By Michael Osborne
AYUBOWAN is the lovely salutation people greet you with in Sri Lanka which in Sinhalese means Long Life.
I was invited by the Sri Lankan Government to return and review the tourism side of the after effects of the April terrorism atrocities. My previous visit was in 2016, following an official invitation from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to represent Australian travel media at their special conference; Tourism: A Catalyst for Development, Peace and Reconciliation in Passikudah, Sri Lanka.
I joined up with a group of Australian travel agents and one trade media representative for a 10-day exploration of the major tourist destinations.
Arriving at Colombo, the first thing noticed is the very obvious increase in security, which gives one a feeling of safety. Tourism is one of the main industries for this tiny island nation – about the size of Tasmania – but with a population of more than 21 million.
From Colombo, we headed North East to Sigiriya, then to the coast and Trincomalee. Next we headed back to the heart of the country and Kandy, then further South to Ella and back to the East coast town to Galle, before leaving for Mt Lavina and returning to Colombo. Many a kilometre!
What had changed? It is very obvious that the people of Sri Lanka have formed a unified bond, forgetting about various religious differences and merging as one to overcome the tragedy. All places of worship were open and people were smiling and going about their daily chores. Even the various political groups seem to be onside for the recovery.
Everywhere we went the hotels and resorts were showing good occupancy and we managed to bump into Aussie travellers at most of them, who all expressed that they felt totally safe and were all enjoying their holidays.
Reasons why you should go ….
About 2,600 years of recorded history dates this civilisation. One such is the Ramayana, when the island was called Lanka and was a fortress for King Ravana.
Buddhism was introduced in the third century BC, to become the dominant religion.
Around the sixth century BC the Sinhalese arrived from Northern India and a substantial civilisation evolved. They established various kingdoms and continued to prosper until the 16th century.
Then the Europeans, looking for exotic spices started a series of invasions. The Portuguese in the 16th century, the Dutch took over in the 17th century. Then followed the British in 1796 who then took over the whole island in 1815. Leading to most of the island became a British colony in 1902,
In 1948, then known as Ceylon they became independent and changed their name to Sri Lanka in 1972.
Natural scenic beauty from golden beaches with crystal waters, to mist covered valleys covered in ethical tea plantations.
Heritage – Sigiriya, the Eighth Wonder of the World, a fifth century AD fortress and a water garden displays some of the most futuristic elements of landscaping and some of the oldest murals recorded in the country.
Wildlife – Ignoring its small size Sri Lanka boasts of one of the highest rates of biological endemism in the world whether in plants or animals and is included among the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world. Of the ninety-one species of mammals found in Sri Lanka Asian elephants, sloth bear, leopards, sambar and wild buffaloes engages the majority of the attention of wildlife enthusiast.
Despite the mighty elephants and rare amphibians found in the country, birds are the glory of the Sri Lanka’s wildlife. Boasting nearly 433 bird species of which 233 are resident Sri Lanka holds 20 endemic species while another 80 species have developed distinct Sri Lankan races, compared to their cousins in Indian mainland.
Accommodation – As tourism is one of the mainstays of the economy, a full gambit of accommodation is on offer, from top level resorts and hotels to modest budget opportunities including home stays.
Cuisine – With such a wonderful and varied cultural background, added to by an abundance of wonderful fresh produce, you will find some of the most delicious food I have sampled anywhere in the world.
The People – Sri Lanka is a melting pot of cultural variety, predominantly, as one would expect from an Indian heritage, blended with the various visitors and invaders from over the centuries. A beautiful and friendly nation of multi-national people, who are delighted to be of assistance to travellers. In particular to Australians, all you have to do is mention cricket and you will find a passionate local expert, who enjoys the chance to have their team taking on the Aussies.
As we all know, things can change, so always check at: https://smartraveller.gov.au for the latest travel advice!