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DAY 1. We arrived in Katunayake Airport in the early morning of September 17th and were welcomed by a smiling Hemantha.
Soon we were on the way to Negombo beach for a most welcome breakfast rest, followed by a bit of shopping in Arbico supermarket.
Afterwards the tour to Dambulla started. On the way we made small stops, whenever we spotted something interesting, ex. the first wild monkeys and for lunch at Kurunegalla lake. The wan was very confortable, so some of us had a nap as well.
In the late afternoon we the reached the Pelwehera Village Resort, where the kids jumped into the pool, while the grown-ups relaxed with a drink at the pool side. The rooms were nice, the staff most friendly - and we enjoyed a good dinner buffet before turning in.
Kurunagalla Lake 
 Sigiriya Rock DAY 2 After breakfast we visited the Sigiriya Rock, but did not claim it. Anyhow the rock is a magnificent sight. We chose to spend time at the Dambulla Cave Tempel instead.  It is quite a claim to reach the tempel. We stopped counting steps after 300. The monkeys stole our flowers and it was very hot, but at the top the view was fantaistic.  Hemantha hired a guide, and we all had an interesting and educational tour through the caves.
In the afternoon, after lunch in a local restaurant, where we learned to eat the Sri Lankan way, we drove towards Kandy. Again we made several stops, ex. to have a freshly squeezed juice, but at last we could check into the Serene Garden Hotel. Here it is possible to have a spacious family room with a large balcony. The teenager of the family was pleased to find a WI-FI connection. Dinner and breakfast at the hotel were very good. Absolutely a recommandable place to stay.
On DAY 3 we visited the Pinawalla Elephant Orphanage, made a very interesting visit to a Spice and Herbal Garden. Only the prices of their product are much too high (but negotiable, it turned out). In the road we met a woman with 2  porcupines, which we were allowed to fotograph for money. In the evening the program was a performance of the Kandy Dancers, fire walking included. Great show.
 Pinawalla Elephant Orphanage
DAY 4 started with a guided tour in the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa). A fascinating place and a must see!
At noon we took off to find the Samandhi Nature Resort about 1 hour's drive from Kandy. It was not exacly easy to find and the road was a challenge even to Hemantha, but what a surprise once you get there. Silence, only the sound of the surrounding nature. 
The hotel's interior is rustic and a bit primitive, but in a pleasant way. We spent the afternoon with a bath in the river, coffee drinking on the terrace in front of the room while we enjoyed the view to the jungle and small honey birds in particular. 3 of the hotel's friendly dogs often came to visit and quickly learned tricks for treats. The evening ended with a delicious dinner and a pleasant full body massage for some of us, while others had a small, laughing Sinhala course by Hemantha. 
DAY 5 the tour towards Nuwara Eliya continued through the hill country. The spectacular views with countless waterfalls are replaced by the green tea plantations. Again wild monkeys close to the road. A tour, lunch and small shopping at a tea factory.
It starts to rain - and the last part of the way to Nuwara Eliya it is getting foggy and cold. Once we reach the odd King Fern Cottage, which reminded of a Hundertwasserhaus, we were freezing (some said it was near 16 celcius.) - and only the staff's kindness and a fireplace saved our mood.
Even though the nature is worth a visit.
The King Fern cottage was a popular place for backpackers.
King Fern 
DAY 6 After a short city tour we decided to leave the wet Nuwara Eliya. A pity, because the place is really pretty and well worth a visit, but the family is hungry for warmth. At Ella it is still raining, so we view the grand waterfall in the rain. Late in the afternoon we arrive in Tissamaharama at the Priyankara Hotel. All warm and happy again! The hotel has nice rooms with balconies, overviewing a paddy field and a dock pond. Only nuisance is the mosquitos and currently construction noise. 
Yala Elephant 
DAY 7 starts at 7 o'clock. A jeep picks us up for a Yala safari. After a 40 minutes long rough ride we reach the safari park and a mandatory ranger joins us. Birds and animals in the park are not easy to spot, but the driver and ranger know how to find them. Deers and peacooks are easy to find. After a while we also spot a leopard. Elephants in small herds and male, single ones with big tusks. Even we witnessed an elephant fight! Another leopard lying under a tree. Last, but not least small and big crocodiles with wide open mouth to cool down.  Binoculars are required, as you never get really close to any of the animals. (300mm lense or better on camera is recommended)
In the park is a tsunami memorial next to the ruins of a tsunami struck guest house. People died there, but the ranger tells, that the animals escaped. 
DAY 8  Hemantha arranged surprise Birthday cake for breakfast for one of us. The children found it a great idea!
After breakfast we drove down the coast, passed Tangalle and Dikwella to see the famous blow hole (Hummanaya) in Kudawella. The blow hole is natural fountain, caused when sea water rushes through a submerged cavern and is pushed upwards. It is really impressive. A new small museum explains about the natural phenomenon and the big sea creatures in the ocean outside Sri Lanka. 
After Matara we reached Mirissa and our hotel, Mirissa Palace, situated on a cliff 100 feet above sea level and offering a paramount view of the Indian Ocean. Cozy, private bungalows with all amenities and a nice swimming pool were waiting for us.
Candle light dinner under the stars. Hemantha provided samples of sea food.
 Blow hole
DAY 9  While the girls preferred the swimming pool, the 3 of us went to the nearby town of Weligama to do a bit of shopping and one of us to have a hair cut and a shave at the local barber shop. Weligama has some nice sea food restaurants, but we went back to take the 'lazy' girls to lunch at the sand beach in the Mirissa Beach Club. Our 7 year old collects sea shells.
We also seach for a whale watching tour, but unfortunately it was not the season for it.
DAY 10 Sun rise over the Indian Ocean. Catamarans cruise around in the first sunrays on the sea below us. Peacocks and chipmunks puttering around the garden. A glorious morning! We do not feel like leaving, but the tour must go on. We made a short visit to the well preserved Galle Fort, before continuing to Hikkaduwa, where we want to see the coral reef. In Hikkaduwa they built a boot house to manage the boot trafic. There is a lot of loud arguing, before we get on board a glass bottom boat. The coral reef is a sad sight, only a few is alive and species of fish are few as well. Far from the exciting underwater experience it was years back! Apart from that, you see the fish better outside the boat than through the glass bottom. Turtles were nowhere to be seen, although they are still there (or were, last year in a different spot). The short boat trip is hardly worth the money. We drove on, only made a stop at the Peraliya Buddha Statue, a tsunami memorial for all the train passengers and residents of Peraliya, who died in the first wave of the tsunami. Our final destination was Bentota.
In Bentota we checked into the Surf Hotel (earlier known as Lihiniya Surf Hotel). It has resently been renovated, and whether you like it or not, may be a matter of taste. The former cozy atmosphere has disappeared in the new strict lines. However the beautiful sandy beach is still there ...
But missing wifi.. ???...

The Surf hotel at Bentota


 Bentota River
DAY 11-14 We stayed in Bentota, enjoying the beach life. One day we went fishing with one of the local fishemen. It was quite an exiting boat ride over the waves! We only caught 3 small fish, but it was fun anyway. Don't do it, if you have a tendency to seasickness. Instead you may go for a more peaceful trip on the Bentota River. You may see the eagles fly or spot a giant monitor lizard or crocodile in the mangrove. If not a man in a boat will find you and show off a baby crocodile (for money).
We met a number of sales people, but made the best bargain with 90 year old Charles, who has a shop across the railroad tracks from the hotel.
On the last day we left Bentota at noon, made a bit of shopping and sightseeing in Colombo, before continuing to Katunayake. Trafic was heavy and left us with little time to say good bye to Hemantha, who took good care of us all for 2 weeks. 
Our vacation was a great experience! Thank you so much, Hemantha!   

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