We always travel as a group in Sri Lanka, so this is no exception, we were heading off to Kalpitiya, which is on the north west of Sri Lanka. This was our first time for whale and dolphin watching, so we were a little apprehensive of getting on the boat, and feeling sea sick. I of course took the precautions of taking sea sickness tablets with us, to take before getting on the boat.
There were nine of us travelling in a van on the slow road from Colombo to Kalpitiya, when we finally reached our destination. We all got out of the van, and assessed our surroundings. Large palm trees drooping over onto a sandy beach, overlooking the river, that went out to sea. The accommodation was so remote, but with lovely surroundings it felt so private, except for one hut and a tree house.
We all went our separate ways, and Shams and I went to have a look at the sleeping arrangements. Too our horror, we only found the six beds, and two beds in the tree house, where were we all going to sleep. We were travelling with two aunties and two uncles, and out of respect we had to allow them to sleep on the double beds, but this still left four beds five of us to sleep. Our nephew Yesith, came up with the idea of us five sleeping in the tree house.
The tree house has a wooden roof with only two mosquito nets hanging, and the sides are made from small branches, that only came up to the waist in height and would not have been practical for us all to sleep in two beds. The tour group we used, suggested that he would put up a tent, and since Yesith was really wanting us all to sleep in the tree house, they suggested they would set the tent up in the tree house.
This does sound very strange, having a tent inside a tree house, but was necessary in light of the night we were going to encounter. We waited for the tent to be set up, before venturing inside to check out our new sleeping arrangements. The tour guide Ashan had confessed that he has never set up a tent in the tree house, but had done an amazing job. Ashan had tied the tent ropes to the pillars and roof of the tent and was sturdy for us to sleep for the next two nights.
We were due to go out on the boat the following day, but due to the monsoon season, Ashan advised that we probably wouldn’t be able to go, as the water would have been stirred up and caused the whales and dolphins to change location, so we relaxed a little knowing we would probably not get out into the sea tomorrow. To pass the time, we all sat around talking and catching up on the year we had missed out on, playing carom and charades before dinner was served.
We are both unable to eat spicy food, so we asked the chef to make the food mild, but add some chilies on the side for the rest of the group to enjoy a kick of spice. The table was full of lovely seafood curry such as prawn curry, and crab curry, with rice and vegetable curry, the colours are so vibrant and made our mouths water on the site of it. It is also customary to eat with the fingers in Sri Lanka, so as the Sri Lankans do, we ate with our fingers.
I have never eaten crabs before, and at first I really didn’t like them, plus the curries were too spicy for us, even when we have requested it to be mild. We ate till our bellies were full, and although the food was spicy, it was so moreish. I love the tingling feeling on the lips as a result of the food being spicy.
After the night fell, we set up some music and had our own little party by the river while we camped out for the night. It wasn’t long before we started dancing to the music. All we needed now was some disco lights and we would be having a party by the sea. As the night drew to a close it was about time to head to the tent for a good night sleep, however we are not sure we can say it was a good night sleep.
Once we were all inside the tent, the temperature increased. It became so hot, that we had to ventilate the tent as best we could, but had to make sure the tent was sealed so we wouldn’t get bitten alive by the mosquito’s. All five of us were chatting and trying to drift off to sleep. We found it difficult to get to sleep at first, the floor was hard, and the temperature felt like at boiling point, but it didn’t take long before it all went silent.
AAAAAAAHHHHHAAAAAAAAHHHHHHAAAAAAHHHHHH, the silence and sleep had been disturbed by Yesith waking in the night and speaking in Sinhala for which I couldn’t understand. Shams instructed me to get the torch on my phone, I scrambled around in the dark, Shams more urgently asking where the torch is, and finally my fingers found what I was looking for. I switched the torch on to find Yesith out of the bed and his mother Chandima scrambling around at the tent. I had soon established that it was raining, but raining so hard and the rain was horizontal that it was coming into the tent from Yesith and Chandima’s side. I made sure the light was in their direction so they could seal up the tent and I then moved onto sealing up my side of the tent.
As Yesith and Chandima’s bed was wet, this meant they had to move over towards where me and Shams were sleeping. If it wasn’t cramped before it certainly was now! We all finally settled down, before drifting back to sleep as best we could, the hard flooring didn’t help, and neither did the heat.
We woke up early, and slowly made our way to have breakfast. It was confirmed that we wouldn’t be going out on the boat, which is understandable after last night’s adventures, so this would be a rest day again. Ashan and his sister Vasita tried to entertain us for the day, by giving us a couple of bikes to ride. Yesith jumped on the bikes and cycled around on the sand, while the adults chatted. It was lovely to have a day of relaxation, before the madness the following day would happen.
