Travel review: Kuramathi Island, Maldvies & cultural tour of Sri Lanka

Spectacular view of Lion Rock at Sigiriya.

Spectacular view of Lion Rock at Sigiriya.

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Anyone who has tied the knot (particularly without the help of a wedding planner) will know it is exhausting.

So when it comes to devising your perfect honeymoon the best piece of advice has to be to factor in some wind-down time even if you are the type who would prefer to go exploring over sun-worshiping on a beach.

We were certainly hankering after a long rest and well-earned ‘flop’when we booked the Maldives.

But a shared sense of adventure meant we also booked a cultural tour of the ancient lands of Sri Lanka.

We arrived at Kuramathi Island in style, touching down onto the sparkling waters of the Laccadive Sea in a propeller-powered seaplane.

The brilliant whites, cyber greens and electric blues were in stark contrast to the earthy tones of Yorkshire we had left behind a day or so earlier.

Likewise the extreme difference in weather instantly transported us from temperate to tropical, as we reached for the sun cream and sunglasses and chucked off our shoes to walk barefoot along the snow-white sandy paths to reception.

Kuramathi is one of almost 2,000 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls stretched out in a north-south direction, like a string of shimmering topaz beads.

We chose it because it was one of the larger islands, with seven a la carte restaurants and six bars, but also because of its interest in preserving the environment and the great outdoors.

Shorelines have not been cleared of vegetation to ‘improve’ the sea views but remain green and teeming with bird, animal and marine life such as fruit bats, herons, giant snails and hermit crabs.

Salad, fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices are grown where possible in the island’s hydroponics garden.

Nature trails, stingray feeding and botanic and hermit crab walks keep guests in touch with local ecosystems.

A long, deserted sandbank stretching out to the west means if you want to test your legs a circuit of the island could keep you walking for about an hour. Or you can catch a lift in a minibus from one end of the island to the other.

Guests have the chance to stay in a garden, by the beach or high above the water in a stilted sea villa.

We fancied the desert island experience and spent two nights in a superior villa with Jacuzzi – but having later upgraded to a deluxe beach villa would recommend the latter for its space, improved views, and greater privacy.

Our daily routine consisted of skipping breakfast in favour of a lie-in, taking coffee on our porch, before slapping on the sunscreen and walking 20 metres to the nearest sun bed on the beach. Typically we lunched in The Palm, with its white minimalist furniture, Mediterranean food, sublime cocktails and Ibizan chill out tunes.

Post-lunch we would return to a book, try out some snorkelling or perhaps take a siesta somewhere shady.

Evenings were spent sampling somewhere new for dinner – such as the seafood restaurant The Reef, the Island Barbecue, or Duniye and its eclectic cuisine. Our stay coincided with the rainy season (May to October) so while several days were perfect and blazing hot, some were humid and cloudy, and others just poured with rain.

By the end of our stay we were recharged and ready for stage two - the ‘resplendent island’ of Sri Lanka.

It takes 90 minutes to fly from the Maldives (Male) to Sri Lanka (Colombo). The time difference is a nifty 30 minutes.

While island life had been bright, fresh and tranquil we had underestimated just how loud and lively city life would feel.

It was almost overwhelming, but thankfully we had planned ahead and organised a private chauffeur to continue in honeymoon luxury as we travelled around this exciting country.

They say that two is company and three a crowd, but thankfully Conrad proved to be indispensable as driver, nature guide, translator and - on long journeys – storyteller.

First stop was the ‘cultural triangle’ in the central northern region where we climbed to the summit of Lion Rock at Sigiriya, were wowed by world famous Buddhist temples at Anuradhapura, and amazed at the wall paintings deep inside Dambulla Caves.

We spent afternoons back at our retreat in Habarana, where we discovered the elusive giant squirrel, tufted grey langur monkeys, land and water monitors, exotic birdlife, dragon flies and the blue water lily - the national flower.

After three nights we headed south to the city of Kandy where we discovered the daily rituals at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, and strolled the magnificent Royal Botanic gardens. Next we retreated to the countryside and stayed two nights in a converted tea factory high up in the hill country, the closest town being Nuwara Eliya, which is dubbed ‘Little England’ because of its tennis club, rose bushes, and cooler temperatures.

Here we enjoyed a hike through tea plantations, spotting wild buffalo, and eating some of the best curries of our life so far.

And then we went to Yala National Park for the final leg of our journey that had taken us along winding roads, lined with fruit sellers and their fresh avocado, Jack fruit and guava.

Here we saw a leopard, got too close for comfort to a crocodile, and congratulated ourselves on devising the best honeymoon imaginable.

TRAVELFACTS

Kuoni Leeds (0113 242 2264) offers 19 nights staying a week on select all-inclusive at Kuramathi Island Resort, Maldives, and 11 nights in Sri Lanka, on mainly half board basis, at Jetwing Sea, Negombo; Chaaya Village, Habarana; Earls Regency, Kandy; The Tea Factory, Nuwara Eliya; the Cinnamon Wild Yala and Mount Lavinia.

This includes flights from Manchester, transfers, and a private driver in Sri Lanka, from £2,969 per person.

The lake at Jokkmokk.

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