Having visited Kandy on two previous occasions, we were looking for something different and thought the Royal Botanic Gardens Peradeniya would be a good option.
As day time temperatures were over 30 degrees, our guide, Ahmed, suggested an early start and at 8.15am the ticket office was deserted. The entrance fee was 2,000 Rupees/£7.30 each and 100 Rupees for Sri Lankans.
On our way into the gardens, a wedding group was leaving, and Ahmed asked if they would mind posing for us, which they did. They were all resplendently dressed, particularly the groom who wore a regal outfit of cream and gold silk.
The extensive gardens are bounded on three sides by the River Mahaweli and, although a map was provided, we were pleased to have Ahmed’s local knowledge as he steered us around the best parts so we could simply admire the gardens, rather than navigate them.
In the Spice Garden we found various types of tree including clove, nutmeg and cinnamon and learned that the trees had four types of labels: Black (exotic), Red (endemic to Sri Lanka), Green (indigenous) and Yellow (poisonous).
After the colourful and beautiful smelling blooms of the Orchid House, we saw the Sorrowless Tree, planted by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1981. At the Great Circle, were Memorial Trees, each had been planted by a famous person and we spotted three planted by the late Edward VII, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Edward.
We saw spiky plants in the Cactus House before walking across a rather wobbly suspension bridge: numbers were meant to be limited to six, but this was not enforced. In addition, it was blocked off half way across and you had to return on the narrow walkway trying to avoid the monkeys on the wire struts who were on the lookout for any food you had in your bag.
There were also Medicinal Gardens, a lake in the shape of Sri Lanka with a small island depicting Kandy, an area of experimental grasses and flower beds. I loved the huge, dense triangular shaped tree, which we assumed was solid until we discovered you could walk right underneath it. Other favourites were Palmyra Palm Avenue and Royal Palm Avenue which had ‘drunken’ palms as they were so bent over.
A less favourite experience was at a group of trees covered in fruit bats. Whilst posing for a photo underneath them, I was hit in the face by at least two tablespoons of bat poo, but fortunately my glasses saved my eyes.
By 10.30am, it was getting busier, particularly with large family groups, and it was starting to become very hot when not in the shade, so we headed for the exit passing through the Double Coconut Palms brought from the Seychelles.
As we left 3 hours later feeling smug, we could see how busy the ticket hall was.