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National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka review of National Zoological Gardens, Colombo, December 2016

Discussion in 'Sri Lanka' started by Chlidonias, 11 Dec 2016.

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Colombo's National Zoological Gardens (or the Dehiwala Zoo) has been in operation since the mid-late 1930s, stemming from a holding operation in Sri Lanka by John Hagenbeck. The official opening date is 1936 apparently (I've seen other dates), which makes this year the zoo's eightieth anniversary. Back in the 1970s when Singapore was deciding to build a zoo they came to Sri Lanka to see how to do it, and some of the Colombo Zoo people went to Singapore to help set the new zoo up. I was suspecting that the Colombo Zoo had probably not aged as well as the Singapore Zoo, and I had heard some pretty negative things about it. It wasn't an absolutely terrible zoo, but it really wasn't a good zoo at all either. It made me think of Singapore Zoo in some ways - the small stage-type enclosures for example - but in more of an Indian sort of way if that makes sense. It seems to have gone through a few spurts of redevelopment, so you have what look like original cages from early last century, then the open-style ones from the 1970s or 1980s, and then in several areas there is new construction going on for, e.g., a new chimpanzee enclosure and a new elephant enclosure. I think a lot of the enclosures would have been cutting-edge when first constructed, especially the 1970/80s-type ones (like open ape enclosures with climbing frames), but nowadays it's pretty poor all-round.

    Entry is 2500 Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR) for a foreign adult, so it is very steeply-priced for an Asian zoo. Local adults (of the SAARC countries) are 700 LKR which still isn't cheap. Nevertheless, because it was a Saturday, there were a lot of people there. I only saw about five other white people though. Given the entry prices it is a real shame that the zoo is in the state it is, and one wonders where that money goes.

    The zoo is reasonably large, and the lay-out is basically divided into animal groups - carnivores mostly in one area, ungulates in another, birds in two or three areas. There are some randoms dotted around, but mostly the zoo is arranged taxonomically rather than zoogeographically. There is quite a confusion of paths leading everywhere but it isn't too difficult to make sure you see everything, and the map-boards scattered around the zoo show a handy arrow system to enable you to know where to go (or where you've been).

    Often in Asian zoos certain animal groups fare very badly indeed (apes, macaques, bears...) while others are often housed quite well. At the Colombo Zoo there aren't really any stand-out enclosures. Mostly any good enclosures are "good" more by comparison with the others around them. Rather than do a walk-through review - because the rambling nature of the paths would make for a confusing and sometimes repetitive read - I'll run through the animal groups and make comments on them. The full species lists will follow the review.

    Of all sixteen primate species at the zoo only one is housed well (spider monkeys on an island with a couple of giant trees). The orangutans and chimpanzees have open enclosures which probably look nice for your average visitors - no bars or mesh - but there is very little in the way of climbing opportunities, just a basic wooden frame on grass, and the actual enclosures are pretty small with nothing for the apes to do. The brown lemurs have an island but it's pretty small, and just grass and a few branches for climbing; all the other primates are in cages ranging from very small (ring-tailed lemur and siamang in particular) to quite large (the silvered leaf monkeys are the best-off), but they are all fairly spartan. Next to the grey langur cage there is an old cage sitting empty with a sign proclaiming it to be a "menagerie type cage that used for exhibit animals in the past" (sic) - but almost the only difference between this cage and the monkey cages next to it was that the former had vertical bars and the latter had mesh. Otherwise they were practically the same.

    The carnivores had a mixed bag of enclosures. The pit for the brown bears was obviously old and really not acceptable at all. Then there were newer ones which I fancy were simply repurposed pits - the walls given a mock-rock cover, the front having a viewing window added, and the floor earthed and planted. They looked good superficially, and the tiger one was fine even if not overly large (although perhaps not originally a pit as some of the others seem to have been). One was for fishing cats, and a couple of smaller ones for golden palm civet and small Indian civet, of which not surprisingly none were visible. (To the zoo's credit all the shelters were open for the animals to retreat into if they wished - there were a number of animals I didn't see either because they were nocturnal or just because it was too hot and they were in their shelter out of the sun). But contrasting with the more modern look of the mock-rock enclosures, there were also the little cell-type cages you see all over Asia for small carnivores, with wire, bare concrete floors, and some shelves and logs for the animals to rest on - I thought these were old cages but looking at my photos they actually look new, and on the map-board this area is labelled as meerkats.

