Browsing Category


Asia Vietnam

Vietnam Itinerary Ideas: Old-School Photos to Inspire New Adventures

February 19, 2018

Recently pulling her old-school camera out of storage, Morgan challenged herself to capture the true essence of Vietnam.  There’s something so genuine and authentic about only having the one change to capture a memory, don’t you agree?

Check out these fabulous Vietnam itinerary ideas and stay tuned for further posts about Morgan’s incredible visit to this vibrant South-East Asian country.

Vietnam is a country that lends itself really well to photography. There is absolutely always something going on, and there never seems to a moment of quiet, dull or ordinary.  There’s plenty of magic though.

I was really excited to take my film camera with me on my trip – a Pentax P30, with a Tamron lens.  It’s not entirely dissimilar to my DSLR, but it still presented a challenge. There were a large number of beautiful shots I missed, simply due to inexperience, lack of speed, or running out of film.

The challenge, however, is what makes me even more delighted with the shots I managed to get, and the film just seems to add an extra level of emotion to the shots, which I will cherish forever.

I hope you enjoy looking these snaps them as much as I enjoyed taking them!

Vietnam on Film:


A city alive, and my first destination in Vietnam. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the smells and sounds that never cease in Hanoi, but it also had a quiet beauty about it when I went hunting that I came to cherish.

Post-Christmas Reindeer in the Lake-Side Gardens

I found the amount of Western Christmas culture in Vietnam to be a little odd; particularly in Hanoi.  This was interesting for two reasons; firstly, we were well into January by then, but even more interesting is this statistic – Vietnam is 75% Buddhist!

These garden sculptures were nonetheless beautiful, positioned next to the large city-centre lake, which was dotted with many small, outdoor cafes (like the one in the background of this shot).

A Tangled Mess

When I first took this shot, it was because I thought the haphazard way the telephone wires were dangerously held together was bizarre, but I soon learned that this was a fairly mild example of telephone poles in Vietnam.  Not long after, I later saw some so bad I didn’t even want to walk under them!

A Moment of Quiet on the Famous Train Street

Pinterest lauds Train Street as a colourful, lively and unmissable spot in Hanoi – but is scant on information on where to find it and what times of day are best. I soon found that many streets could be considered a Train Street, as the tracks frequently jammed themselves between towering houses in the city. Plagued by bad weather, the colourful and lively streets emptied and homed just one or two people enjoying a moment of quiet.  Perfection.

Hanoi to Sapa by Train

I travelled all of Vietnam by train; what struck me most was the attention to detail and energy put towards beautifying the country’s main form of public transport. Ultimately, it was a futile effort, because as soon as the train began to move, this fake rose toppled over.


I was only in Sapa for a day, and didn’t see much of it – the high, mountainous city was blanketed in a thick fog, which meant even in the bustling, metropolitan areas you could still only see a few metres ahead. Despite this, trekking the rice terraces with the Sapa Sisters was one of the most unique and rewarding experiences I had in Vietnam.

The Bamboo Forest

From what I am told, walking the rice terraces in Sapa involves a constantly evolving landscape – knowing this, my guide was visibly upset that we had such low visibility from the fog. Fortunately, I could still experience some of the changing landscape – one of my favourite moments came in a quiet moment, watching one of the many waterfalls splash through a bamboo forest. Emersed in the green stillness, I couldn’t help but lose myself.

Warming Up

The constant sheet of rain falling upon us and the thick fog meant that we were shivering only an hour into our hike through the Bamboo Forest. My guide, Big Ku, stopped me at a local lookout, insisting we’d stopped because of a beautiful rocky river, surrounded by giant rice terraces. “Very beautiful view”, she said to me as she gestured out into a flat wall of grey fog.

What we were really stopping here for was the warm fire and I can’t say I blamed her.

The Fog Lifts

For only an instant, the fog lifted and I was graced with a small but breath-taking view of the terraces.  Big Ku and her friend wandered ahead and I was able to capture my favourite shot from the entire trip.

Hoi An

Hoi An goes down as my favourite city in Vietnam. It’s a bustling tourist spot – this is undeniable – but once you get past this, it’s a lot of fun. It’s only small compared to the other cities, which means that you’ll get your bearings very quickly.

