Madagascar & Sri Lanka

The Jewels of the Indian Ocean

Month: December 2017

Top 5 Things to do in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an often-overlooked country in Southern Asia—passed over for more well-known destinations like India and Thailand, Sri Lanka actually offers some of the most interesting and pristine wilderness and cultural institutions in Asia. Read below for my top 5 “can’t miss” destinations in the country.

 

 

Sigiriya: Sri Lanka is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Sigiriya is one of the most popular. The Lion Rock Fortress was built in the fifth century AD and has served as both a royal palace and a Buddhist monastery. Regarded as one of the most important urban planning projects of the first millennium, Sigiriya offers some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. While you’re here, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the “mirror wall.”

 

Arugam Bay: Regarded as one of the world’s best surfing destinations, Arugam Bay offers picturesque views of the Indian Ocean complete with coconut palms and solitude. Though many of the area’s buildings were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami, the Government’s Ministry of Defense Coastal Conservation Department has worked to recover and repair the bay.

 

Visit the Leopards in Yala: Sri Lanka is known for its diverse wildlife, but there is no creature more iconic than the leopard. Most easily spotted in Yala, located off the island’s southern coast, visitors can book day-long safaris to see these magnificent cats. Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most populated leopard sanctuary; you are almost certain to see one.

 

See Blue Whales: Sri Lanka’s southern tip is close to the continental shelf—an area frequented by groups of Blue Whales. Nowhere else in the world do these creatures swim so reliably close to land. If you want to see one for yourself, visit Dondra Head; from January to April, Blue Whales pass here on their way from the Bay of Bengal into the western part of the Indian Ocean, feasting on krill and squid as they go.

 

Sample Tea in the Haputale Mountains: Sri Lanka is never far from its colonial English past. The country is full of terraced tea estates, where you can try samples of freshly-picked herbs and spices. The launching place of the Lipton tea empire, visitors should head out early in the day to view the Hill Country’s gorgeous overlooks; afternoon fog often cloaks the surrounding mountains.

 

Top 5 Things to do in Madagascar

Madagascar is larger than most people think—at nearly 250,000 square miles, it is the 47th largest country by size. With this much land—and, notably, a lot of sea access—the country offers a range of unique experiences for locals and travelers alike. Below are my five favorite places to visit in Madagascar.

 

 

Avenue of the Baobabs: If you don’t know what a Baobab is, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Baobabs are large, unusual trees endemic to the island of Madagascar. It is an endangered species threatened by the growth and development of agricultural land. These trees have massive, cylindrical trunks that can measure up to three meters across. Covered in smooth, reddish-grey bark, they can be almost 100 feet tall. The Avenue of the Baobabs is a prominent group of these trees lining the road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region of western Madagascar. The landscape draw travelers from around the world; if you find yourself in the area, this is something you do not want to miss.

 

Beaches: Madagascar is an island—it goes without saying that this country offers some of the most beautiful and accessible beaches in the world. From Nosy Nato, a classic tropical island with white-sand beaches, to Anakao, an iconic stretch of turquoise water and pearly sand, you are never far from an unforgettable beach scene.

 

Big Tsingy Stone Forest: This natural attraction is one of the main draws for Madagascar’s environmental tourism. The Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is located near the western coast of Madagascar, and it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the world’s largest stone forest, filled to the brim with spiked towers or eroded limestone. Despite the area’s cold and inhospitable appearance, it is home to several types of bird and lemur.

 

Whale Watching: Travelling to Madagascar is not often associated with whale watching. However, this country offers some of the most spectacular views of humpback whales in the world. Head to the eastern coast to visit Saint Marie between June and September to see these massive mammoths breach throughout the day.

 

Antananarivo: This city, the capital and largest in Madagascar, is one of the most interesting places on the island. Nearly three million residents comprise the metropolitan area, and it is home to the largest number of universities, nightclubs, art venues, medical services, and other social service institutions on the island. Between the Botaical and Zoological Garden, Andafiavaratra Palace, and the Pirate Museum, a trip to this wonderful city is well worth the stop.

 

 

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