    The ungulates mostly had rather interchangeable enclosures - almost all of them quite small bare pens with vegetation round the sides to make it look a bit nicer, or sometimes built around big old trees. Very Singapore Zoo, but not as lush. Some pens were very small, others quite large. The hippos in particular (of both species) had extremely small pens and pools, although the pigmy hippos had several unused pens so I'm not sure if all are usually kept together (I saw six animals in two pens) or if they are usually more spaced out. All the elephants were chained in place, even the one which was in a "large" enclosure with pools. The impression I had was that the only time they weren't chained was when they were doing shows.

    The zoo has quite a large bird collection, although not too many unusual or "interesting" species for me, and very heavy on parrots and pheasants. Lots of macaws at the zoo. Most of the birds are housed in very basic old aviaries, not large but mostly not too small. Some look like what a hobbyist might have rows of in his backyard. There are two large walk-through aviaries, one for exotics and one for natives. The exotic one is pretty wasted. There is a row of quite small aviaries along one side for parrots, and the actual walk-through part is mostly devoid of birds except guineafowl and pheasants. I saw one green touraco but nothing else in the upper levels. The native aviary is much better. There are only three smaller aviaries inside, with Malabar pied hornbill, Sri Lankan grey hornbill, and an albino koel. The walk-through part is lushly-planted like a forest (unlike the exotics aviary where the plantings are more trees-on-lawn) and has a small selection of Sri Lankan birds like junglefowl, alexandrines, hill mynahs and lesser whistling ducks. This aviary is probably the best exhibit in the zoo in terms of appearance, space for the animals, and care of the animals.

    There are many birds of prey and owls at the zoo. The aviaries for these are generally adequate to small - but in the childrens zoo (or, at least, where there is a little playground so the equivalent of a childrens zoo area) there are some diabolically-small cages in which hunker miserable-looking eagles and owls. I have said this before on the forum, in relation to Western as well as Asian zoos, but I find it bizarre how often the animals in childrens zoo areas are housed in completely inadequate conditions when you might argue that a childrens zoo is where they should be housed very well, as an example to the children.

    Except for the green turtles (in the aquarium) and a Komodo dragon (in a cage elsewhere in the zoo), the reptiles are all kept in the Herpetarium which is a combination of open-air pens and terrariums inside a building. There are a few exotics in here - rhinoceros iguana, "red iguana", green anaconda, and some crocodylians - but most species are native. There are several interesting snakes in here. See the species lists. The enclosures are all basic, probably adequate for the animals' needs. There are also several species of native frogs kept in the aquarium although I only managed to spot a couple of them.

    The aquarium is next to the sealion pool, near the zoo's entrance/exit. The public path through the building is very dark and narrow, so you can't linger very easily without causing a traffic-jam. There are several tropical tanks with common marine and freshwater fish such as you'd find at a pet-shop, and some larger fish in inadequate tanks (pacu, piranha, alligator gar, tarpon) as well as a couple of unhappy green turtles. The second part of the building is less cramped, and the tanks here are nicer, better lit and well-planted. There's not much to say about the aquarium because most of it really is just common hobbyist fare.

    Outside the aquarium, near the sealions, is a penguin enclosure with underwater viewing. I don't know which species it was for originally, but it is now empty of penguins and the pool just houses pacu and some other fish.

    Unexpectedly there is also a butterfly house at the zoo. This is basically like an aviary rather than being an enclosed house as is necessary in less tropical places. I'm not that interested in butterflies, but I had a wander through in case there was anything else in there. I only saw a couple of butterflies, so the stocking levels might need some work.
     
    Last edited: 12 Dec 2016
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  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    SPECIES LISTS:

    MAMMALS:

    Red-necked Wallaby
    Asian Elephant (several, male and female, all chained)
    African Elephant (I only saw one, a male, chained)
    Indian Crested Porcupine
    Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel (dry-zone race - I only saw one)
    Three-striped Palm Squirrel (one seen in the native walk-through aviary but probably wild)
    domestic Rabbits
    Bornean Orangutan (labelled as this, but there's an earlier thread on Zoochat where a news article specifies that they have Sumatran Orangutans - so perhaps the sign is simply either old or wrong)
    Common Chimpanzee
    Siamang (I only saw one)
    Lar Gibbon (I saw one pair)
    Japanese Macaque
    Toque Macaque (including an albino)
    Hamadryas Baboon
    Patas Monkey (one male)
    Silvered Leaf Monkey (cristatus)
    Purple-faced Leaf Monkey
    Tufted Grey Langur (Semnopithecus priam)
    Squirrel Monkey
    Brown Capuchin
    Geoffroy's Spider Monkey
    White-headed Brown Lemur (albifrons)
    Ring-tailed Lemur
    Brown Bear
    Sloth Bear
    Golden Jackal
    Tiger (one white, one orange)
    (African?) Lion
    Sri Lankan Leopard
    Fishing Cat
    Jungle Cat
    Rusty-spotted Cat
    Common Otter (Lutra lutra)
    Golden Palm Civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis)
    Small Indian Civet
    Californian Sealion (I only saw two)
    domestic Horses and Donkeys (and a Mule)
    Przewalski's Horse
    Common Zebra
    Black Rhino (I only saw one)
    Bactrian Camel
    Guanaco
    Reticulated Giraffe
    Pigmy Hippo (I saw six)
    Common Hippo (I think two)
    Sambar
    Hog Deer
    Chital
    Indian Muntjac
    Sri Lankan Mouse Deer
    Wild Pig
    African Buffalo
    Nilgai
    Lechwe
    Greater Kudu
    Sable Antelope (I only saw one)
    Arabian Oryx (I only saw one)
    Scimitar-horned Oryx

    BIRDS:

    Ostrich
    Emu
    Southern Cassowary
    Spot-billed Pelican
    Mute Swan
    Black Swan
    Lesser Whistling Duck
    domestic Ducks and Geese
    Greater Flamingo (just two)
    Scarlet Ibis
    Eurasian Spoonbill
    Brahminy Kite
    Crested Serpent-eagle
    Mountain Hawk-eagle
    White-bellied Sea Eagle
    Sarus Crane
    [Grey Crowned Crane - labelled but not present]
    Ring-necked Pheasant
    Silver Pheasant
    Lady Amherst's Pheasant
    Great Argus
    Blue Peafowl
    Sri Lankan Junglefowl
    Bantams (domestic)
    Common Quail
    Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator)
    Helmeted Guineafowl (domestic)
    Victoria Crowned Pigeon
    Spot-necked Dove
    Barbary Dove (domestic)
    domestic Pigeons
    Rainbow Lorikeet
    Budgie mutations
    Cockatiel
    Eclectus
    Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
    Moluccan Cockatoo
    Goffin's Cockatoo
    Indian Ringneck (and mutations)
    Alexandrine
    African Grey Parrot
    Senegal Parrot
    Masked Lovebird mutations
    Blue-headed Parrot
    Sun Conure
    Orange-winged Amazon (amazonica)
    Blue-fronted Amazon (aestiva)
    Scarlet Macaw
    Green-winged Macaw
    Military Macaw
    Gold and Blue Macaw
    Barn Owl
    Brown Fish Owl
    Great Horned Owl
    Spot-bellied Eagle Owl
    Brown Wood Owl
    Asian Koel (albino)
    Common Kookaburra
    Malabar Pied Hornbill
    Sri Lankan Grey Hornbill
    Violet Touraco
    Green Touraco
    Red-vented Bulbul
    White-rumped Munia
    Scaly-breasted Munia
    Gouldian Finch (I just saw one, a mutation)
    Purple-headed Glossy Starling (purpureiceps)
    Common Mynah (one seen in the walk-through native aviary but may have been wild)
    Lesser Hill Mynah
    House Crow (two albinos)
    *[There may have been some other species in the native walk-through aviary which I missed]
    *[Former penguin pool now used for fish]

    HERPTILES:

    Indian Green Frog (Euphylictis hexadactylus)
    Indian Skipper Frog (Euphylictis cyanophlyctis)
    Common Paddy Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis)
    Common Hourglass Treefrog (Polypedates cruciger)
    Jerdon's Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus crassus)
    Black-spined Toad (Bufo (Duttaphrynus) melanostictus)

    Mugger
    Cuban Crocodile
    African Dwarf Crocodile
    Gharial
    False Gharial
    Komodo Dragon
    Land Monitor (Varanus bengalensis - in the native walk-through aviary but probably wild)
    "Red Iguana" (Iguana iguana - and it actually was red)
    Rhinoceros Iguana
    Reticulated Python
    Sri Lankan Python (Python molurus pimbura)
    Indian Rock Python (enclosure empty due to a python-sized hole in the glass)
    Green Anaconda
    Sri Lankan Green Tree Viper (Trimeresurus trigonocephalus)
    Russell's Pit-viper (Daboia russelii)
    Merrem's Hump-nosed Viper (Hypnale hypnale)
    Indian Cobra (Naja naja - including an albino one)
    African Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica)
    Blue (Common) Krait (Bungarus caeruleus)
    Sri Lankan Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosa maximus)
    Trinket Snake (Coelognathus helena)
    Common Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis tristis)
    Green Vine Snake (Ahaetulla nasutus)
    Brown Vine Snake (Ahaetulla pulverulenta)
    Sri Lankan Cat Snake (Boiga ceylonensis)
    Forsten's Cat Snake (Boiga forsteni)
    Galapagos Giant Tortoise (just labelled as Geochelone elephantopus)
    African Spurred Tortoise
    Sri Lankan Star Tortoise
    Red-eared Terrapin
    Indian Pond Terrapin (Melanochelys trijuga)
    Indian Flapshell Turtle (Lissemys punctata)
    Green Sea Turtle
     
    Last edited: 12 Dec 2016
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  3. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    I used to have an old guide book for this place, though I've never been to Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was then.

    Regarding the chained Elephants, this seems commonplace in Asian Zoos- I saw them like this in Zoos in india and also Dusit in Bangkok (but not in the ChangMai zoo). Generally speaking it just seems the way they are used to dealing with Elephants- similarly with all riding or logging Elephants- I seem to remember the riding Eles in Kaziranga were chained when not working. Somehow, despite their debatable treatment, I do prefer the fitter looking Elephants you see in India or Asia than in cold-climate European zoos- their skin always looks in much better condition for a start.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    It's taken over six months, but I have finally uploaded the photos from the Colombo Zoo visit in December 2016. I kept putting it off in favour of other zoos' galleries because there were more from Colombo (about ninety photos) than for the other collections I visited.

    So now they are all here: National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka - Photo Galleries | ZooChat

    I uploaded them in broad groupings - first carnivores, then birds, then reptiles, then primates, then hooved stock - so they are clustered.
     
  5. jwer

    jwer Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Groningen, Netherlands
    I've visited Colombo Zoo last week and rather then post a whole review, I'd thought i would list some of the changes since Chi's visit and my thoughts.

    The cages for siamang and ring-tailed lemurs (which Chli disliked) seem to be torn down. The area on the map designated as such was barren, the ring-tailed lemurs were in with the white-fronted lemurs near the rest of the monkeys and the siamang was out of the collection. The only real eye-sore in this area is a barren cage with a lone brown capuchin.

    As Chli mentions, I agree the zoo has very little stand-out exhibits bare for the two large aviaries, of which the exotics aviary is still underplanted and underused. They added macaws, a couple of rainbow-lorikeets and a crowned pigeon, but adding macaws means the sparse foliage is even more under attack. The native aviary is, even though a little understocked, very nicely planted and therefore much more appealing.

    The chimps, orangs and bears are in quite barren pits, although two chimps now have a new exhibit of their own which does have a nice big tree in it (while the old exhibit also exist and also still contained chimps). The brown bear had water it was playing in and a sprinkler, so it seemed to be relatively happy. I agree they could have been bigger, but I have seen worse even in Europe.

    For me, the stand out exhibit was a small, well planted exhibit for (way too many) sri-lankan spotted chevrotain. Many were out and about, so it seemed quite lively unlike many other chevrotain-exhibits I've seen. Enjoyed watching them up and about and interacting with one-another.

    Greatest pain was seeing people feed the "monkeys" though, specially the very heavily begging silvery leaf monkeys and purple-faced langurs. Both species do not seem to me to be species that handle chips, pop-corn and similar fare very well...

    All-in-all, I quite liked the Zoo actually. Many exhibits could have been better, but I thought there were very few exhibits that were truly awfull. I'll quickly update the species list as well.
     
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  6. jwer

    jwer Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    22 Jan 2007
    Posts:
    1,294
    Location:
    Groningen, Netherlands
    SPECIES LISTS:

    MAMMALS:

    Red-necked Wallaby (I only saw one)
    Asian Elephant (still all chained, there was a sign that said they were saving for a true "exhibit')
    Indian Crested Porcupine (I only saw one)
    Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel (dry-zone race - I saw at least 5 or 6)
    Three-striped Palm Squirrel (probably wild)
    domestic Rabbits
    Orangutan (didn't check for the species, sorry)
    Common Chimpanzee
    Lar Gibbon (one pair)
    Japanese Macaque (I only saw one)
    Toque Macaque (just 2 albino's)
    Hamadryas Baboon
    Patas Monkey (still the one male)
    Silvered Leaf Monkey (cristatus, many - something like 15)
    Purple-faced Leaf Monkey
    Tufted Grey Langur (Semnopithecus priam)
    Brown Capuchin
    Geoffroy's Spider Monkey
    White-headed Brown Lemur (albifrons)
    Ring-tailed Lemur
    Brown Bear
    Sloth Bear
    Golden Jackal
    Tiger (one white, one orange)
    (African?) Lion
    Sri Lankan Leopard
    Fishing Cat
    Jungle Cat
    Rusty-spotted Cat
    Common Otter (Lutra lutra)
    Golden Palm Civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis)
    Small Indian Civet
    Californian Sealion (only visable during the show, which we missed)
    domestic Horses and Donkeys (and a Mule)
    Przewalski's Horse
    Common Zebra
    Black Rhino (we saw three)
    Bactrian Camel (one)
    Guanaco
    Reticulated Giraffe
    Pigmy Hippo (I saw four)
    Common Hippo (I think three)
    Sambar
    Hog Deer
    Chital
    Japanese spotted dear (cervus nippon)
    Indian Muntjac
    Sri Lankan Mouse Deer
    Wild Pig
    African Buffalo
    Nilgai
    Lechwe
    Greater Kudu
    Sable Antelope (one)
    Arabian Oryx (quite a few)
    Scimitar-horned Oryx

    Species not seen:
    African Elephant (Chli saw one, I didn't)
    Siamang (Chli saw one, I think it's gone, exhibit demolished)
    Squirrel Monkey

    BIRDS:

    Ostrich
    Emu
    Southern Cassowary
    Spot-billed Pelican
    Mute Swan
    Black Swan
    Lesser Whistling Duck
    domestic Ducks and Geese
    Greater Flamingo (just two)
    Scarlet Ibis
    Eurasian Spoonbill
    Brahminy Kite
    Crested Serpent-eagle
    Mountain Hawk-eagle
    Grey-headed Sea Eagle (we think, in with the hawk-eagles, serpent eagles and kites)
    White-bellied Sea Eagle
    Sarus Crane
    Ring-necked Pheasant
    Silver Pheasant
    Great Argus (labelled, not seen)
    Blue Peafowl
    Sri Lankan Junglefowl
    Bantams (domestic)
    Common Quail
    Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator)
    Helmeted Guineafowl (domestic)
    Victoria Crowned Pigeon
    Spot-necked Dove
    Barbary Dove (domestic)
    domestic Pigeons
    Rainbow Lorikeet
    Budgie mutations
    Cockatiel
    Eclectus
    Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
    Moluccan Cockatoo
    Indian Ringneck (and mutations)
    Alexandrine
    African Grey Parrot
    Senegal Parrot
    Rainbow lorikeet
    Masked Lovebird mutations (and what seemed pure Fischeri)
    Sun Conure
    Blue-fronted Amazon (one Amazona seen, I think aestiva)
    Scarlet Macaw
    Green-winged Macaw
    Military Macaw
    Gold and Blue Macaw
    Barn Owl
    Brown Fish Owl
    Great Horned Owl
    Spot-bellied Eagle Owl
    Brown Wood Owl
    Malabar Pied Hornbill
    Sri Lankan Grey Hornbill
    Violet Touraco
    Green Touraco
    Red-vented Bulbul
    White-rumped Munia
    Scaly-breasted Munia (not seen, but easily missable in large aviary)
    Common Mynah (one seen in the walk-through native aviary but may have been wild)
    Lesser Hill Mynah
    House Crow (one albino)
    *[There may have been some other species in the native walk-through aviary which I also missed]

    HERPTILES:

    (I'm not the biggest expert, so I took Chli's list and added what I remember and remove what I can't remember or think it's not possible anymore). Nice collections of snakes and and an impressive collection of crocodilians.


    Indian Green Frog (Euphylictis hexadactylus) (signed not seen)
    Indian Skipper Frog (Euphylictis cyanophlyctis) (signed not seen)
    Common Paddy Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis) (signed not seen)
    Common Hourglass Treefrog (Polypedates cruciger) (signed not seen)
    Jerdon's Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus crassus)
    Black-spined Toad (Bufo (Duttaphrynus) melanostictus)

    Mugger
    Cuban Crocodile
    African Dwarf Crocodile
    Gharial
    False Gharial
    Salt-water Crocodile
    Komodo Dragon
    Land Monitor (Varanus bengalensis - in the native walk-through aviary but probably wild)
    "Red Iguana" (Iguana iguana - and it actually was red)
    Rhinoceros Iguana
    Reticulated Python
    Sri Lankan Python (Python molurus pimbura)
    Green Anaconda (massive animal, relatively short but the thickest snake I've ever seen)
    Sri Lankan Green Tree Viper (Trimeresurus trigonocephalus)
    Russell's Pit-viper (Daboia russelii)
    Merrem's Hump-nosed Viper (Hypnale hypnale)
    Indian Cobra (Naja naja - including an albino one)
    Blue (Common) Krait (Bungarus caeruleus)
    Sri Lankan Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosa maximus)
    Trinket Snake (Coelognathus helena)
    Common Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis tristis)
    Green Vine Snake (Ahaetulla nasutus)
    Brown Vine Snake (Ahaetulla pulverulenta)
    Sri Lankan Cat Snake (Boiga ceylonensis)
    Forsten's Cat Snake (Boiga forsteni)
    Galapagos Giant Tortoise (just labelled as Geochelone elephantopus)
    African Spurred Tortoise
    Sri Lankan Star Tortoise
    Red-eared Terrapin
    Indian Pond Terrapin (Melanochelys trijuga)
    Indian Flapshell Turtle (Lissemys punctata)
    Green Sea Turtle
     
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  7. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    @jwer Are you just in Sri Lanka or doing a bigger trip?
     
  8. jwer

    jwer Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    We just returned from 4 weeks in Sri Lanka and did not go anywhere else. We did a tour of the island and 4 weeks is enough to see quite a lot of it ;)
     
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