Hiring some bikes, my newfound friends and I peddled around the Ancient City, enjoying the food and drinks, the markets, and the river – which light up into the most beautiful scene every night, flooded with lanterns.

Canadian Tourist Taking in the River

I don’t remember his name, but this Canadian – clad in Canadian Tuxedo no less – was enjoying a moment, taking in the Hoi An river, when I interrupted him with “oi!” and captured the moment he turned back to see why I was being so obnoxious.

The best part about backpacking is making new friends in every city – even if you never remember their names…

Riverboats Waiting for Passengers

Day and night the river was lined with an assortment of boats waiting to take tourists on 30-minute trips. During the day these mostly remained empty, but at night, with the lanterns lit across the city and floating down the river, these boats came to life.

A Fruit Vendor at the Markets

There were vendors absolutely everywhere in all of the cities I visited, selling goods like this lady.  I really loved the lines and colours involved, but they always walked too fast to capture that perfect moment!  Finally in Hoi An though, I captured this beautiful lady selling fruit.

I love the simplicity of daily life in Vietnam, don’t you?

Ho Chi Minh City

The biggest city I have ever seen, it just stretched for miles and miles, seeminly never ending. Lucky for me, Uber is cheap and quick in HCMC!

There were a number of tourist traps in this city, but it’s a great spot to explore the food of Vietnam whilst enjoying fantastic city views from many of the skyscrapers.

The Hustle and Bustle of the Ben Thanh Markets

One of the aforementioned tourist traps was undoubtedly the famous Ben Thanh Markets. These markets are inside a large building that swelters with humidity, and is thick with the smell of raw fish and other foods. Every stall seemed to sell the same items and although it is encouraged to bargain heavily with the vendors, I found myself too eager to escape – generally accepting the first price given to me, simply so I could head back outside into fresh air!

Google insists this is a “must-do” for all tourists, but I have to disagree.

The Saigon Skyline

Having slept on trains, buses and in more hostels than I could count, I knew that for the last few days of my trip I wanted to enjoy a life of a little more luxury. My rooftop AirBnB in the Icon 56 Apartments was exactly what I needed, and the view was undeniably the best part.

From foggy mornings to twinkling nights, Ho Chi Minh City really comes alive when you view it from above.

Vietnam has a particular old-school charm, energised with a vibrant, exciting culture that keeps travellers on their toes.  Flashes of colour, incredible tastes and surprising sounds; a camera can’t capture the magic but it gets pretty close.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Activities Adventure Bali Indonesia

Top Balinese Adventures for Want-To-Be Adventure Travellers

August 19, 2017

Bali is a beautiful island in the province of Indonesia. Known for its white sand beaches, bright green paddy fields and vast temples and underwater life, it ticks so many boxes for travellers.

The mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a paradise. It’s more than a place; it’s a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind.

Lonely Planet

This stunning island, which stretches out for around 4000km, is not short on opportunities to maximise fun and adventure – and it doesn’t hurt that it’s all so affordable.  From underwater dreamscapes to over-land trekking and lush green jungles, Bali has it all for the tourist that likes to get out and about, really seeing what the country is made of.

Or maybe relaxation is more your speed?  Not to worry – there are plenty of spots where you can pamper yourself  (again at incredible prices – yes!) and enjoy a few days of full-on luxury.  Why not grab a group of girlfriends and book a beautiful villa in Bali to add to give yourselves the very best spot to unwind?

Whatever your reason for travelling to this Indonesian island paradise, we recommend you fill at least some of your days with adventure though!  Whether it’s the more sedate variety or something to really get your adrenaline pumping – there’s something for everyone here.

Check out our top Balinese adventures for those wanting an introduction to adrenaline and get planning…

1.  White-Water Rafting – Fun on the water with friends!

If you want to spend an adventurous day, filled with watery thrills, then you’ve got two main choices on the island – Ayung River (which is near Ubud) or the rugged, picturesque Telagawaja River (in the eastern region). Not only will you cool down in the water and get a good burst of exercise but you’ll enjoy amazing views and may even spot an exotic animal or two!

The rafting in Bali isn’t exactly world-class but it is perfect for beginners and those looking to test their skills (and nerve) on a smaller river.  If this sounds like you, you’ll find the best time to take to the river is after the wet season – from November to March.  During this time the grade 2 and 3 rapids are at their best.

What the region lacks in challenging rafting, it certainly makes up for in scenery.  Its unspoiled jungle and towering gorges will take your breath away as you paddle your way home.

2.  Surfing – Bali’s favourite pastime

Surfing is a perpetual visitor fave, with tourists from all over the world visiting to surf the southern coast soak up the sun’s rays.

Here, the beaches are packed with surfing schools and relaxed and friendly hostels, making it the perfect place to kick back and relax on the cheap.  It’s the Bali that every teenager dreams of!

If you’re wanting to hit their world-class surf breaks, we recommend the Bukit Peninsular Kuta or, in a pinch, Kuta Beach if you can’t get out of town. The prime surf season runs from April to November when the waves consistently reach up to 12ft so it’s best to plan your trip to fall between those months if you’re following the waves.  For your average surfer though, waves of some level can be found any time of year.

3. A Diver’s Paradise  

The colourful marine life, consistently warm water and beautiful seascapes see South-East Asia frequently rated amongst the world for world-class diving and Indonesia is no different.

If you’re visiting the island without prior experience, there are plenty of recognised dive centres that can support you through your training and point you in the direction of the best reefs.  Alternatively, if you’re already PADI certified, remember to bring your dive card so you can jump right on in!

In Nusa Penida, you may have the change to see sunfish and manta rays or if you’d prefer a wreck dive (the USS Liberty to be exact), head in the direction of Tulamben. 

4. Not Keen to Dive?  Snorkeling might be for you!

If diving’s not for you (and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea), there are some great spots for snorkeling on the north side!  Just don a mask, snorkel and fins and hit the water.

These tropical waters are included within the infamous Coral Triangle and as a result, boast some of the best water-life and sea-gardens around.

If you’re staying close to the southern part of the island then a trip to Nusa Dua is easily done, or you may like to consider Menjangan Island, Nusa Lembongan or Padangbai if you have a little more time up your sleeve.

5. Trekking Though Bali’s Unique Landscapes

Whilst visiting Bali, it’s worth planning some hiking time to ensure you get up-close-and-personal with the country’s magnificent landscapes.

Whether it’s an adventurous day hike through the jungle, mountain lakes and forest at the Kerinci Seblat National Park or a more relaxed wander to the ancient temples of the Tana Toraja region, it’s worth taking the time to see more rural areas by foot.

Or, if you’re short on time and aren’t able to get out of the main towns, we absolutely recommend a visit to Ubud’s Monkey Forest.  The monkeys are captivating and the sculptures which are slowly being taken over my moss are equally so.

6.  On Your Bike!

If you’re hoping to cover more ground than hiking will allow but still want to experience Indonesia at the grass-roots level, a bike may be the best way to do exactly that.

Experiences vary of course but if you’re looking for an easy start, we recommend picking up a bike locally in Ubud to find your ‘biking feet’ so to speak.

Ready to take it up a notch?  There are a wide variety of challenging rides available on the island – so many in fact, it may be hard to choose!

If you do have the time, be sure to fit a visit to the rice terraces in Ubud Jatiluwih into your cycling itinerary.  There you’ll find the stunning beauty that Bali is known for along with their traditional Balinese irrigation system – the designs of which have been passed down through generations from the eighth century.  The Jatiluwih rice terraces were once a UNESCO cultural heritage site and make the best photo-op even now.

Monuments, temples, mountains, beaches, vast rice fields – you’ll discover them all just as you would on foot, only with a bike at your disposal you’ll be able to fit much more into your day.  Or you’ll be able to finish up earlier and treat yourself to a massage or visit to a coffee plantation – doesn’t sound too shabby to me!

Bali offers so much to holiday-makers wanting to reconnect with nature whilst having an adventure of their own.  It’s a relatively easy country to travel within, offers excellent value, a great touch of luxury (if that’s what you’re looking for) and gorgeous scenery.

Could it be your next holiday destination?

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Activities Asia Eco Tourism Sri Lanka

Hiking World’s End: Sri Lanka’s Overlooked Scenic Gem

May 5, 2017
World's End Sri Lanka hike

Though World’s End at Horton Plains, Sri Lanka is not as well known as the towering Adam’s Peak, it is frequently ranked as the top hike in the country.   We took to the trail ourselves to find out more about this somewhat-hidden highlight.

Located within one of Sri Lanka’s many national Parks, Horton Plains would feel at home within the pages of a New Zealand nature book.  With gold-flecked grass, ferns and flax as far as the eye can see, you really could be excused for thinking you’ve somehow arrived in Aotearoa – fortunately for us though, this was 100% Sri Lanka.

World's End Sri Lanka hikeOne of the Best Views in Sri Lanka

If there’s one thing you visit World’s End for, it’s the spectacular views out over the surrounding valley and mountains.  Though this beautiful country is anything but short of great hiking tracks, World’s End is accessable to most people making it a great choice for holiday-makers.

The track itself completes a loop and can be approached from either side.  From the entrance, Mini World’s end (which is practically as beautiful as the main attraction) and World’s End is a 4km walk, at which point you continue through to Baker’s Falls (2km) and meander back to the start (3.5km).  All in all, the circuit is 9km of absolute beauty.

World's End Sri Lanka hike viewIt is worth noting that the sheer cliffs of Horton Plains lack railing.  Though hikers benefit from incredible unobstructed views that would be roped off elsewhere, you’ll need to keep an eye on how close you get to the edge.  With drops of 300 and 1,200 metres respectively, few people who come unstuck live to tell the tale.

World's End Sri Lanka hikeHiking World’s End – How Challenging is it?

Though Adam’s Peak is considered the most recognised hike in Sri Lanka, World’s End, its lesser known companion, is frequently recognised as the best one around… plus it’s a whole lot more manageable thanks to its relatively flat profile.

The hike itself is absolutely gorgeous and not particularly challenging.

Don’t get me wrong, this hike isn’t a walk in the park but if you have a moderate level of fitness, you’ll complete it without any problems. Even if you’re totally lacking fitness, you’ll still be fine – just take your time and consider skipping the walk down to the falls.

World's End Sri Lanka hikeLet’s Get Practical – What You Need to Know…

Though hiking boots wouldn’t go astray, World’s End is certainly manageable in trainers and comfortable clothes.

Throw a small bag on your back and whatever you do, remember your camera! If, like us, you have a drone, leave it behind though – they don’t allow them anywhere in the national park.

There is a small shop that sells snacks and drinks at the end of the hike but the Sri Lankan sun can be strong and though the walk isn’t particularly challenging you’ll still want to be well prepared.  We took a couple of water bottles each and some fruit to snack on… and then stopped by the shop for some celebratory roti and fizzy when we were done!

This national park is keen to protect its gorgeous wildlife as best they can and for this reason you’ll be made to disguard any unnecessary plastic before you start the hike.  You can save time by leaving anything you don’t need in the car (including the plastic labels wrapped around your water bottle).

To get into World’s End you will need to pay the entrance fee which is approximately 3000 Sri Lankan rupees (or USD20).  It’s not the cheapest of days by the time you pay for your ticket and transport (which we’ll talk more about below) but it’s absolutely worth it – presuming you’re not travelling on a budget, that is.

You’ll want to plan your route and timing around what you want to see out at World’s End too.  Not far into the walk you’ll be faced with the choice of turning left or right – left takes you to Mini World’s End first whereas a right turn will direct you to Baker’s Falls.  Both routes come with their own adventages and disadvantages but we’d recommend starting with Mini World’s End to ensure you get there before the mist sets into the vally.

Clear, unobstructed views out from the cliff-faces normally show themselves between 6am and 10am but as with everything in nature, there are no guarantees.  As a general rule though, the earlier you can make it out there, the more likely you are to be rewarded with clear views (though if you ask me, mist engulfing the valley would be pretty amazing too!)

World's End Sri Lanka hike viewGetting to Horton Plains

World’s End is smack-bang in the middle of a national park and because of this, normal cars are not insured to drive the roads.  This means that you’ll probably need to hire a local van or tuk tuk to get you into the starting point of the track.

We organised the required return transport through Red Dot Tours for USD50 and together jumped in the van from Nuwara Eliya.

Our departure time was bright and early in a bid to beat some of the crowds and the harsh midday sun.  Though we had planned to leave town at 5am, our drive to Nuwara Eliya took longer than expected and we connected with our driver just before 6am.

If you’re able to be in Nuwara Eliya closer to our scheduled time of 5am, we’d definitely recommend it. Yes you’ll have a hard time getting out of bed but it will be worth it to have the amazing lookouts to yourself!

Though we were originally a little hesitant to scrap our planned hike up Adam’s Peak in favour of World’s End, we could not have been happier with our decision.

Horton Plains was drop-dead gorgeous, an enjoyable, manageable walk and lets visitors have a little taste of New Zealand (without the hassle and expense of flying half way around the world).

It’s certainly worth juggling your Sri Lankan itinerary to swing by Horton Plains!

Know someone that enjoys hiking?  Pin this post!

Sri Lanka's best hike, World's End, takes in gorgeous views, bush, rivers, waterfalls and more. A must-do on your Sri Lankan itinerary! Looking for an easier hike than Adam's Peak? World's End is absolute natural perfection and the best part?  It's a hike that anyone can manage in two hours!


  • Reply Is the hike to World's End worth it? | Spin the Windrose May 27, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    […] it’s just me. My friends Sarah and Nathan over at Exploring Kiwis absolutely loved the hike to World’s End, so I feel a little bad that I think […]

  • Reply The End of the World As I Knew It | The Foodie Miles May 31, 2017 at 6:04 am

    […] we say in Russia. The next morning agreeing to join my roommate and her friends on a trip to World’s End – a steep cliff in the hill country – was the smartest decision I’ve made. Winding road, […]

  • Leave a Reply

    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!

    Off to the Land of Smiles?  Be sure to check out the top 10 things to do in Thailand before planning your visit.

    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.


  • Reply jademlove April 26, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Amazing! This resort looks and sounds beautiful. Its so hard to leave when you have an amazing experience isnt it!

  • Reply Julie April 29, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    What an amazing place! I think the “Royal” in the name must refer to how there guests feel! Definitely staying there if I ever get to Thailand.

  • Leave a Reply

    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.


    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.

    No Comments

    Leave a Reply

    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 – this island 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.

    To learn more about traditional Sri Lankan dishes, we thoroughly recommend reading The Foodie Miles’ pre-visit guide – and for goodness sake, don’t skimp on the coconut roti!

    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!

    Now that you know why you should visit Sri Lanka, you’ll be keen to find out what exactly to do there.  It’s a good thing then that you.theworld.wandering has done the hard work for you!  Find out her top picks of things to do in Sri Lanka.

    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.


  • Reply bigworldsmallme April 21, 2017 at 5:29 am

    Ah Sri Lanka looks amazing! So many reasons to visit!

  • Reply Jen April 23, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    You had me at elephants! But seriously, your photos are absolutely stunning, love the one of the local boys poppoing a wheelie, you captured such joy in their faces! I’m sold on Sri Lanka 🙂

  • Reply Sara MacIntosh April 23, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    I’ve honestly never heard that much about Sri Lanka. It always seems gorgeous but too far away. Now I’m reconsidering the 25 hour travel time to get there because it seems like an incredible place! I love that the warm smiles are a reason to go because that is always so nice to encounter while travelling!

  • Reply Kim Bui April 24, 2017 at 1:41 am

    All of these were great reasons for visiting Sri Lanka! Very helpful guide as well, thanks!

  • Reply Tri Hotel Review, Sri Lanka – The Discoveries Of. May 10, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    […] Looking for more Sri Lanka advice? Read Exploring Kiwis’ article 9 Reasons You Should Visit Sri Lanka . […]

  • Leave a Reply

    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 and we’re not the only ones.  Our friend Abbi at Spin the Windrose had a heartbreakingly similar experience months after our visit.

    I’d love to say things are on the up but that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

    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.


  • Reply Dariel April 1, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    It’s sad when a place meant for conservation of animals become interested in going after the tourist monies. I guess it’s hard to differentiate which is which, especially in this case.

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis April 1, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      I agree as in talking with someone else who has visited, they had a much more positive experience there (charged half the price and given genuine information) – it’s hard to know, isn’t it!

  • Reply Kirstin (thetinberrytravels) April 1, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    That’s such a shame. I think I would feel the exact same. I love wildlife but as much I’d love to interact with them you know it’s wrong. I feel sorry for the adults.

  • Reply Cory Varga April 1, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Ufff, I remember reading about this before, how so many people were really upset by this place. I am sorry you didn’t have a positive experience and I don’t particularly agree with this. In a way, I am glad you went there and decided to write honestly about this!

  • Reply Helen April 1, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience, that hatchery doesn’t sound like it’s going to give the little turtles the best chance of survival. We went to a turtle rescue/release place in Mexico but at no point were we allowed to touch the turtles. It really annoys and upsets me when animals are used to generate more money and for photo opportunities.

  • Reply Treena April 2, 2017 at 1:20 am

    I had a similar encounter in Vanuatu. I was supposed to swim with an adult one but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I thought it would be in the open sea somehow but it was in an enclosure that had minimal fresh seawater flow. It smelt disgusting. I just felt horribly for the poor turtle who had spent most of its life being carried from this enclosure to its night tank (otherwise it would escape on the high tide). But in saying that the economy that the turtles fueled sustained a whole village of people.

  • Reply Memoirs of a Globetrotter April 2, 2017 at 10:43 am

    This is a very insightful post! I’m always concerned about the ethics of visiting conservation centers while traveling. I’m torn about whether or not to visit a turtle sanctuary during my upcoming trip to Mexico. It can be really difficult to tell if a conservation center is harmful or helpful to the animals they claim to be protecting.

  • Reply tashasoyster April 2, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Its sad to hear about your experience at the turtle hatchery. I’m visiting Sri Lanka this year and, like you, have a romanticised idea of what it will be like. I’ll visit a different one to you and I hope it will be a more positive one. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply ellisveen April 2, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    I visited a hatchery in Kosgoda and my experience is slightly different. In this center they only kept baby turtles. THey had two adult turtles they kept as long term residents but that was because one had a misformed shield and the other one also had some kind of illness so they would not survive in the wild. The baby turtles were all released at sunset. I could enter the hatchery for free and only had to pay when I wanted to release the turtles. THey simply divided all the turtles to be released among the people that showed up so you were releasing several turtles. Even tough this hatchery seems better organised I can easily see how such conservation efforts turn into commercial businesses due to tourism. And the benefits for their survival remain questionable.

  • Reply Becky the Traveller April 2, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    I feel so upset reading this I would be exactly the same as you. But well done on writing the post. Hopefully it will help with people’s awareness and make people think more. Poor adult turtles 😢😢😢

  • Reply Penelopi April 2, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    I don’t know the reason but the turtles always give me goosebumps.. I remember my sister used to collect, when were kids and we always had fights about that! Poor Turtles… 🙁

  • Reply Joanne - Exploring Kiwis April 8, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    This doesn’t sound ideal at all, but I have to say, the hatchery in Hikkaduwa, whilst still very small, was a much more positive experience. I can’t remember exactly how much it was to get in but it wasn’t a lot. The owner took us around each of the tanks and told us each of the turtle’s stories. The older ones tended to be injured (missing limbs, etc) so they weren’t being released for their own safety and we definitely were not allowed to handle them. We were also invited back that evening to help release the babies at no extra charge. Apart from one couple almost allowing their child to step on the released turtles (seriously!), the experience was lovely. I hope more of the hatcheries are more like Hikkaduwa rather than the one you went to.

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis April 8, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      I think unfortunately that the Hikkaduwa hatchery is more the exception than the norm 😕 So pleased that’s the one you guys made it to though – I think our experience would have been totally different had we realised. Others have also said that’s the one to go to – a pity we didn’t know till afterwards. My dream of releasing babies will have to live on ❤

  • Reply Your Little Guide to Unawatuna: Surf, SUP, Snorkel! - Hippie In Heels August 15, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    […] can also check out turtle hatcheries in Sri Lanka as there are many doing conservation work here. Make sure to research for a good one, […]

  • Leave a Reply

    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.


  • Reply PackYourBaguios March 29, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Wow! What an experience in such a beautiful environment. Pinned this!

