Sri Lanka has been attempting to ramp up its conservation and sustainability efforts for a balanced environmental, socio-cultural, economic and experiential impact for visitors to enjoy the allurements of its tourism attractions. It’s also taken along organizations that service the travel industry such as hotels, luxury resorts, tour operators, wildlife parks, transport firms etc. as a collaborative movement which also involves the protection of the places one visits, and the activities one enjoys. Here’s a great opportunity to discover the top destinations for marking your footprints as a responsible traveller in Sri Lanka.
As a responsible traveller, the holidayer has to do his/her bit to support Sri Lanka’s long-term responsible tourism agenda at every stage. This can be done by respecting the local community and its culture, and ensuring non-invasive environmental practices and wildlife interfaces.
Be there at Arugam Bay near Galle for its gorgeous setting and the fun-filled surfing that awaits responsible travellers who are mature surfers and novices. Surfing, for those not familiar with the more layered understanding of this amazing thrills-giving activity, is often associated with pro-environmental attitudes and bio-centrism–a viewpoint that denies human superiority over nature and accepts that all living beings are equal. As a responsible traveller, you will get a deep sense of satisfaction getting involved in two other sustainable living practices run by the locals in this coastal town. The pioneering efforts for a sustainable life as promoted by Wasteless Arugam Bay and Rice & Carry have been garnering a great deal of interest from visitors. These two social enterprises have played a pivotal role showing the way forward in the anti-waste and recycling movement in Sri Lanka. Wasteless Arugam Bay has roped in local schools, community stakeholders, and responsible travellers to take part in their educational programs to raise awareness and promote behavioural change. The other organisation, Rice & Carry, provides a source of livelihood to the local women.
With 25 national parks, over 60 bird sanctuaries and at least 90-odd species of mammals, Sri Lanka offers epic experiences in its wilderness tracts to responsible travellers. It’s one of the world’s top 10 biodiversity hotspots The resorts serving many of these parks are particular about the environmental impact on these activities, but responsible travellers can take these steps even further by being mindful about experiencing the wonder of the fauna and flora in the park areas. Play it right here. So, no littering, no loud music, no abusive behaviour of the wild denizens. Leave only your footprints here. Simply enjoy the superb opportunities for viewing some of the largest mammals and endangered species on sea, soil and skies. At Yala National Park, get blown away by its highest concentration of leopards in the world. At Sri Lanka’s Minneriya National Park, discover in wonderment the world’s largest known Asian wild elephant gathering on Earth at an ancient waterhole.
From Kandy, wend your way to the Elephant Foundation at Kegalle. Enjoy being the responsible traveller on the ‘Elephant Walk’, a personal safari with these majestic creatures around the estate which serves as a rescue and care camp. Indulge in a fun-filled volunteering experience preparing and giving these gentle beasts their feed, vitamins and medicines.
Take an eco-friendly bike tour of Sri Lanka’s ancient Polonnaruwa ruins which now serve as the habitat for three species of primates — the purple-faced leaf monkey, toque macaque and the grey langurs. Discover their unique world and habits in the company of a primate researcher.
Get on your hiking boots and set course on a trekking trail winding through the UNESCO-listed biosphere reserves of Sri Lanka’s Kanneliya Rainforest. In the company of a local expert, ask a lot of questions as a responsible traveller to learn all about the wonders of it avifaunal wealth and amazing botanical splendour. Kanneliya is also home to 20 of the island’s 26 endemic birds; the local community in these parts lie in the 78 small villages scattered across the forest expanses.
A tour of Sri Lanka’s legendary tea estates is an absolute must. Drive up to the temperate climes in the misty highlands of Nuwara Eliya. Take pride in being the responsible traveller as you mingle with the planter community which has down the decades provided the world with some of the finest teas.
At Bentota, enjoy the pleasures of being the responsible traveller in the superb setting of the beautiful Brief Garden. This gorgeous 20-acre setting was designed by landscape architect Bevis Bawa, older brother of Sri Lanka’s legendary architect Geoffrey Bawa, who is famed for creating a new vernacular style of architecture and awareness of indigenous materials and crafts in his works.
You will love the cycling tour of the historic expanses of the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Marvel at the 2000-year-old ruins of royal palaces and monasteries, ancient gardens, and esoteric relics which document Sri Lanka’s spiritual and secular capital of the island dating back to the 4th century BCE. The responsible traveller in you will not be disappointed as along the way you discover the ingenious irrigation systems, the ancient structures that are now hidden in foliage, and the beautiful villages that surround all these.
Ritigala Forest, in the Anuradhapura district, is home to one of Sri Lanka’s lesser-known monasteries. Walk the talk here with a local expert who will unravel some mysteries that enshroud the place, now a cultural and eco-tourism site. The 70 rock caves here once served Buddhist monks from the 1st century BCE. You need a special permit to visit the nearby IUCN- recognised Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve. As a responsible traveller, you will delight in the fact that the principal activity here is research, preservation and protection of species that are rare and possibly extinct in the region.
An unmissable experience is the cycling tour to Sri Lanka’s Sigiriya Rock Fortress through rural villages in the company of a local guide. Be the responsible traveller to the hilt, as you savour these precious moments of this up-close interface with authentic rural life and mingling with the local community, playing cricket with the kids, visiting a kitchen garden which produces organic veggies and fruits, stopping at a wayside kiosk for tea or tender-coconut water.
This is but a thin layer of the delights that await the responsible traveller. Delve deeper and discover so many other satisfying experiences in Sri Lanka which help you contribute to a more sustainable world for the communities and environments that you visit…