It was with slight trepidation that we broke the kids out of school to sneak them off on a sunny Sri Lankan adventure. It felt rather reckless to be choosing the great unknown over a chunk of the national curriculum. But thankfully the Headmaster agreed with Mark Twain, and told us not to let the children’s schooling ‘interfere with their education’. So, with some extra maths homework squirreled away in our rucksacks, we headed off into the great unknown.
And it didn’t disappoint.
For the children (7 yr. old twins, 4 & 1) Sri Lanka was a wonderful assault on the senses from the outset. They soon learnt to handle spicy, to love the bump of the tuk-tuk, and how to charm a local with a greeting of ‘Ayubowan’.
You couldn’t ask for a more child-friendly bunch than the Sri Lankans. Travelling with the kids opened up so many doors for us – literally, doors to temples, people’s homes – they could not do enough for us as a family.
With almost 6 weeks we managed to cover many of the islands beautiful highlights, but had time to wend our way on trains & tuk-tuks rather than race, and stay put for a while when we found a special spot.
The Ashburnham Estate, nestled up in the Knuckle Mountains, was somewhere particularly hard to leave, and the place I finally relaxed about making my kids play truant. The twins learned more in our 4 days at Ash than weeks in a classroom could have taught them.
The resident Naturalist, Aravinda, took us on fantastic walks over hills and under rivers, discussing, questioning, pointing out and teaching the entire way. We watched weaver ants at work, discovered a colony of Giant Asiatic bees, learnt how banyan trees take root. Like much of Sri Lanka the estate feels like one big botanic garden, and here we were with our very own Attenborough to walk us through it.
Returning, hot, to the bungalow we would be greeted with fresh scones & tea, before heading off, replenished, to swim in the impressive waterfalls on the grounds, dodging cows in the tea fields and chatting to the lovely pickers en route.
Of course, it wasn’t just about the kids. We found ourselves rather enjoying the fresh 3 course meals, the G&Ts on the verandah, the soft canopy beds and starry skies. It has that remarkable knack of indulging you in absolute luxury, but also making you feel relaxed and at home. Quite the place to escape the hustle & bustle of Kandy in the valley below.
As our next stop was to be the lion rock of Sigiriya, Aravinda popped on some Indiana Jones for the kids to inspire them about the climb. Inspired indeed, they raced to the top.
Elsewhere we trawled beaches for shells, scrambled over forts and old city walls, tracked elephants in vast safari parks. We helped haul in fishing nets, learned how to make rottis and feasted on egg hoppers until we could feast no more. We even cracked out that maths homework from time to time.
As I board a plane home I’m usually starting to ponder the next trip, but this time felt a real sadness to be leaving. Sri Lanka had surpassed all our expectations: every day presented new experiences and adventures and the kids, now grinning, tousled and sun-kissed, had had the time of their little lives.
Watch out Sri Lanka. We’ll be back with a gaggle of teenagers before you know it.