School girl and wall mural outside school northeast Sri Lanka - photo S.Butler
Three bits of good news from the Sri Lankan tourist industry in the last couple of weeks. The first is that all travel restrictions to the far north of Sri Lanka are to be lifted (this came into force straight away). Foreign and domestic tourists are now free to travel wherever and whenever they want in the whole northern part of the country. This is the area that was for many years out of bounds due to the conflict btween the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and government forces. This conflict came to an end in 2009 but restrictions on visitors has meant that much of the area has been very difficult for casual tourists to visit. This easing of restrictions now essentially opens the doors for travellers to explore one of the least known regions of southern Asia. For the full details see this Sri Lankan government link http://www.news.lk/home/18388-travel-restrictions-to-north-by-foreign-passport-holders-lifted-
The second bit of good news inolves the opening of a rebranded and redefined Hikkadawa Marine Park. This morning I recieved this email from the good people at Ecoteam Sri Lanka.
“The Marine National Park at Hikkaduwa was declared open on the 29th of June marking yet another step towards boosting tourism in srilanka. The national park covers an area of 101 hectares including a snorkeling and diving zone and also a bathing zone catering to the diverse needs of both local and foreign adventure seekers.”
However according to the newly-structured ticketing scheme, the entrance fee for a local tourist will be Rs. 5 and for a foreigner Rs. 30. A MOU has been signed by the wildlife department and the boat service providers of the area, assuring that more reliable and consistent prices would be charged from tourists rather than continuously fluctuating individual rates.
For the local media report into the park see this http://www.ft.lk/2011/07/01/hikkaduwa-marine-national-park-opens/ It's also worth noting that the official government approved boat price for foreign tourists is now Rp1,750.
Finally, even the crocodiles are getting a bit of love in Sri Lanka now with the establishment of a new protected area for crocs near Negombo. See this link for more http://www.ft.lk/2011/06/23/sri-lanka-to-establish-crocodile-park-in-negombo/