Get ready, set...
We are in the process of getting ready to experience what is expected to be one of the greatest holidays we have ever had. All our stuff is almost packed and all last minute errands done!
Excitement is now building up!
Half way there!
After watching three movies, eating two good meals, bingeing on Cadbury chocolate and lots of fidgeting, we made it to Dubai! 🙂
Dubai's airport is surely the best I've been in so far. It even has a Nutella outlet! What’s better than that?!
Good thing we are quite tired as there is a huge H&M outlet next to our gate! 😉
We’d assumed that it would be beautiful but we still did not expect all this!
After arriving at Male airport we took a one-hour boat ride (super fast) to get to our all-inclusive Olhuveli Beach and Spa Resort which is situated in one of the various Maldivian islands, South Male Atoll.
It is interesting to know that 99% of the country is covered by sea, 1% by land, and 1200 corals islands.
The staff are very friendly and the island is so beautiful. The waters are crystal clear and we already spotted various tropical fish! A yellow boxfish and a baby shark just casually swam underneath our water villa! The person who was showing us around informed us that they're totally harmless 🙂
Some views from our room before we go book the excursions for the week and soak in the sun:
The weather is super hot... +30 degrees.
Diving in the Indian Ocean... and more!
Both Ian and I are Advanced Level divers and thus it was a dream of ours to finally go diving outside Malta.
In the morning we went for an orientation dive so that the instructors could gauge our level of diving. We did some underwater exercises and then went for a 40-minute dive near the resort. We saw sharks, eels, a sea turtle, and millions of tropical fish. It was simply great!
In the evening we went for the Lucky Dolphine Sunset cruise. It seems you have a 50-50 chance of seeing dolphins... but we finally did! Dolphins swam and jumped around our boat for more than 30 minutes... it was amazing! The sunset was also spectacular. We were treated to champagne and fruit kebabs on board.
Another day in Paradise
Since we did well during yesterday’s orientation dive, we booked two boat dives for this morning.
Our first dive was at Guraidhoo Corner, South Male Atoll. The dive was of approximately 45 minutes and we saw sharks, eagle rays, a sea turtle, different eels, barracudas, napoleon fish, and millions of other tropical fish.
Our second dive was at Mendhu Ingili, South Male Atoll. The dive was of approximately 55 minutes and the best of all. We saw sharks once again, and we had encounters with the friendly (huge) bat fish. You flick your fingers underwater and they swim towards you thinking that you have food for them. The coral reefs were beautiful here and the fish were much more colourful.
The below photo is of me with one of the huge batfish, and was taken during our second dive. Truly crystal clear waters, although the visibility during all our dives was not the best.
After diving, it was time to relax and sunbathe (or nap). We are already quite suntanned 😊
My fascination with sharks will never end. Today, another baby shark passed by our water villa and Ian felt the need for some background music... 😂 Here is the video:
We ended our day on a very nice note. The management of the resort organised a sunset cocktail party 🍹🍸 for the guests to give them feedback. Sunsets are one of a kind here. The atmosphere was very nice and the food and drinks good as well.
At night, the lights over the water at the dive centre are lit. The lights attract plankton and lots of fish come to the surface to feed on it. On Monday we saw some pretty large fish but today we were lucky enough to see a huge mantaray showing off and some sharks. The mantaray is famous for appearing here during the nights. Here is the video of the mantaray:
Today was another fun-filled day. We booked a full day excursion. The group consisted of a great Italian couple with two kids from Rome and us, so we were quite happy.
We left the island by boat and snorkelled at three different coral reefs for approximately 30 minutes each. Once again we were super lucky with what we saw... even the guide was astounded. We spotted three sharks, a number of sea turtles, a huge mantaray, a stingray, an eel, lots of clown fish and millions of other tropical fish. The colours of the fish and coral were pretty amazing to see.
We then went to a deserted tropical island, basically consisting of a strip of white sand with some vegetation. The water was crystal clear and simply wonderful. We swam, took some photos and then had a buffet lunch on the boat together with the staff.
Following this, we visited a local island, Guraidhoo, and a local showed us around. We were again very lucky as around fifty dolphins were swimming in the bay and around our boat. It was simply amazing to watch and the guide said that she never saw dolphins there before.
This was one of the islands which was almost wiped out by the tsunami in 2004. The locals live in poverty but seem to be quite happy and strangely enough we did not see a single person working. The temperature was above 46 degrees (yes, you read that right) and it was unbearable. We also visited two local shops, and were advised to haggle for cheaper prices.
We can now be described as roasted humans 😜. Viva aloe vera! 😎
In the evening we watched another beautiful sunset whilst sipping cocktails.
Last full day in Maldives
Since today is our last full day in beautiful Maldives, we’re trying to make the best out of every minute.
Whilst we were having breakfast a large number of dolphins gave everyone a show when they passed in front of the resort. I will definetely never get tired of watching dolphins jump around.
We went snorkelling on our own in two different beaches/reefs on the island, and again saw sea turtles, sharks, a large eel, and colourful tropical fish. The eel and one of the sharks came too close for comfort this time, and I got my wish of seeing a shark up close! There was no time to take a photo and there’s no need to experience it again 😜
After the first snorkelling session, we managed to find these unoccupied sunbeds, which we made ours for an hour of reading in some peace and quiet.
The following photos are of the first area in which we snorkelled:
This is the second beach in which we snorkelled:
Our last sunset at the Maldives:
Ian’s best buddy at Olhuveli, i.e. the Grey Heron:
On one occasion we spent more than 30 minutes waiting for a Grey Heron to fly away so that Ian could capture a photo of it. After all this waiting, a couple passed nearby and it flew away with Ian unable to take a photo without also getting the couple in the picture. Its a love-hate relationship between them now 😂
A brief review on the Olhuveli Beach Resort and Spa:
The service, food and drinks are excellent and the premises are superb. The souvenirs and clothing for sale are quite expensive but that is to be expected. The excursions are also quite expensive especially the diving activities. The all-inclusive package allows for one free excursion only.
The only down side was that most of the bays were covered in algae which was not so nice to swim in. Also, since one of the bays was a bit closed off, the water was a bit stagnant and I got Swimmers' Itch, which include some itchy rash.
However, given the opportunity I would definetely go to this resort again in a heart beat! 😍
Sri Lanka here we come!
After a relaxed breakfast, we checked out of our resort. We are currently at Male airport waiting to board the Emirates plane to Sri Lanka. The flight will take approximately 1.5 hours.
It seems our luck is still with us 😊 The Emirates check-in agent just informed us that the flight is full-up (our faces turned green for a second there) and they upgraded us to business class! We’ll give you a report once we land.
Hello from Colombo, Sri Lanka
We have been in Sri Lanka for only a few hours and it’s already been eventful!
The business class upgrade was surely a treat. The crew welcomed us with a fresh juice of our choice and then distributed a very warm cloth to freshen ourselves. They also offered us a cold meal. All this for an hour flight!
The seats were a total luxury, reclining from a seating position to a total bed level. The screens were much larger and clearer than the economy class ones and the entertainment selection was vast. All in all a very nice experience indeed 😊
Colombo airport is much larger and more modern than the one in Male. It is very nicely decorated for Christmas as well. We met our guide, Mr Bandara, at the arrivals lounge and he immediately gave us a beautiful floral necklace.
Coming out of the airport was another experience altogether. The Sri Lankan people got the highway code, stomped on it, shredded it, and then burnt it 😂 Now I truly believe that the Maltese people are perfect drivers! They manage to turn a two-lane street, barely wide enough for two vehicles, into a three-lane one, without denting each other’s cars or swearing at each other. It comes naturally to them. Horns are constantly used though 😂
Some other random facts which we have learnt so far (quoting Mr Bandara here):
> There are 53 types of banana in Sri Lanka.
> The religions followed in Sri Lanka are Buddhism (70%), Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism.
> Colombo is mainly Catholic, in fact many areas were decorated for Christmas.
> Buddists respect the cow since it provides them with milk and fertiliser, and they also treat it as one of their gods. These are the reasons why they do not eat beef.
> Lion Lager is one of their local beers and Ian approves 🍺
Our hotel for the first night is Jetwing Beach in Negombo. At first I admit that I was quite skeptic, especially after experiencing that high level of luxury in the Maldives. The hotel restaurant leads to the beach with no windows or doors, just a net which can be opened for guests to access the beach (as can be seen from the picture above). In fact, several dogs and cats came into the restaurant and were quickly shooed at by the staff.
The room was awesome and the view of the beach was great. We had some large ants, mosquitoes and other insects as companions but we were told to expect this. Nothing that some insect repellent could not fix! 🙂
The dinner and breakfast buffets were great and the staff very friendly. Highly recommended! 🙂
As soon as it was daylight, we realised that our hotel, Jetwing Beach, was right on the beach. As soon as we had breakfast, we went for a short quick walk along the Negombo beach.
Buddhists have a holiday on every full moon day, i.e. approximately once a month, and few are those who work on the day. Since today was the last full moon of 2018, there were more celebrations than usual and we watched some rituals from the streets, whilst in traffic (approx. 2 hours!).
Our first excursion in Sri Lanka was that of visiting the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. First we visited the museum, where a guide briefly explained some important points about elephants and the orphanage and then went for a short ride on one of the elephants. They are huge (obviously!) and their skin is so rough. After the ride, we went to the river where Ian helped to wash an elephant, who then gave him some free showers in return 😂
Our guide informed us that when it is time to start rice harvesting, the farmers dig some large holes to act as water reservoirs. The wild elephants do not notice these reservoirs and fall in them. Those elephants which are saved from these holes (some die) are then put in orphanages across the country.
After the museum, we went to the orphanage and visited the various areas. Areas included the adult males, the baby elephants, the pregnant females, and the rest of the females. A female gives birth after 22 months! 😮
After the orphanage, we visited the Poo Paper shop. In this outlet, locals produce paper from elephant poo! A local woman showed us how they add water and boil the poo to remove all the bacteria and smell, and then treat it through a whole process to produce clean, thin, smooth paper. They have a huge shop with all the different products they produce.
We were advised that around 2pm elephants are moved from the orphanage to the river to have a bath. We went at the lookout point and watch the whole event take place. It was very clear that elephants love to bathe and play in the water! 😍
For our afternoon activity, the guide suggested that we go for a couples massage at Athreya Ayurvedic Hotel and Spa. The spa was made up of several huts and again, we were a bit skeptic when we arrived. However, we definitely do not have any complaints now! The massage was incredible and the attendants were absolute professionals in the treatments offered. We did a full body massage, a head massage with dripping oils and a steam bath 😌
The hotel for our next three nights is Deer Park Hotel.
Local food, Sigiriya Rock & Jungle Safari
The guide suggested a visit to a local, traditional home in the middle of rice plantations. We were a bit skeptic at first since it was not included in our planned programme but we enjoyed ourselves.
The locals took us on a cow ride along the country roads, and then on a traditional boat along the rice fields. The lake was filled with water lillies, and the local guide made us a hat out of water lily leaves and flowers.
We then visited a local home where the members of the family helped us cook a local meal, grind rice, weave a palm tree branch and showed us around their home. Although they are extremely poor, with no electricity, we were amazed how clean everything was kept. The tour ended by a crowded and super bumpy tuk tuk ride.
We then visited the famous Sigiriya Rock. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area under the Rock is very beautiful as the photos will show, and to get to the top we had to climb 1200 steps in +33 degree heat. The guide knew some people and we skipped some queues and managed to climb to the top and go back to the car in under 2 hours. The views from the top are unbelievable.
Since children are currently on school recess, the place was very crowded and some locals informed us that the other queues were not even moving at all (after hours). Local people also do not know the concept of queueing so that does not help the situation...at all.
We then went for a meal in a hotel restaurant which served a Sri Lankan food buffet. We’re usually sticking to white rice, noodles and some not-spicy meat curry when we are skeptic about the food on offer.
The last excursion of the day was a two-hour jungle safari in Minneriya National Park. The safari was great and we spotted three huge elephants eating and then bathing in the lake, peacocks, pelicans, flamingos, chickens, monkeys, eagles, vultures, deer, iguanas... and treees.
Some random facts (quoting Mr Bandara):
> Locals make bricks out of their red soil. Basically they put soil in the form of a brick and then burn it to solidify it.
> Stray dogs are numerous in Sri Lanka. Strangely enough, all the dogs are of the same breed and the guide informed us that they all belong to someone but enjoy staying in the street to try to get more food from passers by. They are all very thin although some are in better condition than others. They absolutely do not mind cars coming their way.
> Along the roads, the guide pointed to us various fruit and vegetable trees, including green pepper trees, pineapple bushes, coconut trees, rice fields, passion fruit trees, papaya trees, chili trees, rubber trees, and iron trees. The iron tree is the national tree of Sri Lanka.
> Locals providing a service, which we already paid for, constantly ask for tips... and some even ask for extra tips once tips were already given!
> There are approximately 6,500 elephants (both wild and in orphanages) in Sri Lanka. Elephants often cross the roads, which is extremely dangerous for cars and passers by, and locals are quite scared of them. Drivers warn each other that there is an elephant on the road ahead and most stop until the elephant crosses over (which can take some time). We encountered around five on the road uptil now.
Christmas Eve Celebrations
The evening of Christmas eve was getting quite weird for us, knowing that usually we are with our families or preparing to go out either for mass or to celebrate. At one point we were a bit homesick since we could not feel that Christmas spirit.
You can imagine how glad we felt once we went out for the daily buffet dinner to find out that the restaurant was heavily decorated for Christmas and the hotel planned a special Christmas buffet dinner for all the guests. The food selection was amazing and included turkey and other Christmas delicacies. We even had Christmas crackers and party hats on our table.
The guests were all having fun and there was a great atmosphere. When we were almost done with our dinner, Father Christmas also came to visit! ☺️
After the dinner there was also a DJ Party but we did not know about it. We only knew there was a party nearby since the loud music did not stop until 11.30pm!
Merry Christmas to everyone! ☺️☺️🎄🎁🍾
This morning we did some sightseeing in the historical city of Polonnaruwa, another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka.
First we visited the Archaeological Museum and Information Centre of Polonnaruwa where our guide explained the meaning behind various artifacts and buildings that we would be visiting later on.
Then we moved on to visit the ruins of the various temples of the ancient city, including Polonnaruwa Vatadage.
It is important to note that before you enter temples (or the surrounding areas), you need to cover your shoulders, legs and remove any headgear and footwear.
Buddha Figures at Gal Vihara:
It is important to note that taking selfies with Buddha is not allowed since that would mean that you stood with your back towards the Buddha, i.e. showing disrespect. We were unaware of this!
An ancient bathroom in the ruins of the King's Palace:
The King’s Audience Hall:
Satmahal Prasada in Polonnaruwa:
Potgul Vehera in Polonnaruwa:
Rankot Vehera in Polonnaruwa:
Palace of King Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa:
It is truly a monkey kingdom here!
After visiting the city, we went to a Wood Carving Factory where a local worker explained the different types of wood found in the country and how and for what they are used for. Some types of wood are ideal for statues whereas others are used for home furniture or garden furniture. The adjacent shop included thousands of handmade items for sale, all truly beautiful.
