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Presenter : Megan McCormick

Sri Lanka & the Maldives

Traveller Megan McCormick heads beyond the southern tip of India, to two of the most beautiful tropical locations on earth: Sri Lanka and the Maldive Islands.

Megan on a tea plantationColombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, has been an important trading port and commercial centre since the 1870s. It here that Megan begins her trip, travelling around town on a bajajs and sampling some exotic foods.

From Colombo Megan sets our along the coast for Matara. On the way she sees toddy-tappers at work high in the coconut trees and stops off at Weligama, where the local industry is a peculiar type of fishing: stilt fishing. Megan wades out to the stilts embedded into the seabed and tries her hand with little success. Next day she reaches Matara and just outside the town is the temple of Wewurukannala, site of Sri Lanka’s largest statue of Buddha.

In Buttula Megan stays at a sanctuary called Yala Tissa. It’s situated in the midst of beautiful countryside where reforestation programmes are in progress. She then takes a bus to Arugam Bay, a fantastic place for hardcore surfers but also an area which has been caught in the crossfire of the civil war between the government and Tamil rebels. Megan sees the evidence of political turmoil first hand when she takes a tour of the bombed cinema.

From Arugam Bay Megan hitches a ride to Ratnapura, which means ‘City of Gems’. This is the town where miners come to sell their gems to the dealers the most abundant being pink andRelaxing on river ride in Maleblue sapphires and the occasional ruby. Megan goes down the nearby mine accompanied by a guide – it’s a terrifying experience but they do find some topaz to reward their efforts. Megan then hires a car to drive up into the hills to visit the tea plantations. Also in hill country is Pinjnewala, home of the famous elephant orphanage. The parents of the orphan elephants have been poached for their ivory and Megan hears some incredible stories about the backgrounds of the animals that live here.

A few miles up the road is Sigiriya, the site of an impressive fortress built in the fifth century by a king called Kadyapa. Kasyapa has seized the throne by plastering his own father into the wall alive, and when his brother fled to raise and army against him he built this impenetrable fortress on top of a massive rock. Some beautiful frescos depicting Kasyapa’s favourite concubines remain from that time.

Megan then visits Kandy at the time of Esala Perahera, the country’s biggest festival where hundreds of elephants are dressed up in honour of Buddha’s ‘tooth relic’ and paraded around the city for ten nights. Every night more and more dancers and elephants join the procession and it’s a spectacular sight as the ‘Maligawa Tusker’, the chief elephant, carries a replica of the tooth around the city for three or four hours.

The final leg of Megan’s journey takes her to Male, the capital of the Maldive Islands. She finds a cheap package which includes accommodation and a safari boat, an ideal way to see the islands and do some spectacular diving. There’s many different varieties of fish, including barracuda, fusiliers groupa and trumpet fish, as well as soft corals and lagodias. Megan ends her extraordinary journey on Dhangethi, a perfect island of tropical beauty.

Places Mentioned - Maldives, Sri Lanka

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