A Fantastic Guide
Sanjay and Kumar were faultless! Always there with a smile and 100% professional from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. Everyone in the group had nothing but wonderful things to say about them and they felt very much like part of the team. The bus was always very clean and tidy and Kumar’s driving was steady and expertly negotiated the (sometimes) chaotic roads. We all felt safe and in good hands with both of them. The train We were indebted to Seelan for everything he did to make that train journey so successful. To have the carriage at the back of the train with 180 views of the surrounding countryside was very special and one guest wrote in to say that he will “especially remember the train ride through the tea plantations, which was the best way to see it.” I think Seelan’s idea to break up the journey in Nuwara Eliya was the right one though the group decided they wanted to stay until Haputhale. However, we should probably include this as standard for the next group. Farm Visits The group were presented with a well-rounded selection of farm visits and I think what they saw was enough for them and provided the right amount of variety. Any more would have been too much so it was right that we took some out. The visit to the farm on the coast was interesting but made for a very long day and I would say that this should have been made very clear so that we could have warned the group ahead of time and managed their expectations. However, Seelan spotting the harvest that was taking place as we drove up there was wonderful and became the agricultural highlight for most of the group. Temple Visits Seelan’s knowledge of temples and Sri Lankan history came into its own during visits to temples such as Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Dambulla. He explained just enough to ensure that the group had the facts they needed as well as allowing them to explore and let the magic sink in. One of my favourite visits was to the temple that houses the oldest tree during prayer time – again, very spontaneous and unexpected and an experience we will always remember. Kandy It worked really well to make most of the daytrips optional so that those who wanted to rest by the pool had the chance to do so. The group that came to Kandy loved the trip and the highlights for all of them were the cemetery and the botanical gardens. Again, it was Seelan who gave them the special access by ensuring that the caretaker of the cemetery personally showed them around and also getting them a private buggy for the botanical tour. His knowledge of botany also made this fantastic and all in all, this was one of the best daytrips on the tour. Galle Fort Everyone loved their stay in Galle at the end of the trip and the walk around the fort was lovely. Seelan and the drivers were also very good at being available to take guests into town for shopping excursions and they all really enjoyed sitting in the market square together for a cup of tea. With more time, it might have been fun to arrange an informal cricket game somewhere! Guiding It was a true pleasure to work with Seelan and I can see why he is so respected in the industry. Some of the guests have personally written to Exceptional Travel to thank him on their behalf and to say what a fantastic guide he was and all of them said this to me during the tour. Nothing was too much trouble and it was acknowledged by everyone that he had put his heart and soul into ensuring that the wants and needs of every guest were either anticipated or met with immediately. Sliced pineapples on the bus after a long walk; hand wipes and spare socks for visits to temples and an endlessly cheerful and positive attitude. Seelan has a natural ability to read a group and make spontaneous and quick decisions in their interest and it was down to his intuition and expertise that the journey was so enjoyable. He is also, of course, very knowledgeable about the history and culture of Sri Lanka as well as his botanical knowledge that made him so perfect for this group. It goes without saying that he will be the first person we request for the next tour as I can’t imagine how he could be bettered!