Ashan confirmed it might be possible to go out on the boat, but if not then he would possibly take us to Wilpatu National Park on safari.
Lunch was served; seafood curry and rice. We couldn’t fault the food bar, even though the spice again too much for us to handle, but we ate what we could. Ashan suggested that we should go for a walk in the afternoon, and we could go swimming in the sea. I was apprehensive about this, I had never done it before and can’t swim. As we set off, we walked along the sandy beach of the river. We finally made it to the sea after about a 10 minute walk. The first thing we noticed was thousands and thousands of white things floating in the water. We took a closer look, to find they were jelly fish. It turns out they were dead, were not poisonous and would not sting us. Ashan was the first to get into the water, followed by Aunty Noreen and Aunty Shareen, Shams beckoned me to go in with her, but the best I could do was let the water flow over my feet.
The water was cold. I was taken by the hand by Shams and our friend into the water step by step. The further I went in the colder it felt, but what felt strange was the jelly fish floating around our legs. I had managed to get to about my waist, at which point I was far too scared to go in deeper, but was slowly pulled in by Shams. Before I knew it, we were all in up to our chests which was far enough for us. I did try to swim and float, but wasn’t very successful.
We had been swimming some hours, which passed the time, but knew we would have to head back to our base before it got dark and most importantly food. We all had to walk back in our wet clothes with the sand sticking to our wet feet.
We finally got back to base, and took it in turns to shower in the outside shower. This was certainly refreshing. Ashan got the BBQ out, and we BBQ’d some fish with rice and vegetable curry. Once again the food was delicious and the fish was nicely done. Ashan informed us that the following day, we would be going out on the boat for whale and dolphin watching, but he would also take us to Bar Reef for snorkelling. This made my heart race, I was scared about getting on the boat in case I was sick, I was also scared to get in the water especially when I can’t swim, but was also excited to see the coral fish. We practised with the snorkels so we could familiarise ourselves with using the equipment before getting ready for bed.
We stuck to the previous night’s sleeping arrangements, and by this point Yesith and Chandima’s side of the bed was dry again. It was again hot with five people sleeping in one tent, but opened the tent up for ventilation hoping we wouldn’t experience the same as the previous night. It finally went silent as we had all dropped off to sleep.
I woke in the night as the bottom of the tree house was shaking quite violently, I was a little concerned about it and why it was shaking so much. I stirred Shams, who wasn’t impressed, and she also confirmed she could feel it. I asked what could this be, and she exclaimed it was the wind and wasn’t of any concern considering we were in a tree. This did make sense but it just felt like we were going to fly out of the tree and land in the river. This does sound a little extreme but your mind does tend to wander in these circumstances especially after what happened the previous night. It took a while before the wind eased off, and I finally dropped back off to sleep.
So after enduring all this in two nights, I was just so tired and wanting to sleep in a comfortable bed, Shams came and woke me and confirmed that we are going out on the boat and for me to get ready. I sat up half asleep and I thought to myself, “what am I getting myself into, I really do not want to go out on this boat.” I can see that Shams was not concerned and wasn’t worried in anyway about going out there, and seemed quite excited about it all. So I slowly emerged from the tent and headed downstairs where they had made us a light breakfast.
Whilst eating a light breakfast of sandwiches, I read through the instructions on how to take the anti-seasickness tablets before taking half a tablet. After eating, we went to pack our bags, and get our cameras, and snorkels ready and headed off to the boats.
For me, this was the first time going on a boat. At first I was seated at the back with Shams next to me. However Ashan suggested that since I could get sick it might be better for me at the front, so I moved seats. We set off and it was relatively nice and calm to start with, but we hadn’t met the waves yet. The speed on the boat finally reached high speed, so we can ride against the waves to get out into the ocean.
The boat goes in an upward motion to reach the top of the wave, but of course gravity soon changes this when we reach the top of the wave, we have to come crashing back down in a down ward motion. On crashing the waves on the way back down, causes vibrations through the bottom of the boat, which I feel through my feet, my seat and up through my body. After the first wave, I wanted to get off, I didn’t realise how bad it was going to be. I was holding on for dear life, I even thought we were going to capsize. This is definitely an overreaction by me as it is perfectly safe. I tried to look around to the others, but feared looking as something could happen.
We suddenly stopped in the middle of the ocean, for which I was grateful by this point, because I just wanted to get off, but knew I had to overcome these fears and could not turn back now. I looked around to see Shams who was sat at the rear of the boat, looking very content and ok, I suddenly felt a bit of nausea, so I quickly looked back around and kept my eyes on the horizon, luckily the feeling soon passed. It was time to continue on our roller coaster ride to find the whales and dolphins. I was not sure by this point if I was actually more relaxed with riding these waves or if I was still scared, however, I was still holding on for dear life.
