A photography tour and workshop to Sri Lanka ticks all the boxes a keen photographer could wish for. This stunning island in the middle of the Indian ocean offers the greatest diversity of images that anyone could wish for. Sri Lanka has it all, lush tropical green landscapes, rolling hills covered in tea plantations, friendly people, amazing archaeological sites, colonial towns, wild animals and a dramatic coastline.
I have organized a 12 day photography tour to Sri Lanka from the 27th November to the 8th December. All you have to do is get to Colombo and I’ll do the rest! We’ll spend our first afternoon and evening just north of Colombo in Negombo and photograph the fishing boats and beach as the sun sets before going back to the hotel to relax and talk about our trip.
It’s now 6am, the day has just broken and we’re photographing the fishermen coming in with their catch and taking it to the market. Two hours later and I’m pulling you away for breakfast as we are leaving in our air-conditioned mini bus to Anuradaphura. It’s a 5 hour drive and time to relax.
We are going to visit and photograph the marvellous Buddhist temples and stupas built around the 3rd century AD. There are usually monks in orange robes and often children on school trips. There are black and white-faced monkeys and brown monkeys everywhere and they too are very photogenic. Our best pictures will be at dusk, people come and offer flowers, it’s very beautiful.
Next morning we take off for the second stop in the cultural triangle which is Polonnaruwa. Very different from Anuradaphura, here we photograph wonderful ruins in a jungle setting and a reclining buddha covered in greedy monkeys eating the offerings brought worshippers. We check into our hotel at Sigiriya, discuss our pictures and take off to try and see some wild elephants before night falls in the nearby wildlife park.
It’s Saturday so there will be some locals climbing Lion’s rock as well as tourists. Sri Lankans like Indians wear wonderfully colourful saris which look great against the green of the jungle and the starkness of the rock. In the mid-afternoon we are going to Dambulla cave temple which is one of my favourite places. One of the reasons to go on my photography tour is that I try to get us to places at the best time of day. Although this isn’t always possible I do know that Dambulla is best visited in the afternoon when the light filters gently into the amazing caves and light up the frescoes.
We’re going to Kandy today but first we are going to stop off at Dambulla wholesale market and take some amazing photos. This market is the centre for the whole island for fruit and vegetables. It’s very photogenic, the place is heaving with people loading and offloading and traders buying. Not too long though because there are more pictures to take in Kandy.
It’s Sunday and Kandy will be full of local people shopping and visiting. We will go to Temple of the Tooth and perhaps the Royal Botanical gardens if we’ve time. The best pictures of the lake will be just before dusk and we don’t want to miss that.
It is early December and not the best time to see animals in the wild and even harder to make good pictures so I am making a change in the usual itinerary and we will go to Pinnawala elephant orphanage and omit Yala National Park. Each day they take the elephants down to the river for them to bathe and be washed. It’s quite a spectacular scene watching a herd of elephants walk through the village. There are great photos to be made and it is an enjoyable trip. It also gives us slightly more time in Kandy which is well worthwhile.
As we leave Kandy for Nuwaraeliya and start to climb the surrounding foothills we are entering a different world. As the temperature drops we are surrounded by tea plantations, and the colourful dots in the lush greenery are the tea pickers. We will stop several times on the way and visit at least one tea plantation and photograph the tea pickers and the factory. Then suddenly we’re in England! Nuwaraeliya definitely has something very British about it, the cottages, the cold! We are going to sit in our hotel, order tea of course and enjoy a photography workshop looking and discussing everyone’s photos.
We are setting off very early this morning to go to Hortons Plains, a landscape photographers paradise. We’re going on a hike, it will be cold and misty but magical. There could be an outburst of rain but we may also see the sun so we will dress appropriately and make sure that our cameras are well protected. Back to our mini-van that will take us to the Nanu Oya Train station where we will board the lunchtime train to Ella. This wonderful train journey is great fun, it passes superb scenery and stops at dozens of stations. There are passengers and hawkers and a real slice of local life to photograph. We disembark at the very picturesque town of Ella where we will spend the night.
Wednesday morning, a walk to the waterfall and the surrounding countryside and time for a short workshop before setting off for the spectacular coastal city of Galle and it’s famous fort where we will spend 2 nights. The fort was originally built by the Portuguese before it fell to the Dutch who built many of the buildings that we see today. The British took it over in the late 18th century. We will take a walk and photograph life inside the fort which is also famous for its lighthouse and a top venue for weddings. At dusk there are newly-weds posing on the rocks against the dramatic vibrant colours of sunset.
Today, we are going to photograph the streets and markets of Galle both inside and outside the fort. We will also be going 24 kilometres down the coast to photograph the famous stilt fishermen which is an amazing sight when they are all out there standing 2 metres up in a rough sea fishing. If it’s a sunny day we’ll be there in the late afternoon to make magical photographs against a dramatic sky.
Tomorrow we’re going to take the local train to Colombo that rattles along the coast. I love taking pictures at train stations in Sri Lanka, it’s so full of colour and atmosphere – there are some super photographs to be made. This is a local train so we won’t have any pre-reserved seats and will mingle with the locals. The journey takes about 3 hours with stops, so plenty of time to make photos and relax.
On arrival in Colombo we will check into our hotel before going to the oldest parts of the city, the bustling Pettah and Slave Island where we will get pictures of street life before going back to our hotel for a final photography workshop and dinner.
The photography tour and workshop officially ends today but I will be available to help with tips, editing, an additional walk, whatever anybody would find helpful. Check out is at midday but our bags can be left in reception. I hope you’ll join me, Sri Lanka really is a jewel in the Indian Ocean.