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Alex Pearl is a freelance copywriter and is the author of ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds.’which has been written for the teen market and his royalty goes directly to Centrepoint, the registered charity for homeless young people.

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Jaunts in Sri Lanka

Jaunts in Sri Lanka - feature photo

Sri Lanka, a teardrop of an island in the Indian Ocean, was the home of science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke until he died in 2008. He said it was the best spot in the world to look at the stars, and he should know. But as well as fine views of the nebulae above us this small and compact island has an amazingly diverse range of natural assets, and Sri Lanka holidays are packed with interest.

Sri Lanka has now thankfully recovered from the catastrophic tsunami that hit it on Boxing Day 2004, and the beaches have recovered their incomparable poise, with miles of crescent-shaped golden sands fringing its coastline as they always have.

There’s also plenty of history here for those of us who like our sightseeing to include at least a few imposing ruins. The first Sinhalese rulers of Sri Lanka built huge reservoir tanks that encircle the ancient cities of Pollonaruwa and Anuradhapura, for example, and there are remains of other epochs scattered about the countryside. The architectural landscape also includes many mosques, churches and temples, as the island has a rich mixed cultural heritage of Islam, Hinduism and Christianity, the proponents of which faiths have in the main managed to get along fairly amicably.

The impressively named Temple of the Tooth Relic, or Sri Dalada Maligawa, is appropriately located in Kandy and contains one of the Buddha’s teeth, presumably a sweet one. The tooth is duly brought out every six years in its solid gold Chedi casket for the public to admire, before being whipped back into the imposing sixteenth century temple.

Anuradhapura is one of the island’s oldest cities, a sacred site that has been magnificently preserved and which contains some of the most important remains of the ancient Lanka civilisation, after which the island is named. It was founded in the fifth century BC and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. Here you’ll find several picturesque monasteries built into the older ruins, as well as some great scenery on the banks of the nearby Malvathu Oya River.

For a fine example of a primary tropical rain forest, one of Sri Lanka’s last, head for the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in the southwest lowlands. This is yet another of UNESCO’s protected sites and is home to 60 per cent of the tree species on the island, along with 50 per cent of its animals. It’s also popular with bird-watchers and some of the most colourful and exotic species in the world are found here. Visitors can take guided walks along the trails and really get back to nature in the raw.

Sri Lanka is of course popularly associated with elephants, familiar from countless films and documentaries in which they are invariably seen pushing logs around with their trunks. The Uda Walawe Elephant Transit Home was set up in 1995 to rehabilitate orphaned young elephants before their release back into the forest, and represents an increasingly enlightened attitude towards and care for nature on the island.

So Sri Lanka basically has it all, and whether you’re looking for jungle trekking, lazing on the beach, rambling through ruins or shopping in the packed streets of Colombo you’ll find something here to suit.