We arrive at the school and are given the opportunity to walk through the classrooms and connect with the children and school teachers. We chat to the children as they proudly show off their work before we head outside where they sing us a song and ask us to sing one back in return. As a group we decided to sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ which the children were quick to sing along with us, a real moment of connection between our two cultures that moved everyone in the group. In this moment I was reminded of the power of human connection and, when done right, the power tourism has to leave a positive impact.
Across the road, we are welcomed into the house of a local family for lunch. They show us how they prepare their food and give us a tour of their farm before we indulge in a spread of curries, rice, vegetables and more. Being in a small group, allowed everyone to get involved with the cooking demonstrations as we all had a prime spot to watch and learn before being able to get hands on and try some of the cooking techniques ourselves.
We climb Lion Rock after our time at the local village and bump into other travellers. Don’t get me wrong, climbing the rock is a must do experience in Sri Lanka and was incredible but there was something about seeing other travellers at Sigiriya that put our morning into perspective. Getting off the tourist track and connecting with the locals of your destination create those special moments that last a lifetime.
We all know travelling in a small group has its benefits for us as travellers, but it also has benefits for the destinations we visit. It means that local schools and families, like the ones in Sri Lanka, can be positively impacted by travel, and travelling in a small group means the opportunities for intimate and profound experiences that give back to the community are endless. Like enjoying a locally prepared breakfast on top of Pidurangala Rock as the sun rises over Sigiriya, visiting a local tea plantation and meeting the tea pickers and factory workers in Nuwara Eliya, or sharing a special moment with the locals at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy.
And it’s this positive tourism impact that the country relies on. While the tourism industry is Sri Lanka’s third largest income, it is the biggest industry that delivers income directly to the local people – that’s why it is important that we support a country like Sri Lanka. Not only do we support the local communities through shopping and dining, we also support the livelihoods of tour guides, drivers, hotel employees and so many more. In return we are treated with incredible and diverse landscapes, exquisite food, a rich history and a warm welcome from the local people. There’s no better time than now to become advocates for this incredible country; to show our support towards its people, to discover its beauty and to spread the word about the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
- Our Marketing Coordinator, Harriet, recently travelled to Sri Lanka and experienced our Sri Lankan Journey small group tour -
All photos by Harriet Holmes