Saturday, 29 July 2017

Offbeat Vairaatgad trek

I was looking for an offbeat trek with medium endurance and I came across Fort Vairaatgad. I decided to visit the fort on Saturday.
Friend Vishal and Ashutosh with his son Aarush joined me for the trek.

Vairaatgad Fort
Vairaatgad Fort

About Vairaatgad 
Vairaatgad is located 8km away from Wai town. Base village for the fort is Vyajwadi. Fort was used by King Shivaji as a military station. Fort area is small

To reach the base village is Pune - join Mumbai-Bangalore National Highway - cross Khambatki Ghat section - drive till Panchwad village located on the national highway- take right under the bridge - take left at GPS (17.901404, 73.929159) - Vyajwadi village.
Another route is Pune - Join Mumbai-Bangalore National Highway - cross Khambatki Ghat section - take Right for Wai - take left in Wai for Wai-Satara road - take right at GPS (17.901404, 73.929159) - Vyajwadi.

Vairaatgad Fort
Vairaatgad Fort

29 July 2017: Vairaatgad Fort
              Trek was planned on Friday night so it was not possible for us to leave in the early morning. We left at 7:30 AM by car. There was less traffic on highway considering monsoon weekend. We took breakfast break at Shriram Wadapav Center. It is the famous hotel for Wada Pav, Missal, and other snacks.
             After breakfast, we reached Vyajwadi village. There are 3 routes to climb for. Two are from Base Village Vyajwadi and one from opposite side of Vyajwadi. The third route is a longer route with multiple hills to climb before the main fort. We decided to climb fort via Vyajwadi.

Vairaatgad Fort View From Base

               If you are facing towards fort from base village then two routes are from the Left side of the mountain and from right side mountain. Both routes joined before final climb for the fort. There are multiple narrow routes available to climb the fort. We started Climb and after a 60-75 min, we reached the entrance gate. Entrance gate area is in ruined state but you can see bastion and water tanks. After few steps, we reached the top of the Vairaatgad fort.

Way towards Fort entrance...Vairaatgad Fort
A way towards Fort entrance...Vairaatgad Fort

Vairaatgad Fort entrance
Vairaatgad Fort entrance

               Fort top area is very small and can be explored less than an hour. There is small chapatdan Hanuman Temple. It named because of Lord Hanuman's pose to slap the devil that is at his feet. There are around 3-4 small lakes and 1-2 Water trench. There is some ruined fortification available on the fort. View from Fort is breathtaking.

Shiv Temple on the Fort

Lake on the Fort


Lord Maruti Idol

               You can see newly built Shiv temple. There is big shelter to take some rest. We spend around an hour and left the less visited the beautiful vairaatgad fort. It took around an hour to climb down. Few patches are a bit slippery in monsoon but manageable with proper care. We reached home by 5 PM safely ending pleasurable trek in monsoon.

View from Vairaatgad Fort
View from Fort

Lake and Shiv Temple view

View from Vairaatgad Fort
View from Vairaatgad Fort

Things to carry for Vairaatgad Trek:
  • A water bottle to carry at least 2 liters of water. (Water in lake is available during monsoon)
  • Some dry food, in case you didn’t find any suitable food stall 
  • Windcheater/jacket / Barsati during monsoon trek.
  • Do carry instant energizers like Glucon-D or Tang.
  • A towel or napkin and 2-3 old newspapers
  • Camera to capture best nature movement
  • Better avoid wearing Gold and other ornaments. No need to carry heavy cash.

Our Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 800-1000/-
  • Toll: INR 120/- (Returned)
  • Snacks at Shriram: As per Dish (Missal: INR 50, Vada Pav: INR 30 per plate)
  • No Parking charges in Village
  • We had packed food on fort and milk share during the return journey
Village view from Vairaatgad Fort

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling. 

Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Quick trek to Narayangad and Amba-Ambika Caves

We were planning for easy level off beat trek for Monsoon. We decided to visit Narayangad along with Amba Ambika caves.
Travellers for this trek were I, Himanshu, Nirupa, Vishal-Arya along with their 2.5-year-old son, Ashutosh along with his 4-year-old son and Aditya.

