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Where nature beckons

Kim Hae-yeon

ANN/KOREA HERALD – Experiencing a foreign country can turn out to be one that is quite different from one’s expectations. But that is the beauty of travel. As Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, said, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

Those who wish to leave the familiar to explore the unfamiliar away from the urban crowd, Sri Lanka merits consideration.

Sri Lanka, which means “resplendent island”, is also referred to as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

Better known as “Ceylon” until 1972, the island embraces both the tranquil and vibrant nature with abundant tropical forests, mountainous regions and glittering seashores under the bright sunlight.

Picturesque meadows, rich spice-laden food, and coexistence with wild animals and nature, for most, can only be imagined.

Inspired by foreign tourists’ comments on their trips, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau’s (SLTB) tagline, “So Sri Lanka,” captures the authenticity and richness that can be felt when one sets foot in the country.

A researcher holds up an injured sea turtle to explain the recovery process to the visitors at Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Centre. PHOTOS: THE KOREA HERALD
A group of travellers walk towards the Sigiriya ancient rock fortress

Ayubowan! The salutation in Sinhalese, wishing a long life, is the most frequently heard greeting while in the country.

The Korea Herald visited some favourite sightseeing and tourism spots selected by travellers and the people of Sri Lanka alike, in March at the invitation of the SLTPB.

The country is on a road to economic recovery after a financial collapse and the Korean government issued a special travel advisory for Sri Lanka on May 20, which is still in effect. This means that Korean citizens are urged to delay all trips to Sri Lanka unless necessary, or take caution if they are already the country.

Located near the town of Dambulla in Central Province, the Sigiriya ancient rock fortress is one of Sri Lanka‘s eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Nature created the massive 200-metre-high rock, with its surface at the top shaped flat. The climb takes about an hour on steep stairs.

Half way the top, a symbolic giant rock that resembles a pair of lion’s paws can be seen which acts as the main entrance to the mountain peak. The upper part of the structure has collapsed over the ages, leaving the rock’s mysterious shape a great photo spot for travellers.

Climbers who make it to the top are rewarded with a stunning view of nature unfolds with mountains lined up in rows that meet the sky. The ruins of the 5th Century King Kashyapa’s palace features the king’s terraced gardens and organic caves with frescoes. The architecture blends harmoniously with the natural environment.

A 30-minute drive from the Sigiriya is the Minneriya National Park, one of the 22 national parks in the country.

Situated around a reservoir, the park is famous for safari tours during which wild elephants, deer and various bird species can be seen.

Although open throughout the day, the best time to visit is during sunset after 4pm, since gentle breeze and setting sun make the three-hour jeep ride much easier.

Madu Ganga River, located near two popular coastal towns, is the second-largest wetland in Sri Lanka. It has rich biodiversity, with over 500 species of plants and animals. A haven for botanists and ecologists around the world, the Madu Ganga offers boat trips to to watch monkeys pick fruits in trees, water monitor lizards glide through the water and cormorants and egrets.

Some 64 islands in the river and lagoon are settled. If starting the trip after sundown, you will notice fishermen in canoes lighting lanterns to attract shellfish into their traps. The boat trip takes 90 minutes. Life jackets are provided upon request.

About a 20-minute ride from Madu Ganga stands the Victor Hasselblad Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Centre, the first turtle hatchery on the island that opened in 1978.

The centre has helped some five million turtle hatchlings make their way into the sea. The centre rehabilitates injured turtles and initiates global campaigns to put an end to illegal fishing.

Accompanied by the centre’s researcher, visitors can observe hundreds of turtles one-to-three-days old along with thousands of unhatched eggs sheltered for over a month.

The centre is located on the Kosgoda Beach, a good spot to take some time to relax after a day’s trip.

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