well-equipped fitness room, kids corner and a complimentary shuttle service (offered four times a day to the sister beachfront resort in the bustling Chaweng Beach).

Not a villa resident lucky enough to have your own private pool?  Don’t worry – there’s a beautiful swimming pool surrounded by tropical palm trees with an amazing view out to Choengmon Beach.

If the beach is more your thing, there are plenty of sun loungers. That’s not the best part though – wait until you spot the buzzer! If you’re in need of a refreshing drink, cocktail or a spot of lunch, give it a ding and your wish will be their command.

Does it get better than that?

Extensive Activities on Offer

Alongside these facilities, the hotel also offers an exciting activities programme – the details of which are communicated through a weekly newsletter which will be delivered to your room.

They have an enticing array of options that include basic Thai language and cultural classes, Thai cooking, learning to make flower garlands, bike tours, morning yoga classes and many more.

Unfortunately our limited stay didn’t give us time to try out any of the classes and we were highly disappointed to have missed the Thai cooking class the day we arrived.  If you can make it into the kitchen, enjoy a delicious self-made curry for us!

To make your experience truly unique the hotel has a little floating market every Wednesday from 6pm – 11pm.  The floating market gives guests a taste of an authentic, traditional Thai experience without having to leave the hotel (but of course you’ll want to venture further afield too!)

I’m intrigued to know how exactly they fit everything they promise into the tiny canal in front of the hotel but next time you can bet we’ll include a Wednesday in our stay to experience the exquisite food and local products on offer!

Cuisine to Write Home About

There are three restaurants onsite, offering a range of delicious food.  After all, everyone knows meal times are one of the highlights of a good holiday!

Spice Zone, where you will find the breakfast buffet, provides a stunning setting to start your day.  The view overlooks luscious gardens and the beach, inviting guests to savour the first light of day.

The buffet is your typical hotel buffet, including a various fresh juices, a selection of bread, pastries, breakfast cereals, cheeses, cold cut meats and fresh fruit.  The hot section changes daily however it always has an egg station where they cook your eggs to order.  If you’re keen to make breakfast that little bit more luxurious (and why wouldn’t you?) they have sparkling wine and a bloody Mary station!

We also chose to dine at Spice Zone one evening and loved the romantic beach setting. The soft light glowing lanterns and the beautiful music provided by two very talented vocalists whom were accompanied by a guitar made it a meal to remember.

Whilst the restaurant offers different deals and specials on different evenings we opted for the la carte menu and to try the local food – it was a great choice!  Throughout the evening, the staff were extremely attentive and the extra gestures they made ensured we left happy.

You will also find Ciccio Ristorante & Pizzeria and Samui Sailor Grill & Restaurant at the resort, both serving up what looked to be delicious food!

Off to Thailand?  Book Yourself in at the Royal Muang Samui Villas

This spectacular resort lived up to everything we were expecting and more!

Aside from the gorgeous setting, the amazing rooms and the great location, the staff at Royal Muang Samui Villas are so incredibly friendly, helpful and warm.

They  ensured every part of our stay was as glorious and relaxing as we’d envisioned (and then some!)  It says a lot when you stay at a resort as gorgeous as this one and the staff still manage to shine – the team at Royal Muang really went above and beyond to make our stay a memorable one!


We have no affiliation to Royal Muang in any way, we just loved our stay and wanted to give you the heads up.  If you do decide to visit Koh Samui we do not doubt that you’ll be just as impressed as us.

day trip Europe Iceland

How to See Iceland’s Golden Circle Without the Crowds

April 23, 2017

The Golden Circle is Iceland’s most popular day trip and for good reason – it’s close to Reykjavik, is suitable for those looking to drive themselves and offers an excellent variety of unique scenery.

We elected to leave our rental car parked up for the day and joined Moonwalker.

Why?

Because even though you can drive the Golden Circle, we discovered there’s a better way to see Iceland’s most famous route.  Not only did we get to sit back and relax but joining a private tour meant we were treated to benefits that would have been out of reach in our rental.

Iceland Golden Circle Tour Review MoonwalkerSee Everything at the Right Time

When you’re travelling with an expert, you will of course benefit from their expertise – it only makes sense!

Bessi understood how to best work around the limited daylight hours we faced, fitting all of the standard Golden Circle stops in alongside one extra-special-you-can’t-do-it-by-yourself one (more on that soon).

Thanks to his local knowledge (like the best place to get chicken wings – just ask him), we were also generally able to avoid the crowds and maximise our time at each location.

We’re not kidding either – check out our photos.  Each of those locations is normally jam-packed with tourists but Bessi knew exactly how to work things, often leaving us incredible tourist hotspots practically to ourselves.

Iceland Golden Circle Tour Review MoonwalkerHead Off Road – Lose Yourself in Iceland’s Back Country

As we already mentioned, it is absolutely possible to drive Iceland’s Golden Circle yourself but the one absolute highlight of our day cannot be achieved without expert help.

Iceland Golden Circle Tour Review MoonwalkerBeing greeted by a sign like this puts a halt to your average driver but not these guys!

Trekking up through Kjölur, the Moonwalker truck battled knee-deep powder with ease.  Out in what felt like the middle of nowhere, we plowed our way to Skálpanes where we were rewarded with plenty of opportunities for snow-angels and views out over the most incredible, all-encompassing white landscape.

On days with less snowfall, Moonwalker leads the charge up to Langjökull where he actually takes his customised Land Rover onto the glacier.  Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for us but the deep snow made for an exciting ride and we came down off the ‘track’ well and truely happy.

Worried about getting stuck up there?

Don’t be!

With an extensive history in search and rescue, Bessi’s the man they call when others find themselves in a bind.  He’s got the gear required to get out of a difficult situation and the experience to seldom need it.

Iceland Golden Circle Tour Review MoonwalkerRelax and Enjoy the Ride!

One of the things we love most about travelling are the challenges we face.  Getting from A to B, figuring out how each new country works – navigating these differences is all part of the fun.

Sometimes though, travelling can be hard work.

When you can occasionally hand the reins over to someone that will do an amazing job, why wouldn’t you?

Bessi’s truck comes hooked up with complimentary WiFi (because, let’s face it, you won’t be short of Instagrammable material), he’ll stop anywhere you like and does all the hard work for you.

On a number of occasions, Bessi dropped us at one location and arranged to meet us at another – this saved doubling back, giving us more time to squeeze additional photo-stops in.  Now that’s something we couldn’t have made work in our rental!