Narayangad Fort View
Narayangad Fort View

About Narayangad Fort and Caves:
Narayangad fort is around 90-95 KM from Pune and the nearest town is Narayangaon. Fort is located on a detached hill and used as Watch tower.
Junnar is famous for rock cut caves which were built between 3rd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D. Caves consists of Chitya, Viharas, rock cut rooms, Water trench and stupa. It is few KM away from Junnar town.

The Best way to reach is Pune - old Pune-Mumbai Highway - take right at Kasarwadi - take Nashik Highway till Narayangaon.
For fort, take right after crossing Bus Depo at Narayangaon. Follow the tar road which will take you at the base of Fort

For Caves, take left from Narayangaon towards Junnar. drive for 12-14KM and take left U turn to join Junnar-Vadaj Road. No signboards present to identify the hike route for caves but you can view caves from the road.

Narayangad Fort

GPS locations
Narayangad fort: 19.113563, 74.033361
Take right here for Amba-Ambika Cave: 19.187963, 73.888552
Parking point for Amba-Ambika Caves: 19.187314, 73.888144
Amba-Ambika Cave: 19.185852, 73.884426
Bhutalinga cave: 19.188291, 73.878576
Bhimashankar Cave: 19.179921, 73.886486

8 July 2017: Pune to Narayangad Fort:
              I woke up by 5:30 AM and left at 6:15 AM. My wife unable to joined trek due to office work. We all gather at my place whereas Vishal-Arya joined us at Kasarwadi junction. Drive on Nashik Highway was pretty good. Highway expansion is in progress hence you may face a little bit of traffic. We had Breakfast in Aakash hotel near Manchar.
              After a quick drive, we reached Narayangaon by 8:30 AM. The narrow road till fort base took around 40-45 min to reach the base. There is enough parking space available near the temple. Fort is small and it hardly takes 30 minutes to climb it. Steps were built by local authority till mid point and then steps in rocks takes you on the fort.

Narayangad Fort

Narayangad Fort

            Mainly fort is divided into 2 sections. One on right side and second on your left side once you reach the top. We decided to explore right side first and then move towards left where the temple is built. Fort was built in Satvahan era and used as a watch tower for the trade route. It was rebuilt Balaji Vishvanath (First Peshwa) and handed to Sayaji Povar to maintained.

Water Trench at Narayangad Fort
Water Trench at Narayangad Fort

View from NArayangad Fort

           Very fewer fortifications are available. The route is narrow till the end but quite safe to walk. You can see water trenches on the route. We took a small break after reaching end point and returned. We reached the midpoint and then hiked towards Temple which is the topmost point on Fort. Temple is dedicated to Goddess Hastmata. The route is easy to climb and proper marking is available. You can see ruined fortification which consists of a base of Sadar, Lord Ganesh carving and ruined rock statue having Lion face on it.

Hastmata Temple

Fortification of Sadar
Fortification of Sadar

Ganesh carved on Stone at Narayangad Fort
Ganesh carved on Stone at Narayangad Fort

Steps on Fort

           The entire fort can be seen in 1 hour. We climb down quickly after exploring the small fort. By 12 PM, we reached the base of the fort. We had quick lunch in Narayangaon before heading towards Amba Ambika caves. Cave was built between 3rd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D. Signboards are not available on the route which makes it difficult to track. If you start asking Locals, then most of them think that you are interested in Lenyadri Caves and Ganesh temple.

Amba-Ambika Cave Complex
Amba-Ambika Cave Complex 

            Three Caves are spread on one hill. You can see 3 caves on the Junnar-Vadaj Road (On the Right side of Road) named as Bhutalinga Cave (Bit away from Road), Amba-Ambika Caves and Bhimashankar Cave. All Three Caves are connected by forest trails. Middle cave have Amba-Ambika idol which was the reason to name these caves as Amba-Ambika caves.

Forest Trail for Cave

Route for Cave

              We decided to visit only Amba-Ambika Caves. Other 2 caves are accessible but not recommended. There are too many Honey-bee combs present on the route to Bhutalinga cave and Bhimashankar Cave. Even Locals prefer not to visit and warn the tourist to avoid the same. There is small forest hike to reach the Amba-Ambika caves. After 15-20 minute of steep gain, we reached the cave. Make sure to cover your full body during winter to protect from Mosquito bites.



