Is a Sri Lanka holiday on your wish list? This tear-shaped island in the Indian Ocean has plenty going for it – beaches, jungle safaris, elephant sightings in national parks, delicious street food, tea plantations and ancient ruins.
On a 10-day small-group trip in Sri Lanka with Bunnik Tours, our Travel Experts got to explore the highlights and famous sites as well as off-the-beaten track for a more in-depth insight of the island nation.
As well as visiting cities including Colombo, Galle and Kandy and popular attractions such as the Negombo fish market, enjoying a sunset cruise along the Gin Oya River and climbing Sigiriya Lion Rock and Pidurangala Rock, there were plenty of local experiences as well, which showcased how Bunnik Tours has contributed to the local community since relief efforts after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.
What were your expectations of the trip?
Erin Grieger, Flight Centre Southgate Plaza, SA: I wasn’t too familiar with the country but I knew the Bunnik Tour well and what was included and the trip was absolutely amazing.
How did you find the Bunnik Tours experience on your tour?
Simone Elwell, Flight Centre Gateways, WA: It was really well-run with nice hotels and included sightseeing. I found the ethical nature and trustworthiness of Bunnik really shone through.
Erin Muldoon, Flight Centre Gilles Plains, SA: It was fantastic – I was in a group with Marion and Frank Bunnik (founders and owners of Bunnik Tours) and it was great to learn about how the company started. The tour was extremely well organised, the accommodation and hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was great.
Erin G: Very humbling, to be honest. I hadn’t travelled as part of a group before and it was great to see how Bunnik Tours contributes to local villages in Sri Lanka.
What was your favourite part of the tour?
Simone: I loved the visit to Galle Fort – it was quaint, beautiful and has a lot of character.
Erin M: The local school and village visit was incredible. The kids at the school were so happy and had so little, it really made you appreciate how lucky we are.
What were some of the highlights?
Simone: Climbing Sigiriya Rock and visiting Galle Fort.
Erin M: Climbing Sigiriya Rock was hard, but it was worth it.
Erin G: Climbing Sigirya Rock and Pidurangala Rock were highlights for the personal achievement, but also for the views. Interacting with locals in a village and a school were also highlights.
What was the most surprising moment of the trip?
Simone: I really enjoyed visiting the Sri Lankan Bunnik Tours office. It really showed how much the Bunnik family has invested in the country and how well looked after the staff are.
Erin M: I ate so much amazing food – from the local barbecue to massive buffet spreads at the hotels.
Erin G: Climbing to the top of Pidurangala in time for sunrise.
Spill – what was your foodie highlight?
Simone: The seafood buffet at the Galle Face Hotel, a grand oceanfront hotel built in 1864.
Erin M: Lunch with a local family.
Erin G: The local food was amazing and so much variety. We visited a local family for lunch and had a mini cooking class – the fresh coconut sambol was delicious.
What was a typical day like on your tour?
Simone: Busy, as we were trying to see as much as we could, but also interesting with a bit of time on the bus and a bit of time adventuring. I loved looking out the bus window and watching the world go by.
Erin M: Our day started between 6-8am, followed by breakfast at the hotel, sightseeing in the morning, free time in the afternoons to enjoy the hotels and dinner with the tour group.
How did your Bunnik Tours trip differ from other tours you have been on?
Simone: The Bunnik Tour was more inclusive and hotels ranged on the location, from 3.5 star to 5-star.
Who would you recommend this trip to?
Simone: Anyone – the value is so good for what’s included. Longer tours include airfares, and there’s two seats per person on the coach and the seats are like being in premium economy.
Erin G: People who want to experience the destination for what it truly has to offer. There’s plenty of free time to explore, but the tour also offered great ways to see how a company can help the lives of locals.
Erin M: Anyone who is looking for a mostly inclusive group tour with great, comfortable accommodation and amazing local tour guides.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in taking this tour?
Erin G: Be prepared to not want to leave Sri Lanka!
Erin M: Jump in and give everything a go! Sri Lanka is an amazing country and you won’t be disappointed by any of the experiences available on the Bunnik Tours trip.
Any must-have items to pack for this Sri Lanka trip?
Simone: Bug spray, sneakers for walking, the correct clothing for visiting temples (pants that cover your knees and shirts or shawls to cover shoulders), swimmers and sunscreen.
Erin G: Mosquito repellent, sunscreen, a hat and something to cover up for the religious sites.