Arrive as Strangers, Leave as Friends

Before we arrived in Iceland, we’d exchanged a few emails with Bessi to organise our tours but after spending only two days with him, both Nathan and I were genuinely sad to say goodbye.

I’m not sure what it is about Bessi but he instantly made us feel at ease.  With a great sense of humour and warm and welcoming demeanour, we laughed our way around the Golden Circle, more like long-lost-friends than clients.

A quick look at Moonwalker’s TripAdvisor page makes it clear that we’re not the only ones to feel this way.

And yes, you should check out his page – we’ve never seen so many positive reviews in one place!

Iceland Golden Circle Tour Review MoonwalkerIceland is beyond gorgeous – it’s absolutely everything I had hoped it would be and more.

What better way than to see it than by avoiding the crowds and heading up into the deserted highlands with one of the best tour guides we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting?

Practical Information

As Moonwalker customises each of their tours to suit the needs of their guests and the weather, your tour may not look exactly like ours but chances are it will include a visit to the following sights:

  • Faxi Waterfall – A relatively small waterfall by Iceland standards but a lovely first photo-stop.
  • Haukadalur – A geothermal wonderland and home to Strokkur, Iceland’s active geyser.
  • Gullfoss Waterfall – One of Iceland’s most powerful and certainly its most visited waterfall.
  • Kjölur – The best 4WDing experience to be had in Iceland.
  • Þingvellir National Park – The birthplace of Icelandic government and a stunning example of continental drift (plus a beautiful place for a hike).

Bessi requires a minimum of two guests for a tour to go ahead or if you’d prefer, you can book him out for the day yourselves and make the most of a truely customised trip – either way, we guarantee your days with Moonwalker will hands-down be amongst the best of your time in Iceland.

Iceland Golden Circle Tour Review Moonwalker

Have more time up your sleeve?  Check out Snæfellsnes Peninsula or the South-East Coast of Iceland.


 Iceland is known for its natural, rugged beauty but as time goes on, almost for its crowds of tourists. Find out how to organise your itinerary to make the most of your holiday to the Golden Circle, whether you join the best tour in Iceland or self-drive. Iceland is known for its natural, rugged beauty but as time goes on, almost for its crowds of tourists. Find out how to organise your itinerary to make the most of your holiday to the Golden Circle, whether you join the best tour in Iceland or self-drive. Iceland is known for its natural, rugged beauty but as time goes on, almost for its crowds of tourists. Find out how to organise your itinerary to make the most of your holiday to the Golden Circle, whether you join the best tour in Iceland or self-drive.

Thank you to Bessi of Moonwalker for having us along as his guests.  As always, all thoughts are our own.  Even if we paid twice the price of his tour, we’d be singing his praises!

Remember that although driving the Golden Circle yourself is possible, venturing up Kjölur is not – do yourself a favour and get in touch with Bessi.

Adventure New Zealand

Anything But a Light Paddle: White Water Rafting Down the Kaituna River (and the Largest Commercially Rafted Waterfall in the World!)

April 22, 2017
Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New Zealand

Kiwis sort of have a track record of being a little crazy, and white water rapids seem to bring out the worst of us as seen here and here, however could I really call myself a travel blogger if I didn’t jump on every opportunity to try out as many of the activities New Zealand has to offer?

Probably not.

So when my partner mistakenly tells me I would NOT be gate crashing a boys day out before his best friend got married (keyword here mistakenly), of course I jumped on board for white water rafting in Rotorua, before heading to Cambridge for the gorgeous wedding of our two friends.

I’m going to say it right away, I have not a single regret and thoroughly enjoyed the escapade, however it did leave me a little shaken.

I’m not the biggest adrenaline-junkie around but I do love giving things a shot.  I also have this strange habit of going gung-ho into these sorts of activities feeling no fear, but then once I actually experience them for what they are (e.g. a little bit dangerous) I’m left questioning my sanity.

I have to admit, this was definitely one of those times.

Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New ZealandWe booked with Kaituna Cascades, a really fun group of guys, who look like they truly love their job. We signed up for their highest grade of rafting, a choice I thoroughly recommend.  It’s not overly exerting, it’s not particularly dangerous and the views are beautiful.

The trip takes you down (up?) the Kaituna river, through ‘historical’ rusty old power plants, beautiful inlets of water, cliff sides covered in classic Kiwi foliage and sends you careering through some stunning green water.

But let’s be real here – you’re not going white water rafting for a peaceful row through scenic vistas!

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re the kind of person looking for the next opportunity to be pushed around, thrown about, tipped upside down, and in one unfortunate instance, smashed pelvis-first into a rock.

Ok. Maybe you aren’t looking for that last experience – but don’t worry, I’ve got some tips at the end to hopefully keep you bruised-pelvis free…

For my first experience white water rafting, I would say this was definitely a good fit. While it has a pretty significant waterfall drop at one point (OK, it might just be the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world!), as white water goes this was pretty easy-going and a good starting point for anyone who, like me, might be afraid of getting the technique wrong.

When it comes down to it, there’s really nothing to it but to listen to your instructor and do as much shouting as you can – and you will shout!

But wait – what was that I said about a smashed pelvis??? Don’t worry, no bones were broken, just a serious bruise and that’s definitely avoidable.

Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New ZealandWhile the guys at Kaituna were awesome and made sure they did the utmost to ensure we all had the best time that we could, I still ended up getting hurt. Which I suppose is what you risk – or even hope for – when doing something like white water rafting.

There were two spots on the trip where they said we could get out and swim; the first being a lovely gorge-like area of the river, and the second being um… right before a waterfall.

So that first one sounds great, right?! And it was. It was like being swirled around in a giant pool – a pool surrounded by nature and people laughing from exhilaration.

That last one, though? Um, not so great. We all jumped at the opportunity to dive back in the water after the fun we had in the gorge!  Just quietly, I think the instructor was keen to get us in too, as he didn’t manage to get us to flip the boat going down the big waterfall.

In retrospect, perhaps this wasn’t the most strategic place to get out of the raft though?

We all found ourselves careering towards the waterfall and despite the instructors’ best efforts to call us back to the boat, our swimming was no match for the current. In the end, one of us went down the waterfall by himself – a fairly scary experience I would say – while my partner and I were instructed to hold onto the side of the boat as it went down.

Now, I’m not an expert – as I said this was my first time rafting – but holding onto a boat as it goes wherever it pleases down a rocky waterfall? It was less than ideal.

Not only did we have the full force of the current, but also the full weight of the boat on top of us.  Both Michael and I were slammed against the rocks and then dragged across them.

Honestly, the experience shook me quite a bit and from there I was kind of keen to get out of the water.

