Back From Sri Lanka & Maldives

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Apr 20th, 2012, 01:31 AM
  #101
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Hi annhig!

I am sorry for the delayed response-this is my first time back as I have finally had a moment to write some more about my time in the Maldives.

I am laughing out loud at your post-yes our first class friend would approve!

To answer your question: Yes I would recommend Tikilanka.

Maybe one day I will get around to completing their online satisfcation survey...

It seemed in our comparison they were a bit more expensive than some others I researched (including red dot) but aside from the price I could not find a single "con" to going with Tikilanka.

Unlike other agencies, I couldnt find poor reviews. A few things here and there in reviews Tikilanka themselves posted on their site in the effort of full disclosure I presume.

We worked with the owner in the UK (John Beswetherick). I would not work with the owner in Sri Lanka-just basing that on our short interaction with him in Kandy. Could be a nice guy, i dont know, but not a personality we would be comfortable working with.

I thought John was very easy to work with. He always followed up in a reasonable amount of time and provided thoughtful responses with suggestions based on things we said we were interested in.

And I would recommend Oscar. I am guessing you can request guides. If you request and get Oscar I would so appreciate you telling him how highly we think of him! Im guessing he might remember us as the girl who got pooped on at Botanic Gardens.

Re the unknown unknowns: Sri Lanka is small and while packed with lots of neat things to see I think if you can say what you are and are not interested in they can customize a great itinerary. Like, do you want beach days? Do you want nature? Wildlife? City or secluded? Luxury or rustic? And really the great thing is b/c it is so small you can experience all of those things in one trip if you so desire.

That said, we arent "into temples" and were considering skipping them but really ended up being glad we visited (though after the tenth one....).

Most of the agencies i researched had sample itineraries. In addition to the small amounts of research I had been able to do on my own I looked up some of the options listed in these itineraries.

So much also I think just comes down to personal pref. TOTH disappointed Shanek but amazed me. Galkadawala was one of the most memorable experiences of my life yet others say it was a waste of time.

So, again, I think if you start with things you know you are interested in in general (e.g. beach, animals, etc) that can set up the bones of your trip and then you can fill in with surrounding sights.

Please let me know if you have any more questions on this! If i can be any help at all helping you plan a successful trip i would be more than happy. Its an awesome place!
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Apr 20th, 2012, 01:45 AM
  #102
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So we swam for a bit in the clear water then headed in with plenty of time to get ready for our special evening. We are in the shower then "ring ring," the phone. We were to be at the dock at 5:30. It was currently 4:30. Or was it....Though hubs swears he set his watch to match BTV time, it was not set. So much for time to glamour and pamper before our big night! Quick out of the shower, running through sand, wet hair to the dock!

Immediately they speed us (literally, the boat was going super fast-due to our error and their desire to make up for it I am sure) to our sandbank. So allow me to describe. We are on the boat going going going...I cant see our resort island, I cant see anything but water all around. The sun is certainly not "setting" yet but things are starting to turn that pretty yellow color that they do right beforehand.

Then we see it! A sandy island in the middle of nothing! Admittedly spacial relations are not a forte but I will try to explain the size. Sitting here thinking....ok I cant. I will guess and say 1/4 of a football field? In lenghth. And maybe....20 feet wide? Its small. It was oval shaped. On one side was a small cluster of trees and this is where our hosts were preparing dinner. Also on this side was our dining table-though I tried not to look at it until the official reveal. As we pulled up to the island we had to walk in the water to get to shore. Not too high-maybe to knees-well, my knees. prob my hubs ankles heh. The first thing we see is the message drawn in the sand: Welcome Mr and Mrs Smith! So amazing! I cant even explain how I was feeling at that moment!

They offered for us to explore the other side of the sandbank and enoy the sunset until dinner was prepared. We had perhaps 15 or 20 min (grr details fading) to walk around and take things in. And by "take things in" I mean ask ourselves "can you believe we are really here?" Even hubs, who is more apprehensive than even I to these sorts of resort extras, was like yeah this is pretty awesome. Even if we had to get back in the boat then and there and return to the resort it wouldve been worth it-watching the sun set together in the middle of the indian ocean.

Luckily for us though we also got dinner! Shortly we were called to our dining table. I must explain in detail as it was gorgeous and the details of this sight will not fade. Our table was (here we go again) maybe...ten feet from the waters edge. There was a man-made hill of sorts built of sand around the perimeter of the table (more on that later) with tealights along the edge and various shells that our hosts had collected and placed! The table was of course set for 2 with another tealight and a hurricane globe with a larger candle inside and a bottle of wine (had requested the substitution from champagne). Id like to show in a photograph how lovely this looked but I cant because I later discovered, after seeing how crappy most of our pictures turned out, my spouse thought this trip to the other side of the world would be a good time to experiment with our camera and leave the default setting, after years of being on automatic, on manual. This from the boy who also thought it a good idea to get a brand new haircut the day before our wedding.

So you will have to take my word-it was really just indescribable. Hubby's eyes meet mine and he takes me hand. We smile softly at each other. He starts to speak, presumably to say something completely romantic.

Him (coy): I have a giant sandbag between my legs.

Me (rolling eyes and laughing): Oh are you serious? Can we not talk about sex for five minutes?

Him (serious): No (lifting tablecloth) I really have a giant sandbag between my legs (he reveals a legit giant sandbag between his legs).

The sun was nearly set and the stars were coming out-which was key. A cloudy night on a secluded sandbank in the middle of nowhere would be nice, but a clear night on a secluded sandbank in the middle of nowhere was awesome! I totally felt like Fievel-thinking my friends and family could be looking at the same stars "underneath the great big sky" (though later realized, after i thought about it for real and not just in the magical sense of how i was feeling that moment, of course for various reasons, not likely the case)! As it turns out this was the clearest night of our stay. Makes you wonder!

Our hosts were wonderful. They did not rush us one bit. In fact I swear its like we could be sitting there to this day and they would still be waititng patiently. Darkness came and you could see nothing but the stars and the candles. It was not scary or ominous it was amazing. You could hear the small waves lapping-it was peaceful, unreal. Pinch us!

I had put my glasses on to get a good view of the stars and oh whats that? By the water? Still cant see in the darkness...Grab the camera and take a picture with flash: CRABS! On the smaller side but hundreds of them! All lined up looking at us? Naw not true. They were facing the water-eating their dinner too I presume? But funny they werent there until nightfall! It didnt bother me-they werent like coming for us or even interested in us, however, I had read on previous/earlier reviews you can get pinched by crabs as you sat dining on your sandbank so I imagine that prompted the protective wall of tealights. Great idea-kept the crabs at bey and of course helped create a really pretty ambiance.

Dessert was served-I forget what hubs had requested/suggested but it was nothing special. I had asked for maybe a mini "wedding" cake for him so, again, felt a tiny tinge of disappointment that it was just a standard, yet nice, dessert. And really, things had been perfect so I tried not to dwell.

Then, our small group of hosts approach. They present us with an anniversary cake! Accompanied with a cake slicer tastefully adorned with a red silk flowing bow. Perfect perfect yes now things were perfect! The cake was animal-free made for both of us to eat-so wonderful!

On one hand we did not want the night to end. Who else can say they have celebrated their 10th anniversary in such a way? Not many, I suspect. It was so special. I recall a movie where once you died you had a period of time to select one memory from your life to carry on with you (After Life). I believe this experience on the sandbank might be my memory...


More to come.
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Apr 20th, 2012, 12:11 PM
  #103
 
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Hi naturegirl,

that was weird! for some strange reason I never saw your reply to me until you posted the next instalment. a shame really because by the time I saw it, we had already organised and part paid for a tour with Boutique Sri lanka. Both Kathies and Thursdays spoke very highly of them and of the 4 or so agencies we made contact with, they were the ones who seemed most responsive to our needs. also they are local to Sri Lanka [they act as agents for the hotels, who we pay direct when we leave] so the money is all going into Sri Lankan pockets.

anyway, thanks for reviving your thread as I'm adding it to the ones i am studying in order better to plan our itinerary.
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Apr 22nd, 2012, 12:16 AM
  #104
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Oh annhig-I had not logged on here for a long time. I posted my response to you the same day I wrote more about Maldives.

I am so glad you have a company you feel good about! Looking fwd to seeing your itinerary and reading your trip report when you return!!
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Apr 22nd, 2012, 12:28 AM
  #105
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After our magical evening on the sandbank we returned to our room. In addition to a traditional turn down service our scented oil was lit, the soft lighting by the outdoor tub was on, as was the soft light on our beach gazebo. A fresh flower was placed in our outdoor water container. Our robes and slippers were laid out on each side of our bed, soft music was playing. What a thing to come home to! We spent the balance of the evening under the stars.

The remaining days in the Maldives were largely similar. And I dont say that in a bad way. In fact, ideally, I could have had a few more days of "ho-hum time in the Maldives." Most days were spent snorkling (save for the one day a storm was brewing and the water was rough-strong current that made the ocean look like it was flowing right to left). And of course we went diving. Gorgeous sights, as expected. Our guide was excellent (Miza?) and patient-sadly I dont go diving often enough to fully grow comfortable with the process of breathing through a rubber tube. It feels claustrophobic. Man I bit that mouthpiece so hard the entire time my jaw was sore the rest of the day. We got pretty close to a nurse shark who was chilling in a little nook. Too close, imo. In my case at least. I kept floating closer and closer...the problem was I was trying to be so careful not to tocuh the coral of course that my legs were raised up and I floated along, becoming surrounded by coral such that I couldnt easily just turnaround. So closer and closer I get. I am floaoting into the nook. I look back-of course nobody sees my expression of panic. I whirl my hands to frantically try to put things in reverse. Not happening. Instead I float helplessly-deeper, deeper, deeper into the nook I go. Um, anybody going to grab me? Pull me back maybe? Somehow, someway, I am able to escape, only narrowly cheating certain death.

We spent time visiting the baby turtles (BTV is the only resort approved to house turtles, more here http://www.banyantreeglobalfoundatio...e_conservation and http://www.banyantreeglobalfoundatio...vation/turtles) in their tank and witnessed the release of a turtle into the sea which was slow going and mildly exciting. The staff was emotional which was touching and what made me stay to see the big guy off. For this event people from surrounding islands boated over which I did not like just because i liked keeping our little paradise to ourselves!

Anyway, it was during one of our visits to the turtle tank that one of our hosts (was it the chef? I dont recall), upon hearing my experience with the shark while diving, mentioned the sharks never come on "this" side of the coral. Remember how I said there is a ring of coral? And some channels to go through to the rest of the ocean? Anyway, not that we were concnered about sharks getting us while we snorkled but it was comforting to know.

Fast forward to oh about an hour later. Hubs and I are snorkling inside the reef (the safe, non-shark part). La la la, pointing out interesting coral. Cute and funny looking sealife. Random things burrowing, etc. Time above water seemed to freeze as we were having a chill time exploring-slowly flip...flip...flip...flipping around beneath.

Then, it happens.

I find myself about 10 feet away from the shark.

I lock eyes with my husband and somehow even with that snorkle mouthpiece he is able to translate my cry of, "SHARK!" We 180 and our slow flip...flip...flips become frantic FLIPFLIPFLIPS and I wonder if all the comotion might interest the shark and draw him near. Its like, do you slowly slink away or mad rush get the heck out. While it wouldve made sense to just flip towards the shoreline we somehow both, through osmosis since we are not otherwise communicating, decide the best thing is to just swim away laterally. We flipped all the way back to the front of our villa and only THEN did we aim towards shore. Anyway, we left nothing to luck and flipped ourselves all the way to the shoreline-long after we could easily have stood, we are still swimming/flipping. Our backs and butts are completely out of the water now. Things are about 12 inches deep. And we are still flipping. We roll up into the sand on our bellies. Peel off our facemasks. Look at each other, both out of breath. "Ive been beached," says hubs. and we laugh. Just another day in the Indian Ocean.

More to come.
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Jun 14th, 2012, 04:05 PM
  #106
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Ok so I have just one more installment of our time in Maldives but before I close with that Id like to leave a note regarding tipping in Sri Lanka and Maldives.

We researched ad naseum to determine the best way to tip in SL and Maldives. The best scoop we found re SL was on trip advisor and suggested we tip about 200-250 LKR/day. Regardless of the exchange rate from dollar to rupee i had a hard time reconciling this (seemed too low). We threw caution to the wind and tipped as we liked. We gave Oscar $20 the first day given it was a lot of driving on his part. We gave him $10 a day after that. On our final day we gave him an additional $80.

Re our lodging: We left about $20 (sometimes more, sometimes less) to the major players that tended to us.

For the maldives: We had read tipping is not customary in maldives. On one hand that makes things easy. On the other we come from a completely different culture where we tip to show appreciation. So not tipping was not something we were comforatable with. Ultimately we left $2 a day for our roomkeeper. It would have been more had he been a bit more consistent. We left $20 for our diving guide, we left $20 each for the chefs and bar supervisor. On the boat ride home from the sandbank we gave $20 each to the 4 or 5 men who hosted our special evening (in addition to the amount charged).

Maybe we gave too much, maybe we gave too little.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to figure out the right way to handle tipping and hopefully the wonderful people that hosted us throughout appreciated what we could give.

I write this to give others planning to travel here some kind of measure...though admittedly I have no idea how what we gave compares to what others give (other than, again, the trip advisor thread).

Sooo really, I guess my comments regarding tipping might not actually be helpful after all.

Ok, so this trip report has been going on for 8 months and I am probably the only one still reading it.

Lets finish up shall we...
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Jun 14th, 2012, 04:19 PM
  #107
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Our next to last full day at BTV hubs was "sick." I put that in quotes b/c though I tried to be understanding I was annoyed. Who doesnt feel well their last day in paradise?

Also annoying, save for the first night in our room, things were never done consistently. Our lights were not turned on again. No more fresh flower placed in our water container. I think the only thing that was done each night was the oil being lit. And even then-it was supposed to be a different scent each night but they all strangely smelled the same. Maybe b/c they were the same or b/c the previous oils were never cleaned out. Robes were sporadic. Sometimes they were nicely displayed, sometimes not. Aside from that very first night it was never perfect. And like, Im not asking for much here. Its a checklist of like 5 things: lay out the robes/slippers, turn down the covers, turn on the soft outdoor lights, oil and music, fresh flower. Boom. But no, never done. I even so badly wanted things to be perfect I actually asked at reception to please help make this happen. Not in a complainy way, but in a "things were so perfect that first night" kind of way. Nonetheless, we never enjoyed another night of all the things on the checklist being done. That is one of my two complaints about my time there. And this I hope can be improved upon.

The second complaint? The people. Luckily, thankfully, gratefully, most of our stay either nobody was staying in the surrounding villas or they never came out. Aside from one couple where the guy was taking pictures of the lady on the beach morning noon and night we saw nobody on our side of the island. It was like The Blue Lagoon. Then, i think our last full day...they came. We were surrounded. And the mere presence of people isnt bothersome. In fact, I expected it (realized we had lucked out thus far). But the issue was how annoying the people were. One couple in particular. They were really really loud. The lady would like lay in their gazebo and sing songs at the top of her lungs. They would do hand claps, like miss mary mack mack mack all dressed in black black black incessantly. And while one might say how loud could that possibly be? I will say: loud enough =) The bottom line is some people were just really inconsiderate. They dont seem to appreciate others are there on vacation also and maybe hearing you sing isnt part of my vacation plan.

Aside from our sandbank dining one evening stood out to me as absolutely perfect. I should explain here dinner runs from blank time to blank time (I forget the times). So you are not under pressure to attend-you can arrive at your leisure. You have your own table. There is a dress code but about 5 people, including us, seemed to follow it. Most people were wearing shorts, tanktops, flipflops, etc. Not sure why they even have the rule if they dont plan to enforce it. At the same time, we dont care what other people were wearing-just saying.

Also now might be a good time to say: the crowd that was on the island during our stay had a pretty regular schedule. They spent their days in the bar spread out with backpacks. Each and every person was on a device. Be it a macbook, iphone, ipad, ipod. We dont care how people spend their vaca-if thats how they want to spend it cool, do so. But we laughed b/c being on our blackberries or any other device was the *last* thing we wanted to do.

Also, evenings were emtpy. meaning, this crowd did not partake in night life (which to a degree was fine as we def did not want a Margarittaville nightlife). They ate dinner and immediately retreated to their villas. The bartenders confirmed this is how it always it. Anyway, quite different from other vacations but actually better for us b/c again it made us feel like we had the place to ourselves. The only night i felt bad about it was when the staff put on a show. It was actually really really cool. Drums, singing, dancing-the Maldivian people. It was really such a neat experience. But there were 3 couples there. Us, a british couple, and a british mom/daughter duo. The other guests stuck around for a short while but quickly rolled. You can imagine things migtve been more lively with more spectators but whatevs.

So anyway back to the special night: This particular night the dining area was a bit busy so we headed to the bar to hang out for a bit. He grabbed the chess board and ordered some drinks (I ordered the ginger tea Id received on arrival. N.B. The gentleman in charge of the bar made it perfecfty each and every time-there was a night he mustve had off and the other staff member who prepared it.....bleh). We played for hours. Hours. It was the most intense chess game ever! Weve played maybe twice ever so not much to compare to but... Enrobed in warm candlelight which softly illuminated the chessboard, we sat. Ocean waves lapping behind us. stars shining above us. We seemed to be the only people on the planet. Until a host approached and we were served the best little snack ever! Shelled pistachios and giant black olives. I have yet to figure out the type of olives they gave us. I have tried numerous times to recreate that snack. Should I email BTV? Is that weird? "What kind of olives did you give us?" Im totally going to do it. Nothing was happening, nothing stood out, but that night, those hours we spent together, quietly hunched over the chess board, was one of the most memorable moments of my life (Picture 176).

We really had a wonderful time at Banyan Tree. The service was really just outstanding. Outstanding. Well except for the room guy but I cant hold it against the others. Our time there will stay with us forever and I thank those that hosted us for ensuring it was special (Picture 177).

*****

My closing thoughts on our time in Sri Lanka and Maldives:

I wish I wish I wish I had taken pictures of every sunrise, every sunset, every place setting, every breaking ocean wave, every candle flicker*, and every lovely face we encountered on our journey. I was so living in the moment though that I often didnt even think of preserving these experiences any place other than in my heart.

*...every elephant footprint. yep Im still bitter about it.

Thanks for reading.
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Jun 14th, 2012, 07:54 PM
  #108
 
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I was so excited to find this thread back at the top. It has been one of the most enjoyable trip reports that I have read, right up with "A CALIFORNIAN ODYSSEY" from 2010, except I really should not count that one as it was mine!

I had almost given up hope of getting closure but I am very happy that you took the time to finish it off.

I remember mentioning my planning for an upcoming holiday in the very early parts of this thread. At that stage it seemed so far away, but I have been back for 2 weeks, just getting over the worst part of my post Thailand blues and this comes along to inspire me to start planning the next adventure.

Thanks for sharing.
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Nov 2nd, 2013, 06:04 AM
  #109
 
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Hi NatureGirl19317 First of all wish you a very happy belated 12th anniversary.
Thanku very much for sharing your wonderful experience with us.
I am getting married to my college sweetheart and we are planning to head to Maldives and Sri Lanka for our honeymoon. While researching for the same we stumbled upon your post and we are so glad we did.
We really cant thanku enough for taking all the efforts for finishing the report.
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Oct 23rd, 2015, 10:59 AM
  #110
 
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Thanks for an amazing trip report, I'm planning our honeymoon in Sri Lanka next month and this has been very helpful. It all sounds so magical, you are great writer, I read every word. Thanks for taking the time to share.
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Oct 24th, 2015, 07:18 PM
  #111
 
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I'm glad this got bumped. It reads just as well years later!
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Aug 3rd, 2017, 03:16 PM
  #112
 
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What a truly wonderful and enthralling read this has been, thank you for sharing. Like the fellow traveller's skill with his camera and the emotion found in his photographs you wished you could achieve, I would love to be able to paint a picture so fascinating, as you have managed in your trip report!
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