COLOMBO - SRI LANKA - 11th Port of Call SUNSHINE ROUTE
SOLAR NAVIGATOR 11th WAYPOINT
The Indian Ocean is notorious for tropical revolving storms. Consequently, this leg of Solar Navigator's world navigation is potentially one of the most dangerous, depending on the time of year. The distance between Jakarta and Colombo is approximately 1250 miles passing through the equator some 800 miles into the journey. Solar Navigator will stop at Colombo to display its solar and other advanced electrical and electronic technologies and also to take on board provisions for the 12th leg of the world navigation.
Sri Lanka is shaped like a giant teardrop falling from the southern tip of the vast Indian subcontinent. It is separated from India by the 50km (31mi) wide Palk Strait, although there is a series of stepping-stone coral islets known as Adam's Bridge which almost form a land bridge between the two countries. The island is just 350km (217mi) long and only 180km (112mi) wide at its widest, and is about the same size as Ireland, West Virginia or Tasmania.
The southern half of the island is dominated by beautiful and rugged hill country. The entire northern half comprises a large plain extending from the edge of the hill country to the Jaffna peninsula. The highest mountain is the 2524m (1565mi) Mt Pidurutalagala near Nuwara Eliya, and the longest river is the Mahaweli which courses from the centre and empties into the Indian Ocean at Trincomalee. The best beaches are on the south-western, southern and south-eastern coasts.
Ebony, teak, silkwood and spectacular orchids are found in the dense south-western tropical rainforests. Hardy grasslands, rhododendrons and stunted forests predominate in the cool, damp highlands, and shrubs and grasslands survive in arid zones in the north. Animal life is profuse and includes the ubiquitous elephant, as well as leopards, deer, monkeys, sloth bears, wild boar, cobras, crocodiles, dugong and turtles. The island is an important seasonal home to migrating birds, including flamingoes, who flock to the lagoons, wetlands and bird sanctuaries for respite from the northern winter. The best time to see birds is between January and April.
Sri Lanka - elephants
Sri Lanka is a typically tropical country with distinct dry and wet seasons, but the picture is somewhat complicated by the fact that it is subject to two monsoons: the Yala season (May to August), when the south-west monsoon brings rain to the southern, western and central regions; and the Maha season (October to January), when the north-east monsoon brings rain to the north and east of the island. Temperatures in the low-lying coastal regions are high year round but they rapidly fall with altitude and in the hill country, where it feels like perpetual spring. The highest temperatures are from March through June, while November to January is usually the coolest time of the year. Rainfall is heaviest in the south, south west and central highlands; the northern and north-central regions are very dry. The best time to visit the west, south coast and hill country is between December and March. May to September is best on the east coast.
Sri Lanka's first settlers were the nomadic Veddahs. Legend relates them to the Yakkhas, demons conquered by the Sinhalese around the 5th or 6th century BC. A number of Sinhalese kingdoms, including Anuradhapura in the north, took root across the island during the 4th century BC. Buddhism was introduced by Mahinda, son of the Indian Mauryan emperor Ashoka, in the 3rd century BC, and it quickly became the established religion and the focus of a strong nationalism. Anuradhapura was not impregnable. Repeated invasions from southern India over the next 1000 years left Sri Lanka in an ongoing state of dynastic power struggles.
The Portuguese arrived in Colombo in 1505 and gained a monopoly on the invaluable spice trade. By 1597, the colonizers had taken formal control of the island. However, they failed to dislodge the powerful Sinhalese kingdom in Kandy which, in 1658, enlisted Dutch help to expel the Portuguese. The Dutch were more interested in trade and profits than religion or land, and only half-heartedly resisted when the British arrived in 1796. The Brits wore down Kandy's sovereignty and in 1815 became the first European power to rule the entire island. Coffee, tea, cinnamon and coconut plantations (worked by Tamil laborers imported from southern India) sprang up and English was introduced as the national language.
Then known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka finally achieved full independence as a dominion within the British Commonwealth in 1948. The government adopted socialist policies, strengthening social services and maintaining a strong economy, but also disenfranchising 800,000 Tamil plantation workers. Sinhalese nationalist Solomon Bandaranaike was elected in 1956 and pushed a 'Sinhala Only' law through parliament, making Sinhalese the national language and effectively reserving the best jobs for the Sinhalese. This was partly instituted to address the imbalance of power between the majority Sinhalese and the English-speaking, Christian-educated elite. However, it enraged the Tamil Hindu minority who began pressing for a federal system of government with greater autonomy in the main Tamil areas in the north and east.
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was born to one of Sri Lanka’s most distinguished families on 29th June 1945. Her father, SWRD Bandaranaike, was a senior Minister of the Government at the time of her birth. He was later to become the Prime Minister of the country, while her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was to become the world’s first woman Prime Minister in 1961.
President Kumaratunga had her early education at St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo and at the Aquinas University College Colombo, where she studied for LLB. From there, she went on to the University of Paris, from which she graduated in Political Science. She also obtained a Diploma in Group Leadership from the same University. Her studies for the Ph.D in Development Economics at the University of Paris were interrupted by the call to serve her country, where her mother’s government had launched a wide ranging programme of reform and development. While in Paris, she also underwent training in political journalism at the prestigious Le Monde. She is fluent in Sinhala, English and French.
The Provincial Council Elections held in May 1993 represented President Kumaratunga's first entry to electoral politics. She was elected to the Western Provincial Council with an unprecedented majority, and was appointed the Chief Minister of the Province, the country's largest. In August 1994, she contested the Parliamentary General Elections as a member of the People’s Alliance party, and as the People's Aliance's Prime Ministerial candidate. She was elected to Parliament by an overwhelming majority, and was appointed Prime Minister in the People’s Alliance government that was formed on August 19th, 1994. In the Presidential Elections held shortly thereafter in November 1994, she contested as the People’s Alliance candidate. She was elected President obtaining a record 62% of the votes cast. Find out more about the Sri Lanka administration
STATISTICS & TRAVEL INFORMATION
from the USA, most western European countries, Australia, New
Zealand, Canada, Israel, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong do not
require visas. Automatic entry for between 30 and 90 days is
given on arrival.
Climatically the driest and best seasons are from December to March on the west and south coasts and in the hill country, and from May to September on the east coast. December to March is also the time when most foreign tourists come, the majority of them escaping the European winter. Out of season travel has its advantages - not only do the crowds go away but many airfares and accommodation prices go right down. Nor does it rain all the time. Reefs may protect a beach area and make swimming quite feasible at places like Hikkaduwa, which during the monsoon can be quite pleasant.
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