Regardless of this, I thoroughly recommend the Kaituna Cascades guys and I absolutely recommend trying out white water rafting.  I’d just encourage everyone to be a little bit more wary of when you get out of the boat. Oh, and please, PLEASE don’t hold onto the side of a raft as it slams its way down a waterfall.

Just trust me on this one.


Off to New Zealand?  On the hunt for adventure?  Pin this post!

Find out what it's like to go over the biggest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. New Zealand, home of adventure sports should be next on your list! Rotorua, NZ

As this was a last minute plan, I didn’t have my GoPro on me but I would like to give a big shout out to Jacob Laukaitis who went down the river with us and got some awesome footage. He hasn’t put the clips into a Youtube video but when he does you can find them here, or see a bunch of his awesome travel shots on his Instagram account.

blogging Budapest Destinations Hungary

Sziget Festival: A Survival Guide for 30-Somethings

April 15, 2017
Sziget Festival Survival Guide http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/gitpics/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/16001446/Colour-party-at-Sziget.-Photo-by-Rockstar-Photography.jpg

We all know that the height of uber-cool things to do during the summer months is go to a music festival (according to my 18 year-old students). In my 20s I made it to a couple of festivals in Europe and V-Fest in the UK but have sadly never made it to the daddy of all UK festivals – Glastonbury.  At least I’ve not made it yet.

However, last summer my friend and frequent travel buddy Liz suggested we hit up Sziget Festival in Budapest – a SEVEN day extravaganza of music and artistry. She had ended up there during her travels the year before on a day ticket to see Florence & The Machine and realised this was something that needed doing properly.

The inner teenager in me enthusiastically said, “Yeah, cool, let’s do it!”  Then of course my inner monologue was hijacked by middle-aged Joanne, the woman who likes to sleep in comfy beds surrounded by silence, take daily showers, use clean loos and wash her hands afterwards. Seven days is a whole lotta festival!

I’m no travel snob, not by any means, but I couldn’t help recall my last festival camping experience where we were pitched next to some absolute (*insert choice words here*) who thought inhaling laughing gas from balloons at 4am and falling onto our tent was standard, accepted festival behaviour. We ended up leaving a night early and driving to my friend’s house in London, desperate for a hot shower, a mattress, a duvet and some peace.

So this time around, at the ages of 33 and 36, we decided to do our research and find a fuddy-duddy friendly festival plan that allowed us to remain cool and down-with-the-kids, whilst also satisfying our need for a bit of R&R.

If I do say so myself, we did an ace job, so here are my top tips for surviving Sziget in your 30s…

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Invasion Mag

1. Do not Camp at the Festival

Sziget is held on Óbudai-sziget (‘Old Buda Island’), an island in the middle of the Danube aptly dubbed ‘The Island of Freedom’ by the organisers for the week of the festival.

There are a number of reasons I could give for not camping, one of them being that you end up being kind of stuck out there away from the other amazing sights Budapest has to offer. Of course there are transport links on and off the island (which I will come to) but with everything that is going on all day and night at the festival, you’d probably end up deciding to stick around rather than exploring the city.

Had we gone straight to camp on the island, we probably would never have experienced the “beer bike”, undoubtedly one of the most unusual and fun ways I’ve ever been sight-seeing. Basically, you and up to seven others pedal power what is essentially a bar on wheels. While your driver/guide steers up at the front, you cycle away and pull your own pints at the back. We threw in some sing-along entertainment too for good measure, gaining many a round of applause from admiring pedestrians.

Another reason not to camp is very simply because it’s uncomfortable, noisy and eventually, very smelly!

As with many festivals nowadays, there are a number of accommodation options on the island that are a significant step up from camping. We considered booking the ‘Flexotel’ option for a while – little shed-like cabins containing 2 beds, linen and towels, a power supply, storage space and access to separate bathroom facilities. It all sounded perfect for a couple of 30-something revellers until we realised we could get our own apartment in the city for a fraction of the cost.

The Flexotel rooms cost 895 euros for the week and that doesn’t include your actual festival ticket. It just didn’t make sense, and the cheaper option (tents) didn’t appeal at all.  

Staying in the city apartment meant we could come and go as we pleased while also having easy access to other attractions around Budapest. By the end of the week, as we walked around the island watching the haunted, dusty, exhausted youngsters dragging their zombified selves around, catching a whiff of them or their abodes every now and again, we knew we’d made the right choice.

Like I said, seven days is a long slog to be living in a small canvas triangle.

At this point I have to give a little shout out to Georgia, our host at Red Pearl apartment who, after getting over her initial annoyance at our arriving a bit later than expected, made us very welcome and even had a bottle of wine waiting for us on arrival. She has a couple of fully furnished, self-catering apartments in the same building, situated right in the heart of the city on a street with convenience stores, bars and restaurants. They can all be found on booking.com or AirB&B.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Love Music Travel

2. Know the Public Transport Times and Routes

If you do decide to stay in the city, it is well worth checking to see how close your accommodation is to a main metro line. Using public transport is really cheap which helped make our decision to stay in town an easy one.

We stayed a very short walk away from Kalvin-Ter metro station on the blue M3 metro line and getting to Sziget was pretty easy. We took the M3 a couple of stops, transferred onto the red M2 line going to the other side of the river to Batthyany-Ter station and then jumped onto the overland train up to the festival getting off at the Filatorigat stop with the rest of the cool kids. The whole journey took about 30 minutes.

The earlier you go, the less packed the trains are and the easier it is to get over the bridge and into the festival. Queues tend to get busier the later in the afternoon it got but we never had any major problems; it’s pretty well organised with portaloo stops along the way just in case.

Trains coming back off the island were pretty regular and ran until late at night to make sure everyone who stayed for the headline act could get back.

It is worth noting however that the metros do not follow suit and the last metro tends to finish before midnight, whereas the last train back from Sziget arrives back in the city after the clock ticks over into the next day.  Make sure you plan carefully or you may end up on a bus with no idea of which way it is going (guilty) or in a taxi costing more than your whole book of public transport tickets (guilty again)!

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Global Publicity

3. Get the App

Isn’t technology brilliant?

Remember the days when we had to wait for information about events to come through the post ON PAPER, or make phone calls to find out what in the world was going on then draw up an itinerary ON PAPER?!?

Well no more my globetrotting friends!

This has probably been happening for all sorts of festivals and events for years, but for me, being able to download a tailor-made app that could tell me pretty much anything I needed to know about acts, stages, shows, artists, times and locations was a whole new 21st century experience.

