Sri Lanka – Yala National Park

We arrived in Yala delighted with our hotel pick, Cinnamon Wild Yala (thanks Rob). Set on the outskirts of Yala National Park with the pool overlooking a large watering hole which was full of buffalo cooling themselves from the sun, an array of birds and plenty of crocodiles. We spent the afternoon enjoying the pool and watching the wildlife.

Dinner was buffet style with everything from local to western and we of course chose local and filled our plates with curries and sambals. It was delicious. No photos unfortunately – hard to take a decent pic of a buffet to be honest.

We did manage a pretty nice sunset before the heavens opened and we had to be escorted back to out room incase we came across any wild animals!

We were up early for our safari the next day with a 5am pick up by Shehan Safari Tours. In our own private jeep we entered the park and soon after we were tearing along as a leopard had been spotted. Mayhem ensued and our driver drove like a maniac. That said he got us there in time to see the elusive leopard.

Hiding in the trees we got to admire this amazing animal – all pictures are on the SLR camera I’m afraid. It was just amazing to see a leopard up close.

We moved on to see what else we could spot. Lots of peacocks, mongoose, wild boar, buffalo, crocodiles, a jackal and later we finally came upon an elephant.

Such majestic animals and just amazing to watch them move about. We only saw a couple of elephants, I was hoping for more but hey ho. After three hours of racing around we headed back to our hotel for breakfast. The remainder of the day was spent chilling by the pool.

The next day we were headed to Mirissa beach, a three hour drive away. The journey gave me an opportunity to really take in some local life and I watched as mothers took their kids to school shading them from the sun with their umbrellas. Farmers herding their buffalo. Older kids playing cricket on sandy pitches.

We drove through or on the edge of Bundala National Park and saw two elephants heading into the trees, too quick for a photo op unfortunately. Lots of monkeys and beautiful birds everywhere. We occasionally had to swerve to get out the way of the oncoming herd of cows down the road whilst king coconut sellers sliced the top off their coconuts with a machete.

Needless to say the three hours flew by and we arrived in Mirissa.

Sri Lanka – Sigiriya

We arrived in Colombo in the early hours to be greeted by our driver Anoj, booked via withlocals.com. After a 11 hour flight we were shattered, so took the opportunity to have a snooze in the car as we had a three hours transfer to Sigiriya.

On route we stopped at the side of the road, welcoming the opportunity to stretch our legs. Anoj treated us to our first taste of King Coconut, a local favourite here in Sri Lanka and a perfect way to refresh after a long journey. We watched as a guy expertly opened up the coconut, stuck in a straw and handed them out. They were surprisingly full of coconut water too.

We arrived at the Hotel Sigiriya in Sigiriya and took in the amazing view of Lion Rock whilst enjoying our welcome drink of fresh watermelon juice. The afternoon was spent snoozing by the pool.

We decided to venture out into the local town for dinner, so after a few local Lion beers we set out. I knew I wanted to go to the top rated Wijesiri Family Restaurant, a family run restaurant known for its tasty food at amazing value. We were not disappointed (only that they didn’t serve beer!). We quickly ordered a fresh pineapple juice and perused the menu. Chicken curry and rice – served with 8 curries was definitely happening, along with their local speciality of devilled king prawns. And for good measure a portion of the vegetable kotthu roti.

The curry was something else, so many dishes of tasty daal, okra, green beans and curry. We probably could have shared but that would have been boring. The devilled prawns reminded us of a sticky Sichuan style Chinese dish, really tasty. The kotthu roti is a mix of diced up vegetables, noodles and herbs and a famous snack in Sri Lanka. I have a feeling we may be eating more of this over the next few weeks.

Wijesiri Family Restaurant KATER Score 8/10 – £11 for two inc. service

The following morning we were up with the birds for an early breakfast Sri Lankan style followed by a hike up Lions Rock. Breakfast was a buffet serving everything from hoppers to curries – the perfect fuel for our walk.

Climbing Lion Rock was tiring in the heat, but well worth getting there early to beat the crowds. Over 1600 years old and a UNESCO world heritage site it’s impressive, with fantastic views across Sigiriya and surrounding areas. It’s £21 entrance which for Sri Lanka is steep.

We were back by the pool at 9.30 and a rewarding beer ordered by 10am – we are on holiday after all!

That night we ate in the hotel, enjoyed their buffet of various local curries including a rendang style beef curry, vegetables and sambals, the coconut sambals being my favourite. We treated ourselves to a bottle of red which cost more than our meal – what are holidays for!

The following day we relaxed by the pool some more and decided to venture out and climb Pedurangula Rock later that afternoon. This rock looks over Lion Rock, is a fraction of the cost and overall felt like a much more rewarding walk (£2 entrance). The views are spectacular, the climb hard especially in flip flops (don’t believe all you read on trip advisor) and I’m not surprised this is favoured over the two rocks. Oh and be prepared to do a little rock climbing at the top.

A quick walk down we found the only bar in town (or so we thought) that served beer, the Rasta bar. It was a bit run down and full of mosquitos so we quickly moved onto to Pradeep Restaurant for dinner. We were happy to discover they too sold beer (whoop) so another round of beers ordered along with their vegetable curry and some chicken fried rice. All very nice but not a patch on its neighbour Wijesiri.

Pradeep Restaurant KATER Score 6/10 – £8 for two inc. service

For our last breakfast in Sigiriya I enjoyed an omelette with chicken curry and Sam had his first egg hoppers filled with daal and sambals.

Next stop Kandy.