Book Review: Wild Sri Lanka, by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne

Wild Sri LankaTo readers unfamiliar with Sri Lankan wildlife, the claims Gehan sets out in the introductory chapter to Wild Sri Lanka might seem fantastical. One of the best whale-watching destinations in the world? The largest annually occurring concentration of elephants in the world? The largest “bird wave” phenomenon in the world? It seems hard to believe, of an island roughly the size of Tasmania or Ireland.

But by presenting data he has gathered over many years, and sharing personal accounts of

33 birds I photographed in Sri Lanka (and another 22 I didn’t)

Yala Crested hawk eagle 440 wide

On my recent trip to Sri Lanka, birdwatching was slotted in around interviews, hotel inspections, and hours and hours on the road. I did get chance to go on a proper birding walk at Rainforest Eco Lodge in Sinharaja and Hotel Sigiriya though, and saw lots of birds on safari in Yala and hiking in the Knuckles. All in all, I clocked up at least 55 species (that’s just the ones I noted down) and managed… Continue reading

Paying the price: why Sri Lanka’s parks and landmarks need urgent investment

The week after my own visit to Yala National Park, something particularly worrying happened. On August 17, one of the park’s best-known tuskers, Gemunu, came close to a safari vehicle looking for food. This isn’t unusual: he’s been doing it with increasing regularity since irresponsible drivers and guides started letting him take food from the vehicles, to deliver a “thrill” for their passengers. In this alarming Youtube clip from July, he almost topples a jeep over – the driver should never have let him get this close to the vehicle:

Then… Continue reading

Elephants on parade: cool or cruel?

 

Maligawa Tusker at Esala Perahera
Maligawa Tusker at Esala Perahera

By chance, my few days in Kandy in Sri Lanka happened to coincide with the annual Esala Perahera: a spectacular 20-day period of nightly parades which get progressively grander each night, culminating in the Pattini Perahera.

On this final night, I watched almost a hundred elephants and more than 2,000 dancers and acrobats parade past the temple, with the ‘caparisoned’ elephants cloaked in richly embroidered fabrics. The highlight is the mammoth Maligawa Tusker, who carries the… Continue reading

Adventures in Sri Lanka Part 2: hiking in the Knuckles mountains

Knuckles mountains, Sri Lanka

Few international tourists make it to the Knuckles mountain range. The road is terrible – almost non-existant in places – and tourists on a typical round-island itinerary don’t have time. I spent two nights at Sphinx Eyrie campsite at Corberts Rest  (I actually had to stay in a stone cottage as it was too windy for canvas), and took a long 16km hike – which was one of the real highlights of my trip. Here’s some photos of the wildlife and scenery I saw along the… Continue reading

Adventures in Sri Lanka Part 1: Yala National Park

IMG_9525 sharper narrow 430 final

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It’s taken me four weeks to get around to it but – finally – some blogs from my month in Sri Lanka! I’ve been here since the start of August, researching green hotels and responsible tourism projects. Wildlife tourism plays a pretty big part in responsible tourism here in Sri Lanka, so of course I had to go looking for leopards and elephants for myself…

First up, some photos from a safari trip into Yala National Park:

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No photos please: a bike-tour company in Jamaica gets it right with school kids

Blue Mountains JamaicaIt’s taken until my third visit to Jamaica to fulfil an ambition of getting up into the Blue Mountains – it’s the longest mountain range on the island, reaching 2,256 metres above sea level at its highest point.

A couple of months ago I finally managed it, taking a day trip from Ocho Rios with Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours. The scenery was spectacular, and though the steep downhill cycling was a little hairy at points, it was a wonderful way to experience the beauty of the thickly forested… Continue reading

Animal magic?: Born Free to help the trade get tough on animal attractions

This article first appeared in TTG (Travel Trade Gazette)

Pic: Born Free Foundation
Pic: Born Free Foundation

Abta has teamed up with the Born Free Foundation to create new global guidelines on animal welfare in tourist attractions. Pippa Jacks finds out more 

Britain is often described as being “a nation of animal lovers”, and it would seem animals form as important a part of our holidays overseas as our pet dogs and cats do of our lives here in the UK.

According to Abta… Continue reading

Sustrans, the NCN and a big day out for the Golden Chariot

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Having cycled 34 miles last weekend without even meaning to (after getting rather lost in-between Richmond and Wimbledon), we decided that this weekend we’d try to cycle even further.

Intending to stray outside the M25 for the first time, I invested in a proper National Cycle Network map of Central Sussex and South Surrey, and planned a route from Redhill train station, near Reigate, down to Brighton: a not-too-shabby 37 miles in all… Continue reading