The Sziget Festival app is free to download and is a great way to plan your days and nights on the island. You can save the acts you want to see in your own personal planner so you know exactly where you need to go at the touch of a button.

Mind blown.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Gap 360

4. Locate the Good Toilets (and Bring Supplies)

Anyone who is a regular to festivals knows this one is pretty important.

You want to find the kind that actually flush, as opposed to the ones that have that pump lever that you try to avoid touching with your hands by using your foot (no? Just me?). Those are the loos that are going to be pretty horrendous after seven days of use by people who have been living on a staple diet of fast food and beer.

Luckily, at Sziget, there were a number of more “luxury” options scattered around which also had proper sinks and taps outside of them too (no soap however – take your sanitiser).

The most convenient of these were located right at the back of the main stage audience area which meant we didn’t have to journey far from the big acts when nature called.

It’s also worth having a supply of tissues with you (standard festival kit) as the loo roll provided runs out pretty quickly.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Festi Leaks

5. Get your Passport Stamped

A very cool aspect of the whole Sziget experience is the passport you are issued on arrival. Not only does it serve as your guide to the festival and the venue, it has two pages just waiting to be stamped at the many different tents, stations and areas around the island, just like a real passport.

What a novel way to get people exploring the whole venue during their stay!

We obviously made it our mission to collect every one of the 23 stamps, some of which you can only get at certain times of day, which in turn led to us trying out lots of the quirky activities: Travelling Funfair, Sportzone, Cirque Du Sziget, Ability Park, I Ching Labyrinth, Museum Quarter, and 17 more funtivity filled spots.

Once festival “Szitizens” have filled their passports with stamps (which also include a photo and a few funny personal details), they can claim their prize – free merchandise!

I got myself a snazzy bandana which I rocked on the last day. Which brings me to my next snippet of advice…

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: One Backpack Blog

6. Look the Part – Wear the Merch and Learn How to Braid

Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt?

Good, because you’re not part of the gang unless you’re wearing something Sziget branded.

To be honest, I bought my hoodie because it got a bit chilly at night but I was happy that my nanna-like need for warmth and comfort also allowed me to join the ranks of the other young, cool Szitizens.

As for hairstyles, it seems braids are back. I’m more of a bun and bandana girl myself, but I made sure Liz was a member of the braidy-bunch (you can thank me later, Liz).

Needless to say, we looked awesome! No, really.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Joanne – Exploring Kiwis

7. Laybags are the New Black

Laybags/Laysacks – these things go by a number of names these days but the concept is the same and they are the new essential item to have at open field events.

As regular concert and outdoor event goers, Liz and I had ordered a laybag each months before the festival but they had failed to turn up on time so we were rendered green with envy when half the population of Sziget had these very comfy looking, inflatable couch/beds.

I’m over the days of sweaty mosh-pits at festivals; I much prefer sitting back and chilling with a beer while watching my favourite artists rock out on stage, so having a big bouncy bag of air to recline on would have been lovely (*sigh). 

Having said that, now mine has arrived I can say with confidence that inflating them is not as simple as they make it seem on the adverts. Expect many a comedy moment as you run around trying to ‘catch’ air in the bloody thing!

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Absolute Tours

Have the Best Time – You’re Only as Old as you Feel!

Other than these few tried and tested tips, I would recommend trying as many of the food-trucks as possible (the Hungarian sausage being a personal favourite), wear comfy but ‘throw-away-able’ shoes, and don’t feel bad about missing things. There is so much going on that it would be impossible to do it all.

My bottom line?

Have fun.

Safe, warm, comfortable, clean fun!


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The biggest and best of music festival in all of Europe! Don't miss Sziget Festival - Budapest's amazing multi-day music fest. Need a little help surviving Sziget Festival? Budapest's music fest (one of the biggest in Europe) is amazing but a little advice will help ensure your experience is one to remember for all the right reasons.

Activities Adventure Asia Sri Lanka

Taking to the Skies over Bentota – Paramotoring and Heli Flights in Sri Lanka

April 13, 2017

Whether you’re an absolute adrenaline-junkie or a little more on the cautious side, Bentota in Sri Lanka has you covered.  Paramotoring and helicopters will help you take to the skies – without breaking the bank but with all of the fun!

Though we’d unequivocally recommend giving both a shot, we’ll explain the differences between the two offerings so you can make the right choice for you.

Paramotoring with Sky Club

Paramotoring was what initially took us to Bentota – it was an experience that neither of us had tried before and looked like the perfect combination of excitement and absolute peace in the skies.  We’d both been sky diving before and I’ve paraglided in the past so between the two, we thought we had an idea of what to expect.

Suren and Natalie run Sky Club, the leaders (and only certified operators) in Sri Lanka and they are hands-down the only company to head up on a paramotor with.  They single-handedly brought this sport to the island nation and worked with local aviation authorities to ensure proper regulations were established.  Once they were given the go-ahead to begin flying, the couple trained ex-air force personnel and never looked back.

During the course of your flight, you’ll sit securely in a custom-designed cart.  The parachute above your head controlling your direction (flown by the expertly trained pilot of course) whilst the massive fan behind him decides the height at which you fly.

The whole experience was surprisingly calm – from the effortless takeoff to the smooth landing, there was never a point in time where either of us felt nervous (which says a fair bit as Nathan’s not a fan of heights).

These machines just feel like they were built to soar through the sky – probably because they were!

Even if you don’t think you’re brave enough, we’d urge you to give paramotoring a go – it’s surprisingly manageable, even for the most nervous of flyers and you’ll certainly be in safe hands with the Sky Club team.

Heli Flights with Skylark

Following our paramotoring session (and a quick dip in the ocean), we made our way over to the heli pad and before we knew it were racing over Bentota in what was to be a significantly different experience.

Can you tell from the next picture how we felt about it?

If paramotoring was surprisingly relaxed with stunning views out over the ocean, our heli flight was an adrenaline-inducing adventure that practically had beach-goers on the ground ducking for cover (in the very best of ways!)

In safe hands, we hopped into our ride for the afternoon, suited up with our headphones and took to the skies for the second time that day.

Our flight started with a relaxed tour of the surrounding area, taking in Sri Lanka’s famous architecture, buddha statues and lighthouses before whizzing over the beach in an exciting acrobatic performance.

I’m sure you could ask for the more mundane version of this flight but, really, why would you?

How to Get to Bentota Beach

Located on the stunning Bentota Beach, you’ll find both Sky Club and Skylark within easy reach of each other – you can walk between the two in less than five minutes or, if like us, you go from one activity straight to another, the helicopter will even drop you off right outside the paramotoring spot.  How’s that for a memorable transfer!