              Amba-Ambika Caves consists of Chitya, Viharas, rock cut rooms, Water trench and stupa. Most of the caves are in incomplete form. Amba-Ambika idols are present on the second level. You take narrow step route to reach the second level. Not enough rock left to keep your feet so with proper care, you can enter the cave. Cave have sculptures of Amba, Ambika and Tirthankara. Ambika and Tirthankara are worshipped by Jain the community. Ambika is also worshipped by Hindu community.




              This is the hidden gem and hardly people visit these caves. After exploring caves, we climbed down quickly. We began our return journey and reached home by 7 PM safely.

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

Monday, 26 June 2017

Weekend Trip to Diveagar - Shrivardhan - Harihareshwar

We were looking for quick 2 days monsoon trip to the beach. Considering time and distance, we decided to visit Diveagar and try to explore the Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar area. I have been to Diveagar and Harihareshwar a few years back so aware of route and places.

Travellers for this trip were me and Renuka

Diveagar Beach
Diveagar Beach

About Diveagar, Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar:
Shrivardhan is Taluka city located in the coastal region. It is also a birthplace of first Peshwa Balaji Visvanath.
Harihareshwar was blessed by Lord Shiva and famous for Lord Shiva Temple.
Diveagar is village which is famous for a weekend beach destination. It was famous for Suvarna (Gold) Ganesh Temple but unfortunately, an idol made up of gold was stolen in the year 2012. All 3 destination is famous for its beautiful beaches.

The best route to reach Diveagar is Pune – Paud Gaon – Mulashi – Tamhini Ghat – Nijampur – Mangaon – Right turn after Mangaon ST stand – Mhasala – Diveagar.

Day 1: 25 June 2017: Pune to Harihareshwar to Diveagar:
               We woke by 5-5:30 and left home at 6 AM. We took Tamhini route. There was light rain shower till Mulashi. We had breakfast at Quick Bite restaurant. A Little bit high in price but serves quality food. We took multiple pit stop to enjoy the monsoon nature and waterfalls. Water flow was limited due to the start of monsoon season.
              We decided to visit Harihareshwar first and then stay at Diveagar. If time permits then we planned to visit Shrivardhan and nearby places. Shades of Paddy green field and beautiful nature in monsoon makes your journey more pleasant. We reached Harihareshwar by 11 AM.
              Harihareshwar temple was crowded by tourist when we reach. Harihareshwar is known as Kashi of Southern India. Temple is surrounded by Holy hills named as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiv and Parvati. Temple and nearby area have huge mythology history associated with it. Pradakshina (Parikrama) route is unique and interesting. It starts behind the temple.you need to climb a small hill and then get down from another side. Take a walk around the rocky coastal hilly area which is exposed to strong sea waves and wind. Parikrama becomes very risky during high tide as entire path is covered by sea waves with the strong water current. For monsoon, the route is closed for safety reasons. Harihareshwar Beach was covered with sea due to monsoon high tide.

Parikrama Route, Harihareshwar
Parikrama Route, Harihareshwar

Harihareshwar Beach
Harihareshwar Beach

             We left for a destination after temple visit. It was 1 PM in clock and we were looking for a restaurant. We reached Shrivardhan and took a lunch break at restaurant Prasad. It is famous for seafood and always full of tourists. There is enough parking space available.
              After tasty seafood. We reached Aaravi village. We checked Pratima resort for stay but Manager/Caretaker refused our stay even though rooms were available. He told us that, there is no other guest for Sunday night stay and he has to appoint all staff just for 2 guest which is not cost effective. We were ok with his valid reason. We like the property which was located close to Beach.

Aaravi Beach OR Kondivali Beach
Aaravi Beach OR Kondivali Beach

             We began our journey towards Diveagar. You cannot miss Aaravi beach (Also known as Kondivali beach) while driving to Diveagar via coastal highway. The road is not in good condition but drives along the sea is pleasant. Aaravi village is located on the southern point of beach whereas Kondivali village is on the northern side of the beach. Hence it is known by both names. Beach towards Kondivali is Rocky. We took a pit stop here and then left for Diveagar.

Aaravi Beach OR Kondivali Beach

Aaravi Beach OR Kondivali Beach

               We reached Diveagar by 3 PM and searched hotels for stay. We finalised Hotel Cocohut who offered us good discounted deal. The hotel has AC rooms and very small Swimming pool. Hospitality was good and all staff was helpful. We had rest and then went for walk on the beach which was within walking distance from Hotel. We had dinner in hotel's restaurant and the food was Average. They need to add Konkani food which was missing in Menu.

Expenses:
  • Car petrol: INR 1000/-
  • No toll on this route
  • Breakfast at Quick Bite: INR 370/- (Poha at 70, Cheese Dosa at 120, watermelon juice at 90)
  • Parking at Harihareshwar: INR 40/-
  • Coconut water: INR 60/- for 2
  • Car parking near restaurant Prasad: INR 30/-
  • Lunch at Restaurant Prasad: INR 400/- (Prawns Meal at 180 and buttermilk at 10 each)
  • Hotel stay: INR 2500/- for 1 night (standard rates are INR 4000/- to 4500/-)
  • Dinner: INR 670/- (non-veg soups, Masala Papad, pomfret fry, Veg dish and Rotis)

Day 2: 26 June 2017: Diveagar to Shrivardhan - Pune:
             Heavy rain from early morning forced us to stay in the room. By 8 AM, heavy rain stopped and I went on the beach for walk/jog. Breakfast was complimentary with stay and food was good.
            After heavy breakfast, we went to the beach. Due to high tide, entire beach was covered by waves. Diveagar beach is famous for its wide width and safety factor for swimming. Due to the monsoon, sea waves was ruling on the beach. There were limited Watersports available on each. Water is muddy and water current was strong. We prefer to enjoy the monsoon mood from distance rather than entertaining into the water.

Diveagar Beach

              We returned to the hotel and did check out in the noon. We visited Rupnarayan temple which is located close to the beach. Vishu Idol is very old and it is in form of Dashavatar. Idol is beautifully carved in black Sagamravari stone. As per history, the temple was built between year 800 to 1300. Madhavrao Peshwa used to visit this temple along with his wife Ramabai Peshwa.

Rupanarayan Temple, Diveagar
Rupa Narayan Temple, Diveagar

              After Rupnarayan temple, we visited Suvarn (Made up of Gold), Ganesh Temple. This was the main attraction of Diveagar. On the special day of November 17th, 1997 (Sankashti Chaturthi as per the Hindu calendar), a villager found a copper box in few feet below farming land. When the box was opened, they Ganesh idol made up of pure gold and ornaments belonging to Lord. This discovery has turned the village into Holy place.
            Unfortunately, gold idol and Ornaments were stolen in March 2012. Thieves killed two security guards as well. Later thieves were captured but gold idol and ornaments were melted. Currently, the temple is under renovation and original rock base idol is placed in the temple.
            We had a tasty meal at Bapat Khanaval. It is famous for typically pure veg Konkani meal and Modak as sweet. After Lunch, we left Diveagar.

Veg Meal

               Our last destination was Shrivardhan. This is known as one of the oldest towns from Maharastra. It is also a birthplace of first Peshwa Balaji Visvanath. Now Peshwa temple is built at the birth place. The town is also popular beach destination. Recently beach is developed with a beautiful walkway along the beach. There are few view points built and benches for relaxation. We spend the remaining afternoon on the beach.

Shrivandhan Beach
Shrivandhan Beach

Shrivardhan Beach
Shrivardhan Beach

Shrivardhan Beach
Shrivardhan Beach

               We left Shrivardhan by 5 PM. We choose Tamhini Route for our return journey. Tamhini Ghat welcomed us with Heavy rainfall. We reached home safely by 9:30-10 PM

Expenses:
  • Breakfast: Complimentary
  • Coconut water: INR 50/- for 2
  • Maggi at beach: INR 30/-
  • Lunch at Bapat Khanaval: INR 305/- for 2 people (Veg meal at 120, Modak each at 15, Solkadi at 10, Shrikhand at 25)
  • Dinner: At home

The contact number for your reference:
  • Cocohut Hotel: http://www.cocohut.in
  • Pratima Beach Resort: Mangesh 9028388642.
  • Bapat khanaval: +919423837967.
  • Hotel Prasad, Shrivardhan: 02147-222445, +919623155551.

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Trip to Beautiful Sri Lanka (Nuwara Eliya-Yala- Mirissa)

We were looking for quick and short international trip in the month of May. After long discussions, we (Pritesh-Renuka, Aditya-Neha, Saurabh-Vrishali, and Anannya) decided to visit Sri Lanka for 5 days. A week before the trip, we booked our flights and set for the Trip.

Friends...

About Sri Lanka:
              Sri Lanka is Island country in the Indian Ocean formerly known as Ceylon. Country name was changed to Sri Lanka in the year 1972. This place is also known as King Ravana’s Lanka as per Indian Mythology (In Ramayana).
Sri Lanka has variety in tourism and you can visit the country for Culture visit, Beautiful beaches, Dense Green Forest, Hill Station, landscapes, Hiking activities or adventure activities.

Our Trip Plan
Day 0: Pune to Colombo via Chennai and Stay near Airport (Negombo)
Day 1: Negombo to Nuwara Eliya. Whitewater rafting at Kitugala
Day 2: Nuwara Eliya
Day 3: Nuwara Eliya to Yala and Safari at Yala National Park
Day 4: Yala National Park to Mirissa
Day 5: Mirissa to Airport for Return Journey

Traditional fishing in Sri Lanka
Traditional fishing in Sri Lanka

I have shared popular travel plans/circuit at the end of Travel Blog.

Day 0: 28 April 2017: Pune to Colombo via Chennai
              We all gathered at Pune airport by 2 PM from respective Office/Home location. We booked Jet Airways flight till Chennai and then Sri Lankan airline from Chennai to Colombo. Saurabh was in Chennai for office assignment so he joined us at Chennai airport. Layover time in Chennai was 4 hours and then we board Sei Lankan Airline. We applied for online VISA whereas collection/Stamping was at Colombo airport. We did the Online booking of Bangalow at Negombo from Airbnb. We rented a vehicle for 5 days whereas we did walk-in hotel booking for respective locations. Our Driver "Bandhu" welcomed us at the airport and we left for our stay location which was 8 KM from the airport. As Bandhu knows the English and local language very well, he acted as translator during the entire trip. BTW, English is widely spoken at a Tourist destination.
The bungalow was built in British style and well maintained by Garden around it.

Our vehicle for 5 days

Expenses:
  • Pune to Chennai Jet Airways (Single journey): INR 14858/- for 2 person
  • Chennai to Colombo to Chennai (Sri Lankan Airline): INR 27200/- for 2 Person
  • Chennai to Pune Indigo Airline (Single Journey): INR 6560/- for 2 person
  • Sri Lanka Visa: USD $20/-
  • Local SIM Cards: LKR 3600/- for 3 SIMs [$9/-in USD per SIM]
  • Bungalow Stay at Negombo: INR 4891/- per 1 night for 7 people
  • Toyota Hiace Car Rental for 5 Days: USD $490/- [INR 32340/- for 5 Days] (for 7 People)

Day 1: 29 April 2017: Colombo to Nuwara Eliya:
              We all woke up after 7:30 AM. We planned to start Sri Lanka tour by 10:30 AM. After Breakfast, we left Negombo for our first destination. Our first destination was whitewater rafting at Kitugala which is on the way to Nuwara Eliya. After 4 hours of journey from beautiful Ghat section, we reached for rafting.

Our Stay at Negombo

              We parked our vehicle and went at the starting point of River rafting by Auto (Also known as Tuk Tuk). Total river rafting distance was 7 KM with around 6-7 Rapids. Everyone was aware of rafting Technics expect me and Renu. Our mentor/Guide explained us Rafting rules/techniques and after 15 min of training, we were ready for the fun ride.

White Water Rafting at Kitugala

               We had a great time and ride was managed so well to stay safely in the Raft. Our trainer took a raft in one of the Rapid falls against the water flow. Water pushing you back with the force and still your tiring to climb the Rapid which was an amazing experience. After all Rapids, we got a chance to float along the river which was very relaxing. The entire experience was captured in GoPro Camera.

White Water Rafting at Kitugala

              After river rafting, we freshen up and left for our remaining journey. It was 3 PM in clock and all were too hungry. We stopped our car on road(Ghat) side food stall. Only Egg Hopper was Available which was a local dish. We had our meal. As we were approaching Nuwara Eliya, Weather changed from humid to freezing cold. By 7 PM, we reached Nuwara Eliya.
             We booked Bungalow for 2 nights which was hardly 1 Km away from town. For dinner, we went to Grand Indian restaurant. you can get all Indian Dishes here but the food was average in taste. Our Day 1 ends with the memory of Adventure ride.

Expenses:
  • River Rafting: LRK 15500/- for 7 people. [USD $15/- per person OR Around INR 1000/- per person]
  • River Rafting Photos with Memory Card: LRK 3500/- [USD $22/- OR INR 1500/-]
  • Lunch: LRK 1455/- for multiple Egg Hoppers, Tea & Toast [USD $10/- OR INR 615/-]
  • Nuwara Eliya Stay: LRK 61400/- for 7 people [USD $400/- OR INR 25800/-]
  • Grand Indian Restaurant: LRK 7100/- for Veg and Nov veg Dishes with Rotis [USD $47 OR INR 3000/-]

Day 2: 30 April 2017: Nuwara Eliya:
              We woke up by 8 AM and went for a morning walk. We got to know that there is route besides hotel which goes to the highest village of Sri Lanka name as Shantipura. There is small watch tower built to enjoy the view of the village. You can reach at top by walk from Nuwara Eliya or by Auto Riksha (Tuk Tuk)

Shantipuram Village: Highest Village in Sri Lanka
Shantipuram Village: Highest Village in Sri Lanka

              Weather and view of Shantipura were pleasant. Small homes from village surrounded by step farming of tea. We spend some time in early morning and climbed down for breakfast. Bungalow owner prepared Local food in breakfast which was tasty.

Shantipuram Village: Highest Village in Sri Lanka

               After 11 AM, we left the hotel for Sightseen. Our first destination was tea plantation and factory. Sri Lanka is 4th largest tea exporter in the world. You will find tea plantation around Kandy, Nuwara Eliya etc. We visited one of the famous tea factories. A person from Tea factory explained us the process from Picking leaves from Plant till the packing of tea powder. They showed us a different variety of tea powder and how to identify it. It was just 30 min tour inside the factory.

Tea Factory

              They offered us complimentary tea in their tea Cafe. An idea is if you like the taste of tea, then you can buy tea powder/tea bags from their factory outlet shop. Overall visit was good. Tea power which was for sale in the shop was of international quality. After purchasing variety of tea, we left the place.

Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka
Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka

Tea Plantation

              We went in Nuwara Eliya's local market for a walk and some shopping. As we had heavy Brunch, we preferred having light lunch at local restaurant. We tried some authentic chicken dishes and egg Kottu dish.
              The last destination for today's was Gregory Lake. It is just a few km away from the heart of the city. This lake is worth a visit in the evening as this offers a beautiful view of the town, Landscape, and mountains. It also has a lot of activities for everyone like games, boating, and food. After sunset, entire lake front is lit up. After spending quality time with friends, we went in the town for dinner.

Gregory Lake, Nuwara Eliya
Gregory Lake

Gregory Lake
Gregory Lake

Expense:
  • Viewpoint entry for Shantipura Village: LRK 50/- each
  • Light Lunch in local restaurant: LRK 910/- for 7 people [USD $6 OR INR 400/-]
  • Coffee: LRK 50/- each [USD $0.30 OR INR 21/-]
  • Gregory Lake entry (Non-SL entry): LRK 1400/- [USD $9 OR INR 600] (Entry fee is LRK 50/- for locals)
  • Dinner at Milano Restaurant: LRK 2494/- for 7 [USD $16 OR INR 1050/-]

Day 3: 01 May 2017: Nuwara Eliya - Yala:
              For a change, We all woke up early morning and started our journey by 7 AM towards Yala national park. The curvy road passing through the beautiful tea plantation. We took a small break at Ella. This place is famous for international tourism as it offers plenty of hiking trails around the town.
By 12 in the noon, we reached Tissa (Also known as Tissamaharama). We searched for hotel options and decided to stay at Echo safari resort at Tissa Lake. The hotel is located on the bank of Lake. The property is very well developed with all required amenities. Most of the rooms offer you a lake view and we selected Lake view rooms. The hotel has clean large size pool. They have a poolside closed restaurant which serves varieties of food dishes in Veg and Non-Veg. Authentic food in the meal was plus point for us.

Sita Temple

Echo Safari Resort, Tissa

               We had lunch and till the time, our safari arrangement was done by our Driver. Safari jeep picked us from the hotel. Yala national park entrance gate is around 25-30 km from Tissa. We reached at entrance gate by 2:15 PM and after paperwork (which was done by safari driver), we entered the forest.

Way to Forest... Clicked by Renuka Kulkarni

Yala National Park
Yala National Park

             Yala national park located in the southeast of Sri Lanka and some part of the forest is directly exposed to coastal line of Sri Lanka. It is divided into 5 zones (local people call zones as Block) whereas only 2 zones are open for safari. We had a permit to explore both the zones. Later we got to know that there is no strict rule to cross the zones (In India, you cannot enter in another zone without having Permit and permits is issued for particular zone only)

Yala National Park... Clicked By Renuka Kulkarni

Black Neck Stork... Clicked By Renuka Kulkarni

               Yala national park has a good population of Asian Elephants. Around 350-400 Elephants present in Yala whereas count varies as per their Migration. It is also one of the highest leopard densities in the world. Each block contains around 20 leopards.

Elephants in Yala National Park
Elephants in Yala National Park

Leopard from Yala National Park

             We entered in Yala Park by 2:30 PM. With a few KM drive, we spot the first mammal which was Jackal. He ran away quickly and somehow we manage to take a record shot. Further, we saw many wild buffalos.

Jackal in Yala National Park

              We saw spotted deer, Sambhar and Nilgai. Our eyes were looking for a group of Elephants. After some time, we spot a small group of Elephants with small baby Elephants. Even though spotting an Elephant in Yala or in (South) Indian forest is not too difficult but still, it gives you satisfaction after watching huge mammal. We spend some time there and then moved ahead.

Elephant Rock from Yala National Park... Clicked by Renuka Kulkarni

Baby Elephants with Mother...Clicked by Renuka Kulkarni

              We also saw much variety of wetland birds such as Cranes, black neck Stork, Ibis, Painted Stork, Spoonbill, open billed stork etc. Our target of Safari was to spot Leopard and huge male elephant. After an hr. Drive, we finally spot Leopard in the bushes. He was relaxing in the bushes. It was a pleasure to watch beautiful predator. We spend some time, with the hope that he will move out from Bush so we can click few photo. Our wait was paid off after 25 min when another Leopard made Royal entry from Grass and joined his friend. It was an amazing moment and treat to the eye.
Soon other safari jeeps join the place and we left for our further journey.

Leopard sighting

Leopard sighting

               We went in Yala national park's beach for a quick bathroom break. Park have installed restrooms near the beach for all safari tourists. Beach was clean but water waves were very high and rough. It was a good place to take a short break from Safari.

Yala National Park Beach

               After beach break, our safari began. On the return journey, we saw Elephant groups, crocodiles, Wetland birds, and deer. Head on the walk of female elephant was a thrilling part but she left us alone and changed her path. By 6 PM, we came out of the park. It was memorable wildlife safari at Yala National Park. Jeep dropped us at the hotel.

Head on walk of Female Elephant

Yala National Park
Yala National Park... Elephant, Crocodile, Wetland bird and lake area from Forest

Now it was time to relax in the pool followed by tasty dinner.

Expenses:
  • Tip to Hotel staff: LRK 500/-
  • Breakfast: LRK 950/- [USD $6-7 OR INR 400/-] (Omelet Roll, Cutlets, boiled corn, and water)
  • Yala national park safari: LRK 33600/- for 7 members [USD $220 OR INR 14000/-]
  • Stay at Ekho Safari Tissa: LRK 70706/- for 4 rooms [USD $460 OR INR 29700/-]
  • buffet Lunch: LRK 6340/- for 6 people [USD $42 OR INR 3000/-]
  • Dinner: It was a part of Stay

Day 4: 02 May 2017: Yala - Mirissa:
              It was a lazy start and all gathered in the restaurant one by one. As we reach a bit early, we spend some time near Lake. After tasty heavy breakfast, we spend some time around Pool. We left the beautiful property by 1 PM. Our last destination was Mirissa beach. By 3 PM, we took a break for Lunch. Our driver Bandhu suggested a restaurant which is owned by local and governed by Ministry of Agriculture. There are multiple counters which offer you local food prepared by ladies from nearby Village. We tried dishes like Tender Jac fruit cutlet, Asmi, Balancing Roti, Rice with local curry and juice. The food was the good and Different experience of True Sri Lankan taste.
             On the way to Mirissa, we took a pit stop at Matara Beach. It was a small and popular beach in Locals. We reached Mirissa by 4:30 - 5 PM. After few hotel search, we booked rooms at Paradise beach club resort which is located on the beach. Fabulous view of beach and sea from the room was the plus point o the resort.

Beach view from Room

             We spend evening time on the beach. Due to monsoon (Monsoon start in South SL by mid-May) time, waves were high and aggressive. After some time, we came back to the resort to enjoy the pool. Dinner was average in the resort. Very fewer options were available for veg people. It was our last night in Sri Lanka.

Expenses:
  • Breakfast: it was a part of Stay
  • Lunch: LRK 1785/- for 7 people [USD $12 OR INR 750/-]
  • Stay at Paradise beach resort club, Mirissa: LRK 81400/- for 4 suit rooms [USD $540 OR INR 34500/-]
  • Dinner: it was a part of Stay Package

Day 5: 03 May 2017: Mirissa - Colombo - India:
           I and Renu woke up early in the morning and went to the beach for a walk. Mirissa beach is curved in shape and small hilly island on the end of one side. You need to cross 3-4 feet sea water to reach the island whereas, in non-monsoon time, you can take a walk on the sand till island. There is board claiming that this is private property but locals don't believe in it. View of Mirissa beach from the island is beautiful.Beach was clean and hardly any tourist in the morning time. We spend around an hour and return to the hotel.

Sunrise Time

Mirissa Beach
Mirissa Beach

Mirissa Beach
Mirissa Beach

            Mirissa also offers whale watching tours organized by different groups. We all wanted to go for it but unable to fit it in the available Time slot. You can board the boat by 6 AM for whale watching. Tour is around 4 hours and if you unable to spot a whale, they extend the trip by another 1-2 hours. Still if you unable to watch whales then operators give you a next day ticket without any cost.
            After getting ready, we all gather for breakfast. To our surprise, there were a lot of options for veg and non-veg. The taste was much better than the meal which we had last night. We left the hotel by 12 for Colombo Airport.
            On the way, we took out stop at a Galle. Galle the is coastal city from Sri Lanka. The city was ruled by Portuguese and you can see many Portuguese architectural style building. Galle fort the is the prime attraction of the city. It is a largest remaining fortress in Asia built by Europeans. This is UNESCO world heritage site. The Galle Fort, also known as the Dutch Fort or the "Ramparts of Galle. We unable to explore the fort due to lack of Time. Other places in Galle is Lighthouse, Galle cricket stadium, temples, and churches.
             We had some souvenir shopping in Laksala souvenir shop before we start our final journey to Airport. To save time, we had pack lunch in the car from Pizza Hut.
We reached the airport by 5:30 PM and boarded flight to India at 6:50 PM.

Expenses:
  • Breakfast: it was a part of stay package
  • Lunch at Pizza Hut on expressway food mall: LRK 1620/- [USD $10 OR INR 720]
  • Tip to Driver: LRK 1000/-
  • Shopping: As per product
  • Dinner: In flight

Contact details:

Famous Trip plan/Places in Sri Lanka
Culture/Temple visit: Kandy, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Habarana, Anuradhapura, Jaffna, and Colombo
City: Colombo and Galle
Hill stations: Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Ella
Forest: Yala national park and Minneria national park
White water rafting: Kitulgala
Trekking / Hiking: Nuwara Eliya, Adam's Peak and Ella.
Surfing: Mirissa, Arugam Bay, and Weligama
Whale watching: Mirissa, Kalpitiya, and Trincomalee.
Beaches: Negombo, Galle, Mirissa, Matara, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Batticaloa

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune