3 independent reviews for Tailor made wildlife tour of Sri Lanka

Reviews for Tailor made wildlife tour of Sri Lanka

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review 14 Mar 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Seeing a leopard on our safari in Wilpattu National Park, the beauty of the Knuckles, Gal Oya and the elephants in Udawalawe National Park.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be patient when on safari. The wildlife is amazing but doesn't always appear on cue. Binoculars and a good camera are essential to see and record the many wonderful animals, birds, insects, reptiles and jaw dropping beauty of the country.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes we did particularly in the remote places that we visited. Local people had the chance to be employed either within the lodge /hotel or by being given the opportunity to train to be guides/ rangers. Many grew their produce used in the cooking or used locally sourced produce.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

The holiday was amazing with every day providing new and exciting experiences. The guides and in particular our driver were excellent and definitely contributed a great deal to the overall enjoyment of the trip. Sri Lanka is a beautiful and diverse country with much to offer.

review 23 Jan 2018

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The amazing scenery, friendly relaxed people and gorgeous wildlife

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Not to book with the local company. We booked with our tour operator and it appears that the local company is their local office. We were given someone with no training and almost no english as a "guide", and when I complained he was replaced by someone from the office who clearly didn't want to be there. There were many ways the holiday could have been so much better, I'll put a full review on Tripadvisor.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The jobs and money provided by tourism is a benefit. Travelling long haul is always going to have an environmental impacts so it can never be a benefit to the environment to go that far, but it's an amazing country so it's a conflict. When we were there there was only one place we stayed, an eco lodge, that actively supported a sustainable approach, having solar panels, planting trees, using locally sourced produce. I didn't feel that the other hotels were selected for any environmental reasons, in fact one had an enormous display of incredible food for New Years Eve, most of which was uneaten and the staff told us it was thrown away afterwards, they weren't allowed to take any home!! There were throwaway plastic bottles everywhere and no attempt to recycle/provide refills. I assume the entrance fees to the wildlife parks support conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

A great country to visit, I wish we'd arranged it ourselves and not gone on the tour.

Read the operator's response here:

We are very glad that you overall enjoyed your holiday. Thank you for your valuable feedback about the driver. I am very sorry that you did have a communication problem with the driver. But I was assured that all guides in places that you have visited spoke good English. We took very fast action to replace the driver who told me he was happy to be there. All hotels that we chose we inspect our self and they all do something (normally few different actions) to support local economy and environment. Maybe not all have the solar panels, as the small properties you have stayed they cannot afford to have it. Instead they do other things, like growing their own vegetables, or training only local staff to help local people. The hotel that you have stayed for New Year Eve assured me that there is never food wasted, they do not throw away good food. If there was some food that was spoiled then it cannot be taken as it may cause food poisoning. That included some of the foods that was served during New Year Eve. Some of the food was on the display for 10 hours. It health and safety must be a priority. In terms of recycling plastic bottles in that particular hotel – sadly Sri Lanka, and many developing countries there are not many recycling practices provided by government.. Anyhow, some hotels in Sri Lanka have ‘no plastic bottles ‘polices in Sri Lanka, but they are more luxury eco lodges. We did as much as possible with your budget for Christmas period and you were aware of all aspects of your tour. As it was tailor-made holiday we gave you a choice of all aspect of your trip and you have chosen the way it was design including all accommodation and attractions. I understand that your first drivers English was not very fluent but as soon as you raised the problem he was replaced the next day. The tour was delivered as planned with you. You have commented that you could have arranged it on your own, but then you would not be protected by ATOL and TTA. I understand that you have used to arranged it always on your own before. I assume that not everyone wants to prearrange their travel. Most people chose to prearrange for their safety and comfort and to safe the time. I am sorry if this kind of tours are not what you enjoy most. We would like to take the opportunity to thank you for taking your time and writing this feedback.

review 20 Mar 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Gal Oya National Park, where just the two of us and our guides were able to watch 5-6 different herds of elephants quietly feeding approximately 300 m away. We were the only people present and we did not disturb the animals; furthermore, we did not feel rushed but were able to simply enjoy the experience. Wasgamuwa National Park was also worth visiting; this park is not well-frequented by tourists and so the guides and drivers seemed to genuinely value our presence there. The park provided viewing opportunities for a range of mammal and bird species, without the aggressive and intrusive behaviour that we witnessed at sites such as Yala National Park. Our driver was also informative, courteous, incredibly friendly and unfailingly considerate of our needs/desires. The interaction that we had with him, as well as with a range of other guides, drivers and locals was a stand-out highlight of the trip.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be aware that most of the safaris are very sedentary - you're unable to leave the vehicle except at particular 'rest stop' areas. That's completely understandable given concerns about interactions with large mammals such as leopards and elephants; however, if you're a physically active person, then ensure that your itinerary specifically itemises some walks, not just safaris. We thought that Udawalawe National Park's Elephant Transit Home could be missed if you're interested in ecotourism - it was overflowing with visitors and seemed to be predominantly a tourist attraction. Seeing wild elephants was far preferable. Also, the Mirissa whale watching needs to be very carefully considered or, at least, the tour operator carefully selected. Most of the boat operators do not abide by the international whale-watching standards and jostle with each other to be disturbingly close to the whales. There is also much chasing of the animals, which is distressing to view. Once an animal is seen, a multitude of boats (up to 12 on our day) encircle the animal so that its only means of escape is by deep-diving. The staff were well-aware of the animal's behaviour (distress), since they were able to impeccably predict when it would deep-dive (they would shout "tail up, tail up"). On our boat, there was also absolutely no interpretation provided; most people would not have even known which species of whale/dolphin they were viewing. Immediately after the last whale was seen, the tipping box was brought out, with the staff literally standing over the patrons whilst they scavenged around in their wallets for the requisite money. Unfortunately, the means by which the whale/dolphin sightings were obtained marred our experience.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Generally, yes. We felt that there was greatest benefit felt in the less-frequented locations, such as Wasgamuwa, Gal Oya, Sinharaja National Parks and Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary. Here, people were genuinely benefiting from our visitation and there was a more authentic interaction with rangers/guides/drivers etc. Broadly, it seems that the ongoing presence of national parks in Sri Lanka is deeply reliant upon their value as a tourist attraction; their inherent value is not yet well-understood. For example, there have been instances of less-visited, lesser-known parks having sections excised (revoked) and developed. There was, however, wide variability in the environmental credentials of the accommodation in which we stayed. For example, Gal Oya Lodge is exemplary in its approach to minimising environmental impacts and we really enjoyed our stay there. However, W15 in Weligama had a nightclub, party-centric feel and did not have any environmental credentials whatsoever; we were confused as to why we were staying there given our strong preference for small, family-run and environmentally-conscious accommodation. On a final (and unrelated) note, we felt that the arrangement for providing money to our driver could have been better. Our driver was given funds for payment of entry fees, some accommodation etc. However, this was provided in a piecemeal manner; i.e. every couple of days, money would be transferred to our driver's account. We would then need to find a bank so that he could access it; this was occasionally difficult given bank opening hours, our remote location and/or the unavailability of some ATMs and/overflowing queues at some town banks. It would seem preferable for the driver to be provided with all of the money as a single lump sum at the commencement of the tour.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

We would highly recommend that people visit Sri Lanka so as to experience a country and people filled with genuine warmth.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Laura, Thank you for taking the time to post a review of your holiday. We're delighted to hear you had such a good trip in beautiful Sri Lanka. I'm particularly pleased to hear how much you enjoyed the abundant wildlife in the less 'obvious' places you travelled to with us. I do agree that Yala gets too crowded as it had been long advertised. On the other hand I am glad that you have had great time in Gal Oya and Wasgamuwa National Parks. I really love them too - so peaceful and relaxing safaris that you do not disturb animals. I also do prefer most off the beaten tracks places as is more personalised and you do not feel like a number. I am hoping that Sri Lanka will bring more regulations for safaris and whale watching as these are so important to preserve and protect their natural environment. I can see already many improvements over many years I visit these places but the changes come slowly. It is a developing country that it had so many problems in the past but the ‘good’ changes are being implemented slowly. We are happy that you have noticed that the tour was overall beneficial to local people and to the environmental. It is our goal and we do appreciate your comments about whales and Yala so we could implement this as an advice for future tours. I have to explain to you and whoever take this tour in the future about the drivers founds for the entrances and other spending. We do provide him all necessary founds from the beginning but he has to be precautions with carrying large amount of money. Yes, some places are remote and do not have many ATMs, unfortunately it is not same as in the Western world. I am very happy that you did appreciate Sri Lanka and you had a great time. There's plenty more to see, so we look forward to helping you discover even more of this wonderful country. Thanks again for taking the time to write. All the best

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