Archive for July, 2014

Free wildlife treat

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Free wildlife treat


Tropical Topics, Number 214, Sunday 27 July 2014.

A free download for readers this week about Sri Lanka’s wildlife.

Wild about wild life.

“Sri Lanka is the best all round wildlife destination in the world for wildlife tourism,” states Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, a fellow Bradt guidebook author. Gehan has a vast range of experience and knowledge of Sri Lanka’s wildlife and the country’s eco-tourism industry. His dedication to making Sri Lanka better appreciated for its wildlife has resulted in him producing a fascinating booklet packed with thrilling photographs and enthusiastic text, called Why Sri Lanka Is Super Rich for Wild Life.

urple-faced Leaf Monkeys, an endemic species, frolic in my garden

Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys, an endemic species, frolic in my garden

He writes: “Sri Lanka has an unexpectedly high number of species per unit area. Furthermore, it has large land mammals which is unusual for a moderately sized island. It also best in the world for viewing Blue Whales and super-pods of Sperm Whales. No other country has this all-round super-richness.

“I have to add that although it is arguably the best all-round country for multi-faceted wildlife viewing with ease, it comes with a caveat. Sri Lanka does need improvement in terms of better interpretation and better facilities for visitors at parks and reserves and more responsible guiding.”

Just click on this link, when you’re connected to the internet, to download his booklet.


Persian Cuisine

Colombo is becoming a remarkable place to dine. Not long ago, there were very few international restaurants. Those purporting to serve Chinese food dished up Sri Lankan ingredients soaked in Oyster Sauce and the best places to eat were the five-star hotels and their fine dining restaurants or the Oberoi’s steakhouse, The London Grill (which is still going strong although the hotel’s renamed Cinnamon Grand).

Now all kinds of cuisine from fast food to slow cooking, from fusion to Persian, are giving hotel “fine dining” restaurants serious competition. If you want to find out the full story of each restaurant, there is a wonderful website that’s not just a load of hype,  at The site has spawned a free restaurant review magazine, available from

For a fixed price Persian dinner

For a fixed price Persian dinner

I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner recently at one of the new, different restaurants, Shiraz (48  Stafford Avenue,  Colombo; tel: 011 2055483; open Tuesday-Sunday 1930-23.30; reservation essential). It’s above a coffee shop (and that’s where you go if you want to smoke) and the knickknack décor store Gandhara: a large wooden-floored loft decorated with Persian art. It has a fixed price menu (Rs1,500  [£ 6.81; US $11.54]) which Zohre, the hostess, briefs guests about before the performance begins.

Darkly succulent meat

Darkly succulent meat

It is a performance because just when you think it’s enough, the main course is announced. Soup (it was zesty, citrusy Persian barley) titillated  the appetite and was followed by pita bread and a trio of yoghurt-based dips. Then Pouyan, the host/chef, appeared brandishing swords on which were spiked darkly succulent BBQd chicken thighs, and melting-in-the-mouth lamb kebabs.

A trip to the salad bar was encouraged before a raid on the buffet counter with its two types of rice and three kinds of fragrant Persian stew (veggies, chicken & spinach, beef & okra when I was there.) Guests can bring their own wine; no corkage.


Infinity pool

The Closenberg Hotel, just outside Galle, is one of those delightful anachronisms catering for tourists in Sri Lanka, a welcome contrast to new or remodelled charmless package hotels. Originally Closenberg was built in 1858 on the site of a Dutch Fort that guarded the bay as the home for Captain Bayley, the British agent for P & O Lines (the major passenger shipping line of the times).

It is located on a bluff with panoramic views of Galle harbour and the ocean that stretches to the Antarctic. With the original four ornate colonial style rooms as its centre, surrounded by verandas for wining and dining, its main rooms are in an annex built on the other side of the cliff, looking away from Galle. It has flourished in its own peculiar way and is now run by the dapper son of the scion of the distinguished Sri Lankan family who acquired it in the 19th century. Guests, even today, are tended by what a British hotelier described to me as “legacy staff.”

Closenberg Hotel with suspended pool (left) and rooms

Closenberg Hotel with suspended pool (left) and rooms

That means the service is by charming and wise retainers who work at their own pace with a dash of eccentricity, helping to create the character of the hotel. Recently a modern innovation, an infinity swimming pool flanked by the Luna Terrace with bar and snack outlet, has been added as a wonderful retreat for lazing the day away, or sipping sundowners and moon-glow cocktails.

Closenberg Hotel's infinity pool

Closenberg Hotel’s infinity pool

Closenberg has become a hotel where guests can savour the essence of traditional hospitality, brought up to date with some jolly theme evenings and crazy moments. (

Brits Abroad

In my role as British Consular Warden for the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, I have received a link to British Behaviour Abroad report 2014.

This shows that the top three countries where Britons required assistance during 2013 were Philippines, Thailand and Jamaica. Sri Lanka doesn’t even appear in the Top Twenty. No figure is given for the number of British residents in Sri Lanka (there are reputed to be 50,000 in Thailand).

Brit abroad

Brit abroad

 The report ends with this oddly worded advice (from Nanny?): “We would encourage people to take the same precautions they would at home to avoid putting themselves at risk – for example keeping an eye on their friends (my italics); never accepting car rides from strangers, and asking their hotel to recommend a taxi firm; and never leaving food or drinks unattended, so they can’t be spiked.”

Beatles Tweet

Someone has sent me a recent tweet about the Beatles and me:

“Then the #Beatles broke up and hitchhiked to Hatch End to hang with beat poet @roystonellis. Tune in to @BBCRadMac

John Lennon & Royston Ellis, 1963

John Lennon & Royston Ellis, 1963

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Take care!