Finally, after what felt like a life time we stopped, in the middle of the ocean where the waters are nice and calm. We were told that the whales and dolphins had moved because of the weather we had endured over the previous couple of days, so Ashan has brought us to Bar Reef to do snorkelling.
Ashan dived into the water and came back to the boat to help us to get in. I climbed into the water and the first thing I felt was that I was sinking. Yet I had a life vest on! I panicked a little and Ashan tried to settle me down. When Shams got in, we stuck together like glue for a while. She was more calm and settled me down a lot more, and I finally got the hang of being in this water with the life vest on. A life ring is put into the water with us.
Shams and I both put our snorkels and masks on and tried to do some snorkelling. We both put our faces into the water, and what an incredible site I saw. All you could see were these beautiful fish swimming around us, yet all I seem to do was breathe through the snorkel and the sea water got in my mouth, and with this I was drinking the stuff. I came back out of the water, tried to clear the mask and try again, but I am having the same problem. When I came up for air again, Shams was doing the same, so I told her about the water coming into the snorkel, she says she is having the same problem. I gave it a few more tries to no avail, and since we are both missing out on seeing the life below us, I ditched the snorkel and left it on the boat.
I left just the mask on, which meant I had to hold my breath, and I watched below me for a bit then came up for air. We both commented on how amazing it is to see these fish and the different kinds and colours. The fish are just going about what they are doing, and don’t seem to notice us above. After a while of floating in the water with Shams watching the fish, we both notice we have drifted a considerable distance from the boat, and Shams is also by this point a bit behind me. So Shams said to me to get ourselves back closer to the boat. We both try and swim back, but we just do not seem to make any headway, and it seems we are just drifting further away from the boat.
We both were a little concerned and continue to try and swim back to the boat using all our energy. After about 1 minute, Ashan came swimming over to us with the life ring, and told us to hold onto it. Within a couple of minutes we were both back at the boat and he went to get the rest of them.
Whilst we were waiting around, Shams asked me how I was getting on, and I explained that I was loving the fish just watching them swim about. I was also wondering if Shams was enjoying it just as much as I was. Shams said she was loving the colourful fish and how incredible it was to see them swimming around. I told her I thought I saw Dori earlier, and she replied saying this is like watching a nature show, but without watching it through the TV, and actually nearly touching the wildlife. What felt like hours in the water, and drifting away from the boat so many times, it was now time to head back to shore.
At this point I was with Chandima holding onto the life ring. I took a look around to see if I can see Shams since we are a distance now from the boat, but I cannot see sight of her. I look all the way around, and nothing. I says to Chandima can you see Shams anywhere, but she can’t either. I am really concerned that she only has a life vest on, isn’t a confident swimmer and she could have drifted anywhere. Uncle Brian comes over to take us back to the boat and I asked him, where Shams was. He replied that she was over there and will go and bring her back in a moment.
It doesn’t take him long to drag us back to the boat, by this point Ashan has brought Yesith back to the boat. I can now see Shams, and Ashan is bringing her back. We all climb back onto the boat, and I said to Shams, how insane it is that both Ashan and Uncle Brian had been able to pull us all back to the boat, when we can’t do it ourselves, but also how incredible an experience it was seeing the fish.
We had a few drinks and relaxed before we headed back to shore. The ride back to shore, was lovely and felt so quick, because we were no longer riding the waves but going with them, it wasn’t as bumpy or roller coaster of a feel. I loved the journey back with the wind in my face.
We both were by this point grateful that our feet were firmly on land where they belonged. We arrived back at our accommodation, showered and got ready for our trip back to Colombo, on the way back we reminisced on our trip, and I said to Shams as much as I was petrified to get on this boat, and that it was a shame we couldn’t see whales or dolphins, but was an amazing experience in which I said I had overcome my fears. Shams said that we would probably not go back on a boat trip for whale and dolphin watching, but since we both liked the snorkelling (not that we did it very well) but she would take me to Pigeon Island in the north east another time and do snorkelling again. I certainly wouldn’t say no to that!
Once we had arrived back in Colombo it was soon evident that I had got quite badly sun burnt, which I suffered with for a number of days. I did apply sun cream, but because I was in the sun for so long, and an element from the wind would have caused me to get wind burn, I looked like a lobster. I was lucky enough to stay out of the sun for the rest of my stay and just applied soothing cream to help with the burning feeling.