  • Reply 9 Reasons to Make Sri Lanka Your Next Holiday! - Exploring Kiwis April 11, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    […] 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 […]

  • Reply Bucket List Accommodation - Hotels You'll Want to Book Right Now! - Exploring Kiwis May 28, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    […] Borderlands – Sri Lanka […]

  • Leave a Reply

    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!


  • Reply Nadine March 28, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Looks like you guys are having an amazing time. What an incredible place to stay!

  • Reply 9 Reasons to Make Sri Lanka Your Next Holiday Destination! - Exploring Kiwis April 16, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    […] 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 […]

  • Leave a Reply

    Accommodation Asia Destinations Itineraries Sri Lanka

    Plan Your Visit to Sri Lanka! Our Two Week Itinerary

    March 24, 2017

    Is there any better feeling than that experienced the day or two before you head off on holiday?

    That feeling of excitement as you head off into the unknown, ready to soak up new sights, experiences and cultures.

    Sri Lanka’s not a place I ever thought I’d get to but later today we’ll be jetting off from Abu Dhabi and we could not be more excited!

    We’re booked into the most gorgeous hotels and will be experiencing some of the island’s most unique (and if all goes to plan, memorable) boutique offerings.  After what feelings like months of planning, everything has some together and with unseasonable rain in Abu Dhabi, a holiday is certainly welcome.

    If Sri Lanka’s on your wish-list or you’ve started planning your visit, this post is for you!

    Getting There


    A number of flights service the international airports in Sri Lanka.  The largest airport, Bandaranaike, is situated just out of Colombo  and though it’s currently undergoing renovations (which are causing significant delays), it is still the airport visitors are most likely to use.

    If you are flying out of Colombo, ensure you allow additional time to check-in until the runway repairs have been completed.  At present, the runway is closed to aviation traffic between 8.30am and 4.30pm each day and the check-in recommendation has been pushed out to 5 hours (with counters closing 90 minutes before departure instead of the standard 60 minutes).

    Sri Lanka looks and sounds too amazing to pass up so we certainly didn’t allow the potential delays to sway our decision to travel there – just ensure you allow enough time to get through the airport without having to worry.

    The addition of a second international airport in 2013 has done little to distribute the flights through the country; Mattala Rajapaksa services the south-east coast but few airlines use it – it has in fact been labelled the emptiest airport in the world.  This makes it an unlikely option for potential tourists but I’m sure would allow for the fastest check-in in history should you decide to use one of the few airlines there!

    Visa Requirements

    The vast majority of visitors to Sri Lanka will require a visa to do so.  If time allows, you can apply for your visa online or, as we are going to do, you can be issued one upon arrival.  A single entry visa (for 30 days) is a little cheaper if applied for ahead of time or USD40 at the airport.

    Touring with Red Dot Tours

    Having worked in the past as a reservation agent for an airline and a tour guide, I get a real kick out of planning our own itineraries but with so much going on around the UAE, we didn’t have the time to organise our Sri Lankan visit to the level we normally would have liked.

    We knew what we wanted to see and do near Galle but  hadn’t had a chance to lock down details elsewhere.

    Enter Red Dot Tours!

    Jennifer became our Sri Lankan miracle worker, putting together an amazing customised itinerary for us.  She listened intently to our requests and added her own recommendations – creating a trip that is is a perfect balance between our travel preferences and her personal knowledge of the country.

    Red Dot have taken care of the majority of our accommodation for us (with the exception of Cantaloupe – two gorgeous hotels we’d already excitedly booked), our transport and many of our activities.

    If like us, you’re short on planning time or would rather let someone take care of the planning for you, we can already confirm that Red Dot goes above and beyond – and we’ve not even touched down on Sri Lankan soil yet!

    Getting Around

    Buses, trains, tuk tuks, taxis and drivers – Sri Lanka is not short on transport.

    Though maps make distances from one location to another appear short, we have been warned that traffic, road condition and mountainous conditions can make trips longer than anticipated so allow plenty of time to get around the island.

    We decided to book a chauffeur-guide in for the majority of our visit.  Though the scenery from the train looks absolutely gorgeous, we’re hoping to fit a fair few activities and sights in and having a driver will allow us to do so.  We also love stopping on the side of the road when something catches our eye and a train just won’t do that!


    We will be coming back to you with reviews of the following properties following our visit so I won’t go into specific details at this point.  We are excited by the gorgeous vistas, stunning pools and the unique offerings of these properties though (some include safaris, barbecue dinners, canyoning and mountain biking – seriously!) and are excited to discover ourselves.

    Night 1:  Horathapola Estate

    Photo credit:

    Night 2/3:  Borderlands

    Photo: Borderlands Sri Lanka

    Night 4: Cantaloupe Aqua

    Night 5/6: Cantaloupe Levels

    Kaetana Lanka

    Night 7: 3 Sisters

    Night 8:  Fort Bazaar

    Night 9: Kulu Safaris

    Night 10:  The Hammock Lanka

    Night 11:  Mandira Dickoya Bungalow

    Night 12:  Kings Pavilion

    Night 13/14: Aliya Resort & Spa


    All of our stops in Sri Lanka were decided based upon the activities and sights that we wanted to enjoy.

    Snorkelling, scuba diving, whale watching, canyoning, visiting a turtle sanctuary, hiking Adam’s Peak, leopard spotting whilst on safari, touring a tea plantation, checking out both religious and ancient monuments and more; our visit to Sri Lanka is full of adventure, nature and local culture.

    It’s perfect for us!

    For us, one of the big appeals of this beautiful country is the diversity it offers.  From beach days to safaris and everything in between, there are enough activities to keep even the most active adventurer busy but there’s also plenty on offer if doing nothing is more your style.

    We’re going to be dipping into both sides of the pool (so to speak) so stay tuned as we bring your our thoughts on each of the activities we have planned…

    Let’s Do it…

    Now, on our last morning in Abu Dhabi, our bags are calling out to be packed, the electronics are charging away and our passports are set to go.

    Sri Lanka, we can’t wait to check you out for ourselves!

    If you’re headed to Sri Lanka, pin your favourite images so you came come back to these beautiful hotels…

    The best boutique accommodation in Sri Lanka. Avoid the crowds of tourists and check out our suggestions - from adventure to glamping to absolute luxury (plus everything in between). We've also included a travel and flight guide to make things easy. Sri Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, offers something for almost everyone. Read our accommodation recommendations, tour provider of choice, transport guide and much more! The best boutique accommodation in Sri Lanka. Avoid the crowds of tourists and check out our suggestions - from adventure to glamping to absolute luxury (plus everything in between). We've also included a travel and flight guide to make things easy.


  • Reply Staying on a Working Sri Lankan Plantation - Horathapola Estate - Exploring Kiwis March 25, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    […] 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! […]

  • Reply the unconventional girl March 26, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Wow such lovely itinerary. Sarah & Nathan, Hope you had a fantastic time at each of the destinations. The vistas are so picturesque and of course stunning pools. Hope you did all of Snorkelling, scuba diving, whale watching, and everything else on your wish list. Srilanka is such an amazing country.

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis March 26, 2017 at 11:05 am

      We’re actually still here – second day in and about to go kayaking. Loving it so far!

  • Reply fittwotravel March 26, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Such a great compete guide to Sri Lanka! The Cantaloupe Aqua looks amazing! So many different fun activities to do! Have so much fun!

  • Reply pastelsandpassports March 26, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Wow your photos are just incredible! I want to visit Sri Lanka now!

  • Reply Becky the Traveller March 26, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    I am really interested in visiting Sri Lanka, thinking of going in May, do you know if the whales are still there then? Great post it’s tempting me even more!!! And the pic of the leopard is aweseome. Do you have a really good camera or was he really close?

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis April 1, 2017 at 7:25 pm

      Hi Becky – from what I can gather the whales are here all year. We went out today and saw at least 5 blue whales – amazing!! Those aren’t my pics unfortunately but hoping to get one of my own – we’re still here in Sri Lanka at present and off on safari tomorrow 🙂

  • Reply Sri Lanka: 1 Month Itinerary And Travel Guide • Phenomenal Globe July 21, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    […] listed in this itinerary. If you have less time available to explore Sri Lanka, also check out this 2-week itinerary by my friend […]

  • Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: