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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Sri Lanka 15 Nov– 8 Dec 2005,
Holiday arrangements by Jetwing Eco Holidays
Planning for our holiday started in March 2005 with all communications conducted by email direct to Ajanthan Shanthiratnam (firstname.lastname@example.org). Before the final itinerary was agreed Ajanthan reviewed our proposed itinerary, which was primarily centred on being able to watch birds and other wildlife, and suggested some changes to the schedule and then booked all our accommodation needs.
Throughout this process it was good to have just a single contact to deal with at Jetwing and Ajanthan provided us with an excellent service answering all our communications promptly and clearly.
On our arrival at Colombo International Airport on 15 November our guide and driver were waiting to greet us and we were quickly into our transport and on our way. We were disappointed with the type of transport provided because we had arranged to have an air condition car available and instead we had a rather elderly mini-bus. Apart from the general poor condition of the transport our main concern was the lack of seat belts. However the situation was very quickly rectified and we were very pleased with the replacement vehicle that was provided.
The itinerary was well thought out and allowed plenty of time to visit the places of interest and do as much wildlife watching as we wanted. We did on occasions change the order of things, mainly as a result of rain, and we were greatly helped by the guide and driver who were very flexible and made sure we got to see everything we wanted to see.
On Day 01, and due to our tiring journey from the U.K., we decided not to visit Dambulla Cave Temple on the way to Sigiriya. It was suggested by our guide that we could visit later in the schedule but we declined the offer. The planned morning and evening game drives at Udawalawe National Park on Day 18, was not practical due to the distance involved form our accommodation, so we changed that around and visited on successive days.
Apart from those minor changes we were able to complete the itinerary as planned and had a thoroughly enjoyable tour.
Our guide demonstrated his naturalist skills to the full during our tour, helping us to find and identify the different species of birds and other wildlife as we travelled through the various climatic zones of Sri Lanka. With Rohan’s help we identified some spectacular birds, 230 species in all, including 25 endemics and a number of species we had not seen before. During our visits to the many National Parks on our tour, he secured the services of some of the best guides available to provide some memorable game drives. The highlight for us however was seeing both Leopard and Sloth Bear during our visits to Yala National Park, an experience we will never forget.
In addition to his naturalist skills we were very impressed with his overall knowledge of the many cultural and archaeological sites we visited. He described for us their history and purpose with a real sense of enthusiasm, which made our visits so much more interesting and enjoyable.
Throughout the tour our guide smoothed the way for us, taking care of all the arrangements for the various site visits and arrivals at our hotels. We had very little to do ourselves because he took care of it on our behalf.
We were therefore, very satisfied with the excellent guidance, help and support that was available throughout our tour, and the service provided greatly exceeded our expectations.
Our driver, Thusitha Livanarachchi, (hope the spelling of his second name is correct) impressed us very much with his professional approach to driving. At all times throughout our tour we were able to relax and feel very safe with Thusitha doing the driving.
Nothing was too much trouble for Thusitha, continuously stopping for us when requested, taking care of the transfer of our luggage each time we changed hotel, suggesting alternative scenic routes with the best views and many other services that helped make our travels around the country an interesting and enjoyable experience.
We were both surprised and delighted to learn that this was the first tour of any length that Thusitha had undertaken. Surprised because he performed his driving duties more like a veteran and delighted to think that our tour had helped in some small way to launch his new career. We would have no hesitation in recommending Thusitha to Jetwing Eco Holidays, as a Driver/Guide for any future clients touring Sri Lanka.
We stayed at seven different hotels during our tour with a range of facilities from luxury (Hunas Falls) to basic. (Blue Magpie) We were only disappointed with two of the hotels, St. Andrews at Nuwara Eliya which we found to be a rather drab and depressing place and Kithulgala Rest House where our room was dirty and had no air conditioning and the hotel generally needed a lot of basic maintenance jobs doing to it. At most of the hotels we found the food was good or very good and there was plenty of variety available. At all of the hotels the staff were welcoming, helpful and friendly. For special praise we would single out Hunas Falls for their excellent all round facilities and service and The Blue Magpie for their excellent personal attention and the home cooked food, all done with very limited resources, the Manager there deserves to have more support and more resources put at his disposal.
Given the length and complexity of this tour we expected to encounter a few problems along the way. In the event the arrangements generally went very smoothly and for that we thank Ajanthan for his planning work and his attention to detail.
During the tour itself the guide and Thusitha made an excellent team, could not do enough for us and handled everything efficiently and with a good sense of humour. They did far more than could be reasonably expected of them and as a result we were delighted with our tour of Sri Lanka which provides us with a lot of very happy memories, and for that we are very grateful to them both.
As a result of our experience we would not hesitate to contact Jetwing again about any future travel arrangements in Sri Lanka and will certainly recommend Jetwing to our friends and colleagues.
We give a sincere thank you to the team at Jetwing Eco Holidays for our excellent holiday and wish you all success for the future.