We now have a free afternoon to enjoy the hotel and its beautiful surroundings and relax since we are getting quite tired after all the continuous travel. The following are some photos of the Deer Park Hotel where we are staying.
We did not manage to use the pool since both times we planned to take a swim, it started raining heavily.
Deer Park hotel was great on the whole. The surroundings and the room were very nice and the shower and bath in the bathroom were without a roof, separated from the trees by a net, which also nice. However, we quickly realised that this was not very practical when it rained... and when insects wanted to get in.
The only complaint about this hotel was the lack of wifi availability. Rooms do not have wifi access and the wifi at the common area was truly poor! Staff tried to help, however there was little that they could do. This was a bit of a problem for us especially since we were at the hotel on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and we wanted to communicate with our family and friends.
Well we can safely say that Christmas Day was much more different than usual for us.
We started the day by visiting a silk factory. The guide showed us different types of silk and how silk is made. She then asked us to select draperies so that she could help us dress in their local costumes. A very interesting visit indeed.
We then proceeded to visit the Dambulla Cave Temples. We climbed a lot of stairs in the very hot temperatures, but it was worth it for the views and the beautiful temples we saw.
We also passed by the Dambulla Golden Temple.
After the temples, the guide took us to a buffet lunch especially prepared for Christmas Day and it was delicious with a nice atmosphere.
We then visited the Luck Grove Spice Garden and it was definetely one of the highlights of this trip. The guide showed us many plants and trees and explained the different types of herbal medicine which can be produced out of each. Some of these included the coffee bean, pineapple, cloves, cinnamon, green pepper and aloe vera. Using the oils and balms mentioned, two professionals also gave us a neck, back and knee massage in just ten minutes, and they were truly great.
They also showed us how they make hair removal cream from herbs and natural oils... and demonstrated it on Ian's foot ☺️
The following is a red pineapple which is only used for medicinal purposes.
The last excursion of the day was a visit to the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. This temple is very beautiful and important to Sri Lankan history. Many locals and visitors were praying and meditating in the different parts of the temple.
We have now checked into our third hotel in Sri Lanka, Randholee Resort and Spa in Kandy. The view is truly incredible and we have already dipped into the pool.
Our Boxing Day started out with a very interesting visit to the Tiesh Gem Factory in Kandy, the largest gem factory in the region.
We watched a short film explaining the mining industry of gem stones in Sri Lanka and how gems are treated before being put up for sale. The tour guide explained and showed us the different gem stones extracted in the country, including sapphire, topaz and ruby. The tour ended by a visit to the large beautiful shop next to the factory.
A rafting activity was next on our agenda. The location of the activity was approximately 2 hours away from Kandy and thus we had quite a bit of travelling to do. However, the trip was well worth it as the scenes from the roads were amazing. Most of the drive was done on narrow winding roads in the hills and mountains, through one continuous jungle, including rice fields and tea plantations.
The rafting activity was held in Kitulgala on River Kwai and was super! We were informed that the water level was quite high today so it was expected to be a great rafting experience 😁... and it certainly was. The views from the water were simply amazing.
To our utter amazement, the locals even used the tuk tuk to carry the boat to the river! 😂
The water was quite cold and the guide kept drenching us throughout the trip since he did not want the boat to get too hot! We had a brain freeze every single time! 🥶 I’m sure he was secretly smirking every time 😋
Our two-night stay at Randholee Resort was great. The service was very good and the food buffets excellent. The pool was lovely and the views truly amazing. The bathroom was a bit oldish and not quite what we expected of such a resort. However, definitely recommend this resort!
Black tea, white tea and green tea!
The first excursion for the day was a visit to the Glenloch Tea Factory in Ramboda. Here, the local guide explained to us how black tea is made, which is a very interesting process.
It is good to know that black, white and green tea are all produced from the same type of bush. The green tea is done from the bulb, black tea from the largest leaves and white tea from the smallest leaves (look at the first photo below).
We also tasted black tea, also known as the English Breakfast Tea.
Our second stop for the day was at the Ramboda Falls in Nuwara Eliya, a very beautiful waterfall surrounded by amazing scenery.
Our third stop was at the Damro Tea Factory in Nuwara Eliya. Here, the local guide explained the process of producing all three types of tea, i.e. black, white and green teas.
Both visits to the tea factories were very interesting and the aromas of fresh tea leaves were amazing. In both occasions we were also shown how they add flavours to make flavoured teas. It is important to note that everything that is produced in Sri Lanka is organic as no pesticides are used.
The drive from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, where our hotel Jetwing St. Andrews is located, was quite long however truly scenic.
It is finally nice to announce that we have reached +2000m above sea level and we are feeling cold! 😊 The hotel is very nice, with most of the decoration and appliances made of wood and has a cottage feel. The staff just lit the fireplace in the bar where we are currently updating the blog 😍 It already feels more like Christmastime.
Horton Plains National Park
The plan for the day was to go trekking in the Horton Plains National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. For this we had to wake up at 5am so that we could start trekking at 7am and avoid the crowds and the high temperatures.
At Horton Plains National Park there is a famous circular trail, providing very nice views over the hills, mountains and rivers of the areas, including a spectacular waterfall.
The trail was not that hard, with some steep areas and was of approximately 9km length. It is interesting to note that the National Park is rich in biodiversity and most species found are endemic to the area.
Baker’s Falls are one of the main attractions of the park. They are 20m high.
The yellow-eared bulbul is endemic to the highlands of Sri Lanka:
The Sri Lankan sambar deer only lives in India and Sri Lanka:
Another one of the attractions of the park is Mini World’s End, an amazing viewpoint:
The Sri Lankan junglefowl is endemic to Sri Lanka, and is also the national bird:
The toque macaque monkey which is also endemic to Sri Lanka:
The purple-faced leaf monkey which is also endemic to Sri Lanka:
As soon as we were exiting the National Park in the van we also spotted one of the 16 recorded leopards found in the park! Unfortunately, as soon as the guide stopped the van for us to take a photo, it went down and hid in the grass 😞. However, we were glad that we spotted it and that we were not on foot! 😂
The following are some photos of the views during our drive back to our hotel in Nuwara Eliya:
Local sellers on the sides of the road, a very common sight:
Pattipola Railway station:
Gregory Lake, a man-made reservoir used for irrigation for the nearby tea plantations:
Oriental magpie robin at our hotel during lunch:
Now we’re relaxing at the bar next to the fireplace, and soon off to dinner. It’s nice to note that Jetwing St. Andrews is the best hotel we’ve stayed in so far in Sri Lanka. The food is delicious, the service is excellent and the hotel is truly beautiful.
The famous train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella
Our next stop in our trip was Ella. To get there one may catch the famous Sri Lankan train from Nuwara Eliya. The train had to arrive at 9am but the guide told us not to expect it before 9.30am as they never stick to the timetable. The railway station was packed with tourists and backpackers, in fact the guide commented that he felt like a foreigner there!
Our train ticket was a first class one, and thank God for that. The other compartments were jam-packed with people, standing, crouching, sitting... Do not imagine a five-star treatment in the first class section, we just had more comfortable seats. However, the four hour train ride was quite pleasant as the views were amazing and the experience unique.
At every station we stopped, you could see locals staring or taking photos of the train, or selling food and snacks to passengers. The most popular were peanuts. It is also quite normal to see people (not only locals) walking on the train tracks.
The Nuwara Eliya Railway Station
Our first class compartment
Once we reached Ella we realised that the town is very popular with tourists. The views of the hills were quite amazing here and the guide took us for lunch in one of the hotels which had the best access to the views.
After lunch we made a quick stop at the Ravana falls, a beautiful waterfall along the main road. There were many visitors, and even some locals bathing.
From Ella we drove towards Yala, to check into our hotel Jetwing Yala. Upon arriving we had a bit of a hiccup since our room was not available and they upgraded us to a safari suite at the hotel Jetwing Safari Camp nearby. Although we were very skeptic, we accepted the room on condition that we change to our original room the following day.
The safari camp was a new experience altogether. The suite consisted of a luxury tent in the safari park. We were informed not to go out alone during nighttime due to various wild animals nearby, including elephants and wild boar. Also, no food could be left in the tent. The tent was quite sealed from the outside and the bathroom, thus there was little access to animals and insects (to our relief). However, the bathroom had an open roof, thus various lizards and other interesting insects visited us in there!
Jungle Safari Time!
For the first time during our stay in Sri Lanka we had a free morning to relax in our hotel, which we spent lounging next to the pool.
A cool mocktail that I have tried is made from watermelon, banana, honey and crushed ice. Super delicious! 😋
In the afternoon we went for a three-hour jungle safari in the famous Yala National Park. This park is enormous and the safari is very popular since a greater variety of animals live here and are usually seen. The guide informed us that the park normally sees around 200 landrovers a day! The park is also famous for its leopards, which although very rarely spotted, we managed to see three on two different occasions!
Wild Water Buffalo
Sri Lankan Elephants
Our Landrover 😊
Sri Lankan Crocodile
Sri Lankan Leopards
Both the safari at Yala National Park and the one we did in Minneriya National Park were great. They are very different from wach other since the terrain and biodiversity differs greatly. We definetely recommend them both!
The hotel staff changed our room back to Jetwing Yala, where we were originally meant to stay. The room was perfect overlooking the beautiful pool. Jetwing Yala is another which we recommend. The food and premises were great and the service was excellent. The staff apologized profusely for the error in booking and provided us with sweets in our room, a complimentary wine bottle at dinner and also decorated our bed as a thank you for our cooperation.
New Year's Eve Celebrations
Our celebrations started out with a gala buffet dinner at our resort, Riu, in Galle. The food was the best we've ever tasted in Sri Lanka, the service top notch and the food selection incredible. All the staff at the resort helped out with the organisation of the dinner, in fact the rest of the restaurants and outlets closed early for the day. At one point the staff entered the restaurant all together to wish us all a happy new year! There was a really great atmosphere indeed.
After dinner, we went to the lounge where the New Year's Eve party was just getting started. The band was awesome, playing oldies and new hits with many people dancing on the dancefloor. Around 11pm the staff handed us a bag each, filled with props for photos including hats, masks, balloons, whistles and hawaiian necklaces. A very nice thought indeed!
After wearing the props and drinking some cocktails, we also joined the dancefloor! 🎉
And then the final countdown and the midnight celebrations! 🎉🍾
Truly a great night indeed. Happy New Year 2019 to all! 🎊🎉🍾
New Year's Eve
We woke up at 3am and checked out of our hotel to go on what we expected to be the greatest adventure of our trip... whale watching! A great start to our New Year's Eve celebrations!
At around 6am we arrived in Mirissa, a seaside village.
However, things started going wrong as soon as we saw our boat. The tour had to start at 6.30am and as soon as we reached the crowded boat we realised that all the best seats were taken. We sat and as soon as the trip started, we went to the front of the boat and started watching out for dolphins or whales. Not much time was needed to see that the sea was going to be rough!
As soon as some dolphins were spotted, people started getting sick. Not much time passed before I fell sick as well. After around two hours into the trip we heard the sound that no one would like to hear... that of the boat engine giving up and stopping.
Passengers started getting worried and the staff started trying to fix the boat. Boats kept on coming to us, thinking that we have spotted whales, and then offering us help but the staff kept on insisting that they will fix the boat. To cut a very long story short, after approximately 2 hours bobbing up and down in the water far out of the shore, with people getting sicker, they managed to start the engine (not working well eh!) and we drifted to shore verrrry slowly.
The above video is when a teeny weeny coast guard boat tried to tow our huge boat... a few moments later the anchor point with which they tied the rope gave out.
What a nightmare! Fighting for a refund got us 1/3 of the cost back but that was not our point at all. Our advice is to never go whale watching with any of the boats at Mirissa in Sri Lanka! We did not have an issue with the boat stopping as these are things that can always happen. However, the way by which the problem was tackled was the issue. I am sure that when the boats are working well the experience is nice, however what every tourist would like to know are the safety measures that will be taken when problems arise!
Now we have reached our final stop in Galle, an all-inclusive resort Riu, to relax and enjoy the New Year celebrations before we go back to Malta. Many preparations are underway for tonight's celebrations and we have high hopes! ☺️☺️
We have just raided a beef burger and dipped into the pool to get rid of our mood and it worked.
Happy New Year 2019 to all! 🎉🎉
New Year's Day
Well, we spent New Year's Day much different than usual, that's for sure!
We spent the day swimming and sunbathing in one of the resort's pool and it was incredibly relaxing. We definitely needed it after the past two weeks packed with sightseeing, activities and traveling.
The resort staff are extremely friendly here!
In the afternoon, we participated in the daily bingo session and had a blast even though we did not win anything! 😂
After playing bingo, we went down to check out Ahungalla beach, the beach right down from the resort. The beach is beautiful and since we went there during sunset, the view was incredible.
For our dinner we dined at the Italian restaurant La Forchetta, and we can safely say that it felt so good to finally eat good Mediterranean food again! ☺️ The lasagna was devine!
In the evening we went to watch the night show 'Asian Dreams' which mainly consisted of traditional dancing. The show was nice but we expected much better!
More swimming and sunbathing!
Another day spent next to the pools, sipping cocktails and sunbathing ☺️ Pure bliss!
Ian also participated in the beach volleyball activity and then in the water volleyball activity and had a blast ☺️
We also tried our hand at bingo once again but we did not manage to win!
We stayed in the pool till the late afternoon, when all pools are heated ☺️ and experienced another perfect sunset.
Last day in Sri Lanka and hello to 30 hours of travelling back to Malta!
To make the most of our last morning at the resort, we spent it next to the pool again 🙂 although it was a bit chilly due to the weather being a bit windy.
We will now have some lunch and the driver will take us from Galle to Colombo. From Colombo Airport we will be flying to Dubai with a stop in Male Airport, Maldives. From Dubai Airport we will then be flying to Malta with a stop at Larnaca Airport.
Arrival in Malta should be around 1.30pm (local time) on 4th January 2019.
Leaving Colombo Airport
We have now arrived at the airport, said goodbye to our driver and checked in our luggage. We are now at the gate waiting to board the Emirates plane to Dubai in approximately one hour.
Arrival in Malta
After 30 hours travelling, we finally landed at Malta Airport. Knackered does not even describe how we are feeling.
It was truly a brilliant trip, from start to finish, packed with many different experiences and a lot of ticks on our bucket lists.
The experience in the Maldives was one of a kind. The diving and snorkelling activities were truly amazing and ones that we will never forget.
The road trip in Sri Lanka was truly a memorable one, which would not have been possible without Tim Staff from Staff Travel and our guide/driver Mr Bandara, who was with us from start to finish. The rich culture of the island, tha language, the different religions, their different ways of living, the food... all was simply great to experience and learn.
We admit that the first two days in Sri Lanka were a bit difficult for us until we got used to the way they drive, the food on offer and the poverty along the roads. But from then on, the experience was an amazing one.
The locals are very nice people, and much nicer when tips are involved ☺️. Although they never stick to queues, both on the roads and also at attractions, they constantly help each other to jump the aame queues they are in! This truly astounded me.
Arrival at Dubai Airport
We have finally arrived at Dubai Airport and we're back next to the Nutella and H&M stores 😍. It was a pleasant flight and we managed to sleep a bit.
Now we have five hours at the airport and then the flight back to Malta. We are now super knackered 😴🥴.