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Highlights of Sri Lanka & Maldive Dhoni Cruise
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Mixed Groups

14 Days / 13 Nights Trip to Sri Lanka

Highlights of Sri Lanka & Maldive Dhoni Cruise

Happiness is a place. It’s called Bhutan.
Come explore a kingdom in the clouds – a land of soaring Himalayan peaks and ancient monasteries, myths and momos, where thousands of prayer flags flutter in the wind, tigers fly through the air, and happiness rules – in the company of a fun group of international travellers. 
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  • Duration
    14 Days
  • Starting From
    $3,097
    /person
    Twin sharing
  • Travel Operator
    Explore
  • Flights
    Not Included
    Flight booking assistance will be provided.

Trip highlights

Climb Lion's Rock at sunrise 
Highlight #1
Climb Lion's Rock at sunrise 
The ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya is called the ‘Eighth Wonder Of The World’
Everywhere you look in Nuwara Eliya is scenic splendour
Highlight #2
Everywhere you look in Nuwara Eliya is scenic splendour
In Sri Lanka’s hill country, views of green valleys of tea and misty mountain peaks lie around every bend
Visit the UNESCO listed port city of Galle
Highlight #3
Visit the UNESCO listed port city of Galle
With a jumble of colonial buildings, whitewashed churches, pretty craft boutiques and its famous fort and lighthouse, it’s a delight to explore.
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Sri Lanka | Virtual Vacation in 4K

Sri Lanka is one of the world's most fascinating island destinations. It's tropical, filled with elephants and jungle, unspoiled beaches and buddhas and should be on your top travel destination bucket list!

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Itinerary

Description

Our tour begins this afternoon in the coastal town of Negombo, famous for its fishing industry and golden sands. Our hotel is just a 15 minute drive north of the airport. From its beach location, we are likely to see fishing boats bring in the day's catch. We may also be treated to a stunning sunset over the ocean.

In search of leopards in Willpaththu National Park

Leaving Negombo we travel north following the coastal road via the small towns of Chilaw and Putalam before reaching the entrance to Willpaththu National Park. Here we will leave our bus and change to jeeps for an afternoon safari through the park hoping to spot Sri Lanka's most elusive resident, the leopard. Despite Willpaththu National Park's location in Sri Lanka's dry zone, it boasts nearly 60 lakes and is renowned for leopard, elephant and sambar deer spottings. We choose to visit this park, rather than Yala National Park further south because we believe it offers our customers a better experience. The same animals can be seen here as in Yala, however it is less crowded, making our visit more enjoyable and responsible. Leaving the park, we drive to nearby Anuradapura, where we will spend the night.

Explore cave temples and take lunch with the locals

We start this morning with a visit to the mountain peak of Mihintale. It is believed that this was the site of a momentous meeting between the monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa, introducing Buddhism to the country. Exploring Mihintale involves climbing a flight of 1,840 shallow stone steps leading to the summit of the Missaka Mountain. There are excellent views from the top looking back to Anuradhapura. After the exertions we swap our bus for a bullock cart and make our way slowly through a small village on the outskirts of Habarana. After this rather relaxing ride we change seats again and use dugout canoe style boats - adapted with seats for a more comfortable ride! - to cross the short distance across the lake to Hiriwaduna Village where we are met by the villagers and treated to a traditional Sri Lankan lunch. We can watch as delicious curries and fluffy rice are prepared and try out creating a traditional spicy sambar. After sharing the meal and spending time in the village we make our way to Sigiriya, stopping on the way to visit Dambulla, where a great series of caves have been turned into temples dating from the 1st century BC. This World Heritage Site still attracts scores of worshippers. We will visit five separate caves, which contain a large number of Buddha images and sculptures of Hindu Gods

Climb Lions Rock at sunrise. Drive to Kandy

An early start this morning as we plan to climb Sigiriya Rock ahead of the crowds and whilst it is cool. The ruins of this 5th century 'Sky Fortress' are one of Sri Lanka's major attractions, a stupendous sight to behold and a feat of consummate engineering skill. Built in just seven years as a fortified palace to protect the reign of merciless King Kassapa, who had assassinated his father and deposed his brother, it is seen as one of the world's best preserved examples of ancient urban planning. Unfortunately for the king, despite its impregnable reputation, he was defeated here by his brother after a reign of just 18 years. A switchback series of steps and steel stairways ascend to the top. Halfway up, tucked beneath a sheltering overhang of rock, are the famous frescoes - the Sigiriya Damsels, their colours still glowing. Before our final ascent to the summit, we pass between a set of enormous lion paws carved out of the rock - all that remain of an ancient gateway that gave Sigiriya, the 'Lion Rock', its name. Once at the 200 meter summit, magnificent views can be enjoyed of the surrounding jungle and countryside. This afternoon, a two-hour drive takes us to Kandy. On arrival the time is free to explore this historic town. Perhaps visit the Temple of the Tooth, situated on the shore of the lake or take a short tuk tuk ride out to the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens which alongside beautiful displays of Sri Lanka's finest flowers is home to thousands of flying foxes.

Learn about Sri Lanka’s tea en route to Unawatuna

Leaving Kandy behind we stop at a tea factory to learn about the processes involved in Sri Lanka's largest export. Originally a tea bush was brought from China in 1842 to be planted at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, it was 25 years later that James Taylor established Sri Lanka's first tea plantation, the Loolecondera Estate in Kandy. These days more than one million people in Sri Lanka are employed by the tea industry. After seeing the process of drying and grinding the leaves we sample some of the blends before leaving tea country and making our way back to the coast. Our destination is Unawatuna on the south west coast. The shallow waters and long, pristine beaches make it perfect for a spot of relaxing.

Free time to explore Galle or whale watching (seasonal)

Today is left free to do as little or as much as you wish. A short tuk tuk ride can take you to visit the neighbouring pretty coastal town of Galle. An important trading centre since ancient times, the fortifications that can be seen today were built by the Portuguese and then the Dutch from the 16th to the 17th centuries. The fort ramparts of this World Heritage Site protect the harbour and a myriad of fascinating old houses, churches and warehouses. Today, the town has a strong arts vibe, with foreign and local artists, writers, photographers, designers and poets drawing inspiration from their surrounds. Boutique shops and cafes around the town showcase their work. There is plenty to explore in the town and enjoyment can be gained simply by wandering around its streets, soaking up its unique atmosphere. For those seeking pure relaxation, local Ayurvedic massages with natural, aromatic herbal oils are highly recommended. Alternatively, between the months of December and April, you might prefer to go on a whale watching trip in the hope of spotting humpback and blue whales

Fly to Male

After breakfast this morning we drive to Colombo Airport where we take the short flight to Male, the capital of the Maldives. After meeting up with our Explore representative and the rest of the group we walk to our hotel close to the harbour in Male. The circumference of the island is little more than 5 kilometers so it's very easy to explore on foot. After freshening up at the hotel we will walk down to the Mosque, to the fish market and along the waters edge to watch the ferries coming and going.

Please note that from January to early April 2017 Colombo airport will be closed for several hours during the day. This means that we will be flying in the early evening, arriving around 19.30, and will miss the short walk in Male. However, there will still be time to enjoy an evening meal and meet up with the rest of the group on your first night in the Maldives.

Sail to Vavuu Atoll and explore Kuda Anbaraa Island

This morning we walk to the waterfront to meet our moored dhoni and crew. We take our breakfast on the boat and then begin cruising south for two to three hours, passing through the Vaadhoo Canal to the South Male Atoll - a smaller and quieter neighbour to the more developed North Male Atoll. Here, many of the islands are inhabited simply by vegetation and white sand, surrounded by clear turquoise water and reef. Heading further south we cruise to the Vavuu Atoll, where we spend time exploring the uninhabited and picturesque islands of Kudiboli and Kuda Anbaraa. When exploring this and other islands in the itinerary, it isn't necessary to bring special footwear. Most customers seem to manage well in flip-flops, and these have the obvious advantage of being quick to get on and off - ideal for walking through sand. Our afternoon is spent snorkelling or relaxing on board. Over the course of the week, underwater fauna we are likely to see include green turtles, reef sharks and gigantic manta rays, as well as smaller sting rays and eagle rays. At each stop, we will also swim among a rainbow of small, colourful fish, including the famous Clown Fish. Our knowledgeable Explore representative will be able to help identify many of the underwater species that we come across.

Snorkel in the clear waters of the Meemu Atoll

Today we sail south for a further two to three hours, crossing to Meemu Atoll - home to one of the longest stretches of reef in the Maldives. On this or other crossings, we may be lucky enough to be chased by spinner dolphins, who like jumping in our wake. We are also likely to see flying fish, sometimes leaping right over the deck of our dhoni. Meemu Atoll is made up of 34 islands, of which 25 are uninhabited. Some of the inhabited ones grow yams, and all of them are largely dependent on fishing. Here more than anywhere, we are likely to experience the true Maldivian way of life. Shortly after entering the atoll, we arrive at Fenboa Finolhu - another beautiful uninhabited island where we aim to base ourselves for the night. We will have plenty of time to enjoy the white-sand beach and to snorkel on the reef. This evening, we can look forward to a barbeque beach banquet in an idyllic spot on the island, laid on by the dhoni crew.

Cruise to Dhiggaru Island for a Bodu Beru display

Cruise to Dhiggaru Island for a Bodu Beru display

Visit the traditional village of Felidhoo

Today, we head back to Felidhoo Atoll and its administrative centre, Felidhoo. With a population of about 400, this is the least populated of all the country's administrative centres. Again, we take time to visit the village and have the opportunity to enjoy another Bodu Beru performance.

 Discover Hulhidhoo reef before sailing to Fulidhoo

By now, we are likely to be feeling completely relaxed, as our routine of reading, sunbathing and napping between island stops and snorkelling spots has become second nature. With a subtly different name to our previous day's stop-off, we break today's journey with a visit to Fulidhoo Island. Once again, we meet the locals and gain more of an appreciation of their life in this tropical paradise. After a further visit to the island of Hulhidhoo, we anchor by a large reef, where we can spend time snorkelling.

Sail to Male stopping to snorkel at Embudhoo Reef

Our last full day on the boat sees us cruising back towards Male. We take the opportunity for some final snorkelling and swimming, before enjoying a farewell meal with our boat crew.

Tour ends in Male

Our tour ends this morning after breakfast. Once we have said our goodbyes to the crew, we disembark the dhoni and are transferred to Male International Airport.

Inclusions

 Meals 

 Accommodation

 Guides 

 Transport

Not Included

 Additional 5% GST

 International Flights and Visa Fees

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This Trip Is Operated By Explore

At Explore, we're the experts in adventure travel. Our small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981. Our authentic travel experiences explore the sights and culture of a country, with hand-picked accommodation that balances comfort and location. Our average group tour size is just 12; perfect for meeting new people and getting to the heart of our destinations.

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