Abi’s Family Holiday to Sri Lanka
Kid-Friendly Culture

Ever since our back-packing days in India, Jim and I had wanted to visit Sri Lanka – our only hesitation, the worry of over-dosing on culture, children in tow. Feeling confident we could strike a balance that would appease Will (then 13), Arthur (then 11) and Imy (then 6), off we set one summer for a family road trip with a difference.

We chose to fly Sri Lankan which was a cultural experience in itself; their new aircraft are great and the old-style service was both charming and refreshing.

After a couple of nights in the lush green tea country, combined with rafting at Borderlands for a spot of adrenaline, we headed to the Cultural Triangle. Playing it safe, we built in lots of fun time ‘out of the van’ rather than packing in full days touring around. This worked well, as did scheduling activities in the morning and late afternoon, avoiding the heat of midday, when it suited all of us to just lounge and lunch next to a pool! One late afternoon saw us scaling Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Another day, the local monkeys, all too keen to share our mango sticks, kept us entertained and proved a hilarious distraction from the numerous steps we had to conquer to access the stunning Dambulla cave temple. Top tips – take LOTS of water and wear a hat to avoid frayed tempers. Iced soft drinks back in the van also proved a winner.

One of our holiday highlights was undoubtedly watching the Perahera – an annual parade of fire dancers, drummers and festooned elephants which takes place in Kandy. Timing our visit to be there on one of the earlier nights (it lasts 10 days) meant we spent 2 hours enjoying the festivities rather than 4. This proved key, as you need to take your seat several hours before the cannon and whip cracks signify the start. If you go, ask us to book seats for you near the Pizza Hut – they deliver! Welcome news to three boys with big appetites.

Hill Country tea plantations

As a family of wildlife enthusiasts, we were pleasantly surprised at the plentiful sightings on offer, due, in large part, to the ancient ‘tanks’, aka large lakes, built 1500 years ago and designed to help local communities during the dry season. These tanks now lure and support all manner of wildlife. We loved watching the monkeys take a lunchtime dip at Cinnamon Lodge and one day we kayaked through lotus leaves at Ulagalla, spotting water buffalo cooling off to one side and local children bathing on the other. Perhaps the most famous ‘tank’ of all is at Minneriya, where, during our summer months, you can surround yourself by hundreds of elephants – a sight to behold. Prepare yourselves – the water monitor lizards can be enormous!

We were happy to head to the beach afterwards, but thanks to plentiful opportunities to combine wildlife, soft adventure and local fun, we found culture most certainly did work with kids! As for the locals, with their ready smiles, sunny dispositions and fascinating traditions, they added a wonderful dimension to our family holiday.

Take a look at our photo-diary over on Instagram and teens might like to watch Will’s You Tube upload!

About the author

Bushbaby was founded by Abi in 2004, with the aim of helping families experience authentic and memorable long-haul holidays, whilst not compromising on style and comfort when travelling with young children in tow! Abi has travelled to over 60 countries with her husband Jim (who proposed at Everest base camp) and lives in Surrey with her 3 children.

Abi Shaw - Bushbaby founder and avid explorer!

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