Sri Lanka is abundant in idyllic landscapes; tranquil stretches of forests, hills and plains rich in biodiversity, with a navigable terrain. So it comes as no surprise that hiking has become a commonplace pastime. If you’ve been dreaming of escaping from your bustling city life and retreating into the rejuvenating bliss that is nature, but wasn’t sure where to even begin, we’ve compiled a list of tips for you to get your journey started!
Know your destination
The most obvious, and yet important tip is adequate preparation. Doing a bit of research on your destination and the route you’re hoping to take is essential for the success of your first hike. Reading blogs by fellow hikers, checking a map of the area, the weather forecast and making a rough timed schedule for how long the hiking and resting periods will