Many people choose to stay in Bentota (which is half way between Colombo and Galle) but more so opt for the beaches in and around Galle or the historic city itself.

Trains

If you too are based near Galle, there are many trains that connect the two regions – we found the train station staff to be friendly and helpful and the train system easy to navigate making it a great option.  Second class tickets were only 100 Sri Lankan Rupees each (less than NZD1 or USD0.65 each) and the ride took approximately an hour.  If you’re planning on making the trip, you’ll find train times departing here and returning here.

Helpful Hint:  The Aluthgama train station is less than a kilometre from Bentota so if you find more convenient connections there, don’t be afraid to walk down or catch a tuk tuk – it’s incredibly easy to find.

Tuk Tuk

Before making a move for the beach we checked in regarding the train departure time but managed to misunderstand the time we needed to be back – who knew 3.15pm and 3.50pm could sound so similar?

Left with the choice of either waiting around for two hours for the next train (and missing our snorkelling session at Jungle Beach) or hiring a tuk tuk straight away, we elected to head back to Galle ASAP.  The tuk tuk to get home set us back LKR2,000 in total – though it was a significant price hike over the train, it ended up worth it to be back ready for the afternoon activities we had planned.

Tuk tuks in the area are generally comfortable and safe and heading back by road, we managed to catch some sights we didn’t see on the train.

Though we didn’t intend to hail a tuk tuk for the ride home, the combination of train and tuk tuk ended up working well for us whilst still keeping the costs relatively low.

Two Very Different Experiences, Both Equally Worthwhile…

If you have the time and the funds (and let’s face it, adventure activities like these don’t come any cheaper whilst retaining stringent safety standards), we really recommend you give both of these activities a go.

Sitting in the open air as the paramotor glided above the heads of visitors below was a fantastic experience – serene with a touch of excitement, we couldn’t take the smiles off our faces.  This activity is relatively unique to the area too so it’s a great opportunity to try something new.

By comparison, the helicopter ride in Bentota is chock-full of excitement with tight turns and sudden drops.  It’s not for the faint of heart but is a great way to get your pulse going and to see a little more of the area as you fly further inland.

Why choose one though, when for the price of trying one of these activities elsewhere, you can do both over one of Sri Lanka’s most gorgeous beaches?

It was an easy decision for us!


Looking for adventure in Sri Lanka? Yes you are! Check out paramotoring and heli rides at Bentota Beach - the most affordable adventure activities around! Fly high over Sri Lanka. Bentota Beach offers the most amazing paramotoring and heli rides at affordable prices. Find out why we recommend you take to the skies...

Thank you to Sky Club and Skylark for so kindly hosting us both for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Asia Sri Lanka

9 Reasons to Make Sri Lanka Your Next Holiday Destination!

April 11, 2017
Sigiriya Sri Lanka - 9 Reasons to Visit

Sri Lanka is gorgeous.

Wild, a little chaotic but undoubtedly stunning.

Find out why we would recommend a visit to this striking island nation for practically everyone…

 

1. Diverse Scenery

From white sand beaches to mountain tops, dense jungle to open safari plains, there isn’t much Sri Lanka doesn’t offer in terms of scenic diversity.  Driving through the tea fields, checking out plantations, the smell of cinnamon hanging in the air – what’s not to love?

Tea Country Sri Lanka tourism

2. Amazing Animal Encounters

Scuba diving and snorkelling, whale watching (most people spot multiple blue whales – the largest creatures on earth), safaris (with the highest concentration of leopards anywhere!), turtle releases, land monitors, chameleons and the most gorgeous birds.  If you’re keen to spend some time immersed in nature, Sri Lanka is the place to do it.

Sri Lanka tourism elephant safari

3. Live a Life of Luxury (even if only for a few nights)

Though Sri Lanka has plenty to offer the budget travellers, luxury is where it really shines.  With some of the best service that we’ve ever experienced, pools that are impossible to say no to and spacious, beautifully styled rooms, each and every high-end stay is one to remember.

Sri Lanka tourism luxury Kandy Kings Pavillion

4. Warm Smiles

Every single person we met in Sri Lanka made us feel welcome.  Every single one.  If people make the place, Sri Lanka’s a real winner.

Sri Lanka locals on bikes5. Surprising History

Over the years Sri Lanka has fallen under the influence of a number of a number of super-powers; the Portuguese, Dutch and British have all played in a role in the history of this island nation.  Galle, with its walled fortress is an excellent example of Sri Lanka’s colonial past, as are the pristinely kept bungalows around the country.

That’s not to mention Sri Lanka’s more home-grown history on display at the likes of Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa – both well worth a visit.

Sri Lanka tourism Galle thunderstorm sunset

6. Learn About a New Religion

Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism – Sri Lanka is home to a number of religions, signs of which can be seen throughout the country.  From striking multi-coloured Hindu shrines to giant Buddhas and stupas, the nods to religion are beautiful, whether you observe that religion or not.

Sri Lanka tourism religion Golden Buddha

7. Have an Adventure

Though not traditionally thought of as an adventurers playground, Sri Lanka certainly is!  We took to the skies in a paramotor and raced around in a helicopter.  We scrambled over rocks and abseiled into freshwater pools whilst canyoning and gave our muscles a workout on mountain bikes.

If you’re keen to extend your adventure, there are plenty of adventure glamping opportunities (check out Borderlands – amazing!) where your food, accommodation and activities will be included.

Sri Lanka tourism Borderlands adventure glamping

8. Get Off the Beaten Track

Sri Lanka is safe and the trains are easy to figure out so exploring on your own accord is an easy option.  Whether you borrow a bike from your bungalow or hike one of Sri Lanka’s many walking tracks there are plenty of opportunities to get out and about, exploring this beautiful island.

Sri Lanka tourism hiking Mini World's End

9. Eat Your Fill of Delicious Food

With fresh fruit and vegetables in abundance and a variety of takes on a traditional Sri Lankan curry, no visitor to this country goes hungry.  Fresh, tasty and well-seasoned, our curry meals were a real highlight.

Sri Lanka tourism Sri Lankan curry food

Sri Lanka offers so much to so many.  From budget accommodation to the most amazing luxury, complete relaxation on the beach to full-on adventure, it’s all there.

The only thing they’re waiting on is you!


Know someone that might love Sri Lanka?  Pin this post so they’ll find it!

9 reasons to visit Sri Lanka right now! Follow along as we spell out the best parts about Sri Lanka and why you need to visit right away! 9 reasons to visit Sri Lanka right now! Follow along as we spell out the best parts about Sri Lanka and why you need to visit right away!

If you’re off to Sri Lanka (and you should be), we recommend Red Dot Tours – they did an amazing job of putting together our itinerary for us and we could not recommend them more.

Brazil Destinations South America

The Beginners Guide to Rio Carnival – Everything You Need to Know

April 10, 2017
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/Carnaval_2014_-_Rio_de_Janeiro_%2812974016393%29.jpg

Bedazzled samba dancers parade through the streets, drunken revellers party until the early hours, vendors throw sweet caipirinhas into heaving crowds and a mass of beautiful people dance and sing their way late into the hot summer nights.  If you haven’t heard of Rio Carnival, let me introduce you…

Carnival is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil, but the festivities in Salvador and Rio de Janiero are the biggest and best. Rio is vibrant and exotic and its Carnival is a weeklong parade with sounds and colors turned all the way up. Most foreigners think of Rio when they think of Carnival and it’s no wonder why.

So what actually happens during Carnival?

Quite a lot, actually….

Bloccos are the block parties that cover the city streets, happening simultaneously in every neighborhood, all day, every day, for a week. Bloccos are, in a word, crazy.

Live bands play whilst hundred of thousands of people gather to drink and dance. It ends with the masses parading around with the band. So whether you plan to actually attend one of these or just wander about, you’ll be hitting these every few blocks.

This is the people’s Carnival – the free street celebration where you can wear whatever, drink whatever, do whatever and there are no rules. Anyone can be a part of it – this is what Carnival is all about!

The nightly parades at the Sambodrome are the ultimate Rio Carnival tradition and its claim to fame. Samba schools perform here, which are large dance teams that come from different neighbourhoods throughout the city. They have hundreds of people in each school, and the best schools are chosen at the end of the week.

We were lucky enough to actually be a part of this parade, and danced our elaborately dressed selves along the 13-block long stadium, while floats with men and women in incredible costumes followed alongside. The parade takes place on each of the 5 nights of Carnival, is completely packed, and doesn’t end until 5am or so.

Rio Carnival 2017What You Need to Know to Prepare for Carnival

1. Safety

Rio can be dangerous but if you are sensible and keep your wits about you, you’ll be fine. Stash your cellphone somewhere where you can feel it and take only cash – separate it into a few different pockets. If you are going to watch a parade at the sambadrome, know that it’s not the nicest area and that it can be dangerous at night and on weekends.

During Carnival there will be crowds and lots of police, but always try to stay in a group and be wary.

Don’t let safety put you off for even a second – we didn’t have any problems at all – just be a sensible traveller.

2. Transportation

During Carnival, the entire city is completely deadlocked and the streets are closed for parties. Choose your accomodation wisely – book accomodation close to the metro as there is no way you will be able to get to the city centre any other way.

3. Weather

Rio is stinking hot. During Carnival it’s one huge sticky, sweaty party.

Most days are over 35 degrees and sometimes it can be hard to find water. A fun thing about Carnival though is that everywhere you go you’ll see handy unlicensed people making and selling caipirinhas on the streets.

If you want to fit in with the cool kids, you can attach a chilly bin to something with wheels, load it up with ice and drinks and pull it around with you all day!

4. The smell

Public urination is a massive problem during Carnival and it stinks. I probably don’t need to go into much detail about this, but….watch where you walk.

Rio Carnival 2017Carnival is rowdy, colourful and completely wild. If it isn’t on your bucket list yet, then it definitely should be.

Happy travels!


Off to Carnival?  Pin this post for future reference…

Activities Asia Eco Tourism Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Turtle Hatcheries: Why we arrived excited and left early & disappointed

April 1, 2017

Both Nathan and I are suckers for sea creatures.  From getting excited about spotting the tiniest little nudibranch whilst out on a dive to watching gigantic blue whales breach the surface of the ocean – we love it all.

It makes sense then that when we decided to come to Sri Lanka, a visit to a turtle hatchery was top of my list – I’d seen photos from friends and it sounded magical.

In my head I had imagined dozens of little baby turtles, tottling off down the shoreline, destined for the great blue and a life of freedom.  Sounds amazing, right?

I’d almost certainly over-romanticised the experience but in I went, hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter for this animal lover.  What I left with was anything but.

The Writing Was on the Wall

From the moment I walked into the facility, I knew I’d probably made the wrong choice in visiting.

Dozens and dozens of babies were smooshed into a relatively little round tank and though I didn’t love it, it was easy enough to look past it when we heard that at most they would be there for three days before being released into the wild.

*Keep breathing Sarah, it’s not so bad*

Then we were invited to pick the babies up – again, I reconciled myself – with so many babies in the tank, chances are each one would only be held once before it finds its way to freedom (plus they’re so little, it’s easy to support them whilst holding them for a second or two).

And let’s not forget – they’re crazy cute!

*Okay, this is good*

… but that was where the positives stopped and the feeling of guilt started to set in.

We moved onto the next tank where a single adult turtle swam back and forth, back and forth, along the same far edge of the tank.

Would he ever be returned the the wild?  No, were were told – he was being held there to educate visitors.

Would we like to hold him?  You can take him out of the water and pose for photos, we were told.

It was at that point that the switch flicked for me.

This poor turtle must be picked up and passed around dozens of times throughout the day and when he’s not being shuttled from tourist to tourist for their next Instagram shot, he’s left pacing back and forth in his far-too-small tank, a sure sign of boredom.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram as much as the next person (check us out if you’re not already!) but no photo should be at the expense of an animal’s wellbeing.

I’m not sure if things actually got worse at that point or if I had just decided that I didn’t want to be there anymore but from then on we saw more fully-grown turtles in tanks that were obviously too small for them and our ‘guide’ who was meant to be giving us a tour of the hatchery disappeared only to return to look over our shoulder.  We had hoped that we might have learned more about the work they were doing there, especially considering the 1,000 Sri Lankan Rupees we’d each paid (USD7 per person) for a guided tour but it wasn’t to be.

The feeding tank housed turtles for three hours a day (where unsurprisingly they spent time eating) but with three fully-grown turtles in the tank, there was very little room for movement.  Another tank housed one of these gentle giants in a space that was barely twice as wide as him.

Though I know the work they do here generally helps the turtles, we couldn’t help but feel sorry for the adults left behind – what kind of a life is that?

The offer was made to release a baby turtle into the ocean at an additional charge.  This was what I’d really come to do but suddenly as we stood there, we just knew we weren’t comfortable handing over any more money (1,500 rupees per turtle) to support this centre.

Photos online had shown dozens of turtles heading out to sea at once, each of them presumedly having a fair shot at survival.  The reality of sending two lone babies out into the ocean just didn’t feel the same – it’s a big world out there for two littlies by themselves.

Conservation Work?

Opened in 1996 to help promote responsible tourism, the turtle hatchery aids conservation by buying the turtle eggs from fisherman. This goes a long way towards discouraging them from selling the eggs…

Koggala Experience

Each night, when the sun goes down and the turtles have laid their eggs safety, locals dig them back up again.  We were told that in the past, men would sell turtle eggs to villagers that would eat them but thanks to the hatcheries buying them at an inflated rate, this is no longer an issue.  These eggs are now hatched, allowed to grow for approximately three days before tourists pay to set them free.  Thankfully any turtles that are not ‘purchased’ are released after hours by the hatcheries so of course the vast majority do make it into the ocean.

Though hatcheries aim to support turtle conservation, the benefits of their work have not gone unquestioned.  By removing and relocated the eggs, the gender of the babies can be affected (as the temperature plays a significant role in the gender outcome of eggs).  Allowing the babies to grow in captivity can also be detrimental to their overall chance of survival.

When the turtles hatch in their natural habitat, they head for the sea and swim for 48 hours non-stop, passing areas where most of their predators are. “But when they are hatched in simulated environments, they are put into tanks in which they swim for 48 hours. As a result when they are released into the sea later, they do not have the strength to swim past their predators and hence become easy prey.”

Upali Padmasiri, Wildlife Department Assistant Director

Final Thoughts

To be honest, both Nathan and I left feeling guilty and disappointed.

Though I don’t doubt that setups like this obviously work positively in their conservation efforts, this felt more like a way to make money off incoming tourists than as a genuine means of turtle protection.  For us, it wasn’t so much about the cost of entry as the conditions that the adult turtles were kept in – we would have happily have paid twice the price had it been clear that funds raised were being reinvested into the centre to provide better homes for the turtles.

We visited hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Sri Lanka’s turtles but unfortunately left with a reminder that generally animals are better off left in the wild.

I know some friends have had amazing visits so it’s possible that we were just unfortunate in our choice of hatchery?  Maybe our expectations are different?  I’m not sure what to make of it but there is one thing I do know…

At least for us, we’ll stick to spotting turtles in their natural habitats.

If you would like to see turtles in the wild, they love riding the waves at Dalawella Beach.  We found half a dozen of so directly out from the rope swing.

This post is of course in no way affiliated with anyone and our thoughts are entirely our own.  Should you wish to visit (or avoid) this hatchery, it was the Sea Turtle Conservation Project & Hatchery, Koggala that we visited.

Have you been to visit the turtles in Sri Lanka?  If so, we’d love to hear of your experience and thoughts!


Unfortunately our visit to a Sri Lankan turtle hatchery was anything but what we'd hoped for.  Find out what you need to know before deciding whether or not you too want to visit. Unfortunately our visit to a Sri Lankan turtle hatchery was anything but what we'd hoped for.  Find out what you need to know before deciding whether or not you too want to visit.

Accommodation Adventure Asia Eco Tourism Mid-Range Sri Lanka

Adventure & Glamping in Sri Lanka – Not Your Average All-Inclusive!

March 29, 2017
Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka

An easy drive from Colombo you’ll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word ‘all-inclusive’ when it comes to our travels but not this time!   Read on to find out why Borderlands should be a must-see on your visit to Sri Lanka…

It’s an amazing thing to leave a place feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of practicing gratitude—how it can boost your mood, help you treat others better, improve physical health, and keep stress and fear at bay. Now, here’s a little trick for how to automatically infuse more gratitude into your life: Spend more money on experiences, and less on material objects.

Real Simple – Amanda MacMillan

Gazing through the shroud of netting out into the Sri Lankan jungle, you just can’t help but feel appreciative.  If experiences are where it’s at, then this one would be hard to top.

Layer after layer of a jungle, from the closest painted in hues of vibrant green, to the last few trees silhouetted against the sky, sitting high on the misty mountain – all laid out in front of us without having to leave our bed. The call of countless birds and lizards, the buzz of insects waking up, the river racing along below us.

How fortunate were we to have spent even a few nights in paradise like this?

Borderlands is about as far from a typical all-inclusive holiday destination as it gets.  Yes, for a set rate you’ll get a roof over your head (and a million dollar view to boot!) and all of your meals included.  Also included are two adventure activities a day with fully trained guides and free WiFi.  Unlike your average all-inclusive resort though, Borderlands has an overwhelming sense of character and a jungle outlook that just can’t be beaten.

Lounging in the chill-out area, we spotted a chameleon in the first five minutes of being there and throughout the day, magnificent eagles soared back and forth.  Even if you’re not on the hunt for adventure, Borderlands is a great choice in Kitulgala – it’s the ultimate in back-to-nature adventure in the true spirit of Sri Lanka.

Our room obviously wasn’t your standard hotel room but it was perfect for the location.  With plenty of ventilation and a fan, we didn’t get too hot and there was a partial sunshade to stop the morning daylight from streaming in – we went with it though, leaving it open so we could see the fireflies and birds out in the jungle.

Attached to our room was a partially outdoors ensuite (with a hot-water shower and toilet) and his and hers hand basins.  We also had a couple of tables, beanbags, fresh drinking water, electrical outlets and lights in our room – though it wasn’t fancy, it was more than adequate.

We’ve sometimes stayed in luxurious hotels and have come away less impressed than we did from Borderlands which says a lot about our experience there.  If you’ve got a good sense of adventure, this place is for you!

Food, Glorious Food!

We arrived at Borderlands a little unsure of what to expect when it came to meals but the food on offer was absolutely delicious!  Hearty and varied, every meal was one to look forward to and served up buffet style, there was plenty to go around.

Adventure is Calling

Though you can stay at Borderlands just to take advantage of the facilities and delicious food, we recommend you book in the full package including activities.  The team is known as being the most safety-conscious in the area (they were also one of the founding companies on the Kelani river) and their care and professionalism really shone through – if there’s one company you want to be pushing your personal boundaries with, it’s these guys.

White Water Kayaking

Our first activity started very quickly with a dunk in the water!  After jumping back in the kayak (and then falling out a few more times) we started to get the hang of keeping our balance in the whitewater.  The whole experience was a blast and with a river that’s currently a grade 2, it was the perfect introduction to kayaking in this environment – the right balance of challenge and security.

Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka kayaking

Advanced Canyoning

Having been on an amazing canyoning trip once in the past we had high expectations from this activity!  Did it stack up?

We started with a hike down to the canyon though gorgeous tea plantations and farmland, our guides stopping to show us a range of local produce (with a few tastings thrown in too).  Once we made it to the river, we received a full safety briefing and made our way to the first obstacle, as double rock slide into the cool water below.  After slipping and sliding down a few rocks we approached the first of our cliff jumps… at approximately 12m high, we decided to save it for the braver souls amongst us and scrambled down the rocks instead.  With another smaller jump (which was much more to our liking) and an abseil our canyoning adventure was almost over.

We had a great time up the canyon with our two guides (we weren’t kidding when we said Borderlands was safety conscious) but wished the experience was a little longer.  Considering they’re making use of the natural environment only 10 minutes from the campsite though, it’s a fantastic introduction to canyoning.

Mountain Biking

From a fitness point of view, mountain biking made the other two activities feel like a walk in the park.

I can’t even recall the number of times I mentally chanted this saying back to myself as we kept pedalling up that mountain…

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”

– Nietzsche, 1888

Fortunately, our lovely instructor foresaw what was to come and had the Borderlands truck follow not too far behind us up the hill.  We made it about half way before stopping and hitching a ride with him!

At the top, we stopped for a while in an ancient cave, tried to spot the local bats and admired one of the region’s waterfalls – a gorgeous spot and a great chance to catch our breath!

With the choice of going off-road or following the path we took up, we elected to stick to the ‘road’ – better safe than sorry we decided.  With spectacular views and a comfortable pace headed back downhill, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we made the right choice.

Was it physically hard?  Yes.

Were we pleased we did it?  For sure!

Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka mountain bikingBorderlands is about as close to the perfect jungle experience as it gets.  Tropical and wild whilst retaining a touch of comfort and calm, we really couldn’t recommend it enough to those adventurous spirits amongst us.

Leave your hair dryer at home, come with a can-do attitude and get stuck in – you won’t regret it!


Love a good adventure?  Save one of these pins!

An easy drive from Colombo you'll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word 'all-inclusive' when it comes to our travels but not this time!  Find out why we fell in love with this unique accommodation. An easy drive from Colombo you'll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word 'all-inclusive' when it comes to our travels but not this time!  Find out why we fell in love with this unique accommodation.

Thank you to Red Dot Tours for recommending and organising our stay at Borderlands.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Accommodation Asia Destinations Luxury Reviews Sri Lanka

Staying on a Working Sri Lankan Plantation – Horathapola Estate

March 25, 2017
Horathapola Estate Sri Lanka review Red Dot Tours

How many hotels do you know that would check you in at 5.30am, graciously welcoming you with a fresh coconut and showing you to your room (when you don’t officially check in until later that afternoon)?

Prior to our visit to Sri Lanka, I would have said not one hotel would generally provide that level of service; I was proven wrong though.

Horathapola Estate has got you covered!

From the moment we arrived, we were treated like absolute royalty.  This boutique hotel, set on a genuine, working colonial estate is as authentic and gorgeous as they come but even with its obvious beauty, it’s the superb hospitality that stood out for us.

With 50 acres of crops and stunning gardens, it’s easy to slip into a slower pace of life.  Bird call rings out over the lush greenery as lizards and squirrels dart from one tree to another.  Life on the estate for guests is anything but hard with the staff carrying the load to ensure you won’t have to.

Dining at Horathapola Estate

All rooms at the estate come with the ‘half board’ option which includes breakfast and dinner – it’s a good thing too as meal times at Horathapola are a treat!

Their chef works hard to ensure food is prepared in a classically Sri Lankan manner, staying true to the property’s roots.  Fresh produce is taken from the plantation (including milk, rice, cashew nuts and salad greens) and cooked based on guest preferences.

Lunch is available a la carte and is fairly priced with a wide range of options available.

Touring the Estate

It’s not every day you’re welcomed onto a working plantation so we were delighted when the offer of a tour around the estate was made!

A bullock cart ride (you guessed it, that’s a cart pulled by a bull) takes guests around the expansive property, offering insight into rural life in Sri Lanka.  The unmistakable smell of cinnamon hangs in the air and countless trees bear fruit, ripe for picking – it really is a tropical paradise.

Whilst our guide explained the many different crops found on the plantation (coconut, rice, cashews, mango, pepper corn and cinnamon just to name a few) our driver raced up a coconut palm, more than happy to provide us with fresh coconut water and flesh.

On Your Bike!

Should you wish to head outside of the estate – and we recommend you do – mountain bikes are available at no additional charge.  We shouldn’t have been surprised by the quality of the bikes (we came to realise that this hotel doesn’t do things by half) but they really were heads and shoulders above what we’ve been offered in the past.

The roads around the estate are safe with locals driving slowly and incredibly patiently.  The majority of people we came across were on scooters or walking and everyone (literally everyone!) gave us a friendly beep or called out to us.  Compared to other parts of Sri Lanka, the Horathapola Estate feels a little off the tourist trail (which is fantastic news for those that visit) and though I’m not sure if the locals were excited to see us as they’re not yet inundated with tourists or if they’re just incredibly friendly to everyone they come across, it was a real pleasure being a guest in their slice of paradise for the day.

Why You Should Pick Horathapola Estate Over a Stay in Colombo

Others will tell you that although Colombo isn’t a drawcard for visitors to Sri Lanka, a stop in the country’s largest city is almost unavoidable.  Red Dot Tours are onto a winner here though, instead recommending visitors make the hour long drive out to Horathapola Estate for some serious rest and relaxation.  When I compare our stay here with the idea of contending with Colombo’s hustle and bustle, there’s absolutely no doubt that this was the right decision.

Really though, look at these photos.  Was there ever any doubt that this was the best choice?


 Skip Colombo and head straight to Horathapola Estate to unwind and experience the real Sri Lanka. Warm and welcoming staff, a stunning pool, delicious food and local tours - this working plantation is a must-see on your itinerary. Skip Colombo and head straight to Horathapola Estate to unwind and experience the real Sri Lanka. Warm and welcoming staff, a stunning pool, delicious food and local tours - this working plantation is a must-see on your itinerary. Skip Colombo and head straight to Horathapola Estate to unwind and experience the real Sri Lanka. Warm and welcoming staff, a stunning pool, delicious food and local tours - this working plantation is a must-see on your itinerary.

Thank you to Red Dot Tours and Horathapola Estate for making our visit possible.  To find out about the customised tour that Red Dot put together for us, check out our itinerary!

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