So, as you may (or may not) know, we recently spent a few weeks in the beautiful Sri Lanka setting up our next fitness retreat in April. Part of the reason we were there (in fact, it was the MAIN reason we were there) was to check out all the amazing activities that this fascinating Country had to offer. Some of the following list of activities we will do with guests, and others were just a little too off the beaten track for our 1 week retreat, however we absolutely encourage people to do them if they have the time as if we had the time we would DEFINITELY do them all!
So here is our Top 5 things you MUST do in Sri Lanka:
Yeah, I know it might seem a little obvious, but this really is one of the best places in the world to surf. Whether you're a complete newbie and have never stepped foot on a board, or your a seasoned professional that's used to surfing even the most challenging waves, there will be a place for you here.
We spent a few days with the fabulous La Point Surf Camp in Ahangama, and had an absolute blast!
I've surfed a handful of times and am a level at which I consider myself to be.............well.............terrible! Seriously though i've surfed white water several times, and have attempted to tackle a few green waves (with varying success), but for the purposes of this blog let's just call me "a beginner". I also have a little bit of a fear when it comes to the ocean. I'm not a strong swimmer, and therefore as soon as i'm in water where I can't touch the floor I get a wee bit tense.
The instructor Adrien was an absolute LEGEND, and made sure that I was competent in the pool before heading out into the ocean. He taught me how to fall correctly, and the most efficient way to get back on my board when i'm not able to touch the floor - 2 things that massively helped with my confidence. From there on out I was able to completely focus on improving my technique, and I begun to appreciate just how much of surfing is about reading the ocean, and how DAMN TIRING IT IS! Seriously though, thanks to the guys at La Point Surf Camp I have discovered a whole new love for surfing, and can't wait to get back there for our retreat in April!
This unfortunately was one activity that we had to miss on our trip, because Ina (my partner/New Horizon Co-Founder) is pregnant, and we didn't think that driving around a Reserve for an entire day, in an open top Jeep, in the blazing sun, with minimal toilet stops, and terrain that's bumpy enough to make even MY waters break was a very good idea!
This is however another activity that we WILL be doing with guests on our retreat next April, and one that absolutely should not be missed when visiting Sri Lanka, so we're both super excited to experience it for the first time a long side our lucky guests!
For this we will be heading on an exclusive trail away from most of the other tourists in Zone 1, and entering the more wild Zone 2! Here you will find an abundance of wildlife including Elephants, Leopards, Crocodiles and much much more.
This experience will also include a stop at a deserted beach on the edge of the wildlife reserve, where guests will be met by staff who have thoughtfully prepared an amazing lunch to enjoy in complete paradise. They will then have some time to relax on the white sandy beach and dip their toes in the crystal clear waters, before continuing their safari adventure in the 4x4.
3. S.U.P YOGA
SUP (or stand up paddle boarding) has become very popular in recent years, and for very good reason. It's a fantastic way to explore lakes, lagoons, and even seas (swell permitting).
We took a trip to see the wonderful Magda at SUP Yoga Sri Lanka for a half day in a beautiful lagoon in Ahangama. Here we began our experience with a bit of practice on dry land (thankfully), where they have some simulation boards (these are essentially thin peices of wood placed on top of wobble cushions, and are VERY unstable). This is to get your core muscles fired up and your mind focussed before you go out on the water to the real thing.
After a short drive you'll arrive at the beautifully serene lagoon surrounded by only a couple of small local houses, and lot's of lush greenery. You'll paddle yourself out to the middle of the lagoon, before anchoring up and beginning your session. It's worth noting that the paddle boards are very buoyant and MUCH easier to balance on than the simulation boards on land (phew!).
The class itself was great, and even for a stiff person like myself was very manageable, but just the right amount of challenging. We spent about an hour doing Yoga, before a short Savasana and a paddle around the lagoon afterwards which was beautiful. You'll then return to the main camp where you spend a short time meditating with the help of the very well known "Headspace" app. This was a great addition to the experience, and explained meditation in a way that I think anyone can get on board with.
This is definitely in the top 5 things we recommend checking out in Sri Lanka, as it's suitable for everyone, and a great way to see a different side of Sri Lanka. Out retreat guests can definitely expect a visit to SUP Yoga Sri Lanka!
4. WHALE WATCHING
It might not sound like something that's considered a MUST do, but we think having the opportunity to see the largest animal that has ever existed on earth is a pretty special thing. Yep, you read correctly, the amazing Blue Whale (as well as others breeds) is known at certain times of year to frequent the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka, and if you're lucky you might even get the opportunity to swim with these huge majestic creatures.
Whales can be unpredictable in terms of exactly where and when they show up, so there's never a 100% guarantee that you will see them, however you're at least guaranteed to see groups of Dolphins playing in the surf which is an experience in itself, but if you're lucky enough to catch sight of the Blue Whale we guarantee it's an experience you'll never forget!
Although this must do activity won't be included on our retreat, it will be offered as an extra for guests to do in their free time. We'd love to take guests on all of these activities, but if we did them all it wouldn't leave much time for sleeping and eating!
Now I could have been specific and chosen one particular hike/trek but I chose not to because there are so many great options in Sri Lanka and they are scattered all over the country, so I decided to keep it general and give you a few examples of great treks that you could do.
Adam's Peak: This 2,243m tall mountain is also known locally as Sri Pada and is a popular pilgrimage site amongst Sri Lankan's. It's religious relevance has a different meaning to each group, but the footprint at the top is what draws them there, only it is the origin of the footprint that is disputed amongst these groups. All we know is that it's an absolutely breathtaking place to watch the sunrise, and it's this that draws the (non-religious) crowds there. Be prepared to set off in the middle of the night to ensure you arrive before sunrise, and although steps guide the way up, do not expect an easy walk.
Ella Rock: A slightly less physically challenging hike than that of Adam's peak, Ella Rock presents it's own challenges in the form of directions. If you decide not to use a guide make sure to do your homework in advance, as this trek isn't sign posted and there have been cases of local people giving tourists the wrong information just so they find themselves lost, and conveniently in need of a local guide. Regardless of whether you're duped into paying a local to walk you to the top Ella Rock has truly stunning views and is hard to beat if you want to see true Sri Lankan countryside.
Sinharaja Rainforest: If you want something a little more off the beaten track, then a trek through the rainforest should do the trick. On this trek you'll be guided (don't try it on your own) through dense jungle where you'll see a truly different side to Sri Lanka. Expect to get a little soggy on this trek, whether that be from sweat or rain (it is the rainforest after all), but fear not as the climax is reaching a beautiful waterfall where you'll have the opportunity to cool off and take a dip. Guests on our April retreat will have the opportunity to experience this awesome trek.
Sri Lanka is amazing and there is SO much to do, that to write a top 5 is a pretty tough challenge to say the least. We whole heartedly recommend people come out to Sri Lanka with an open mind and a thirst for adventure. Do your research, and decide whether activities are suitable for you, as what one person loves another may not. If your idea of the perfect trip is relaxing on a beautiful white sandy beach, whilst sipping Mojitos then Sri Lanka is STILL the place to come. It really does have something for everyone. I hope this blog has at least helped you decide that Sri Lanka is definitely a place worth visiting.