Isn’t there a security threat in Sri Lanka?
The security situation is not as bad as the media suggests; the only thing you have to plan for is roadblocks and checks. Overall, we had a very friendly experience with everyone, including security personnel.
What was it like being a tourist instead of guiding them?
Great fun. When we all met up in Colombo, we did the ultimate touristy thing and spent the first day at Mount Lavinia hanging out at the luxurious Mount Lavinia Hotel (www.mountlaviniahotel.com). After swimming in its lovely, palm tree-lined pool (overlooks the sea) and gorging on Sri Lankanprawns and fish curries at the buffet, we decided to be less decadent and head south to the beach town of Hikkaduwa.
Isn’t Hikkaduwa known for great water sports?
Yes it is, but we went during the off-season. With the sea a bit rough, not much water sport activity was on. Still, I had an interesting experience. While the others ate a long brunch, I explored the beach where I met two Australians who were kite surfing. I made friends with them and ended up learning kite surfing. It was amazing, learning how to balance one’s weight against the wind perched on a board. I even managed to glide through the air. Lucky, considering it was my first day. For 15 elated seconds, I was lifted off the water and 4ft into the air! Before I realized, it was 4.30pm and I’d spent the entire day practising there. I then rushed back to the hotel to find my friends worried that I’d drowned or something.
You’re a kite surfing prodigy?
Far from it. What I failed to mention is that kite surfing can be pretty treacherous. Once you’re put into the harness, the pull from the wind is unbelievable. At times, you feel like someone’s trying to pull your ribs away from the rest of your body. I also didn’t mention that after I had my elated airborne moments, I fell face first in the water. My face got whacked really hard and then I was dragged along the surface for 20ft. Believe me, it hurt; it felt like being pulled over bricks.
Which place did you like the most in Sri Lanka?
Definitely the Horton Plains National Park near Nuwara Eliya. We entered the park before sunrise and walked around the beautiful, green wilderness to a point called World’s End, which is actually a 2,000ft, sheer cliff. We spotted lots of animals in the park and spent time at a waterfall. The highlight was a one-and-a-half-minute leopard spotting. While walking, we saw a spotted leopard and froze; it had come to pick up a baby deer that it had probably killed earlier. We knew something was up for about 30 seconds before we saw him, because all the animals were on high alert and calling out. Then the leopard casually came by, picked up its dinner, and gracefully walked away.
Anything you’d avoid the next time around?
Unlike everything I’d heard, I didn’t enjoy the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. I love elephants and this is a good place to interact with them, but I felt the big guys weren’t too happy. They were fed, bathed and looked after, but I felt it was without love or passion. At one point, while the elephants were having a bath, one huge guy tried to run away. It was kind of funny watching the tiny mahout running, grabbing the elephant’s tail and trying to pull this one-tonne elephant. Later, a bunch of others came and rounded up the runaway. I felt sad, not thrilled, at the end of this visit.
(As told to Niloufer Venkatraman. Tell us your holiday tales at email@example.com)
Jehan Driver, 25, a student of adventure tourism in New Zealand, was until recently a tour leader with The Imaginative Traveller, a UK-based travel company. After three years of guiding tourists through India, he became a tourist himself and holidayed in Sri Lanka. His three travelling companions were from South Africa, England and Austria, folk he’d met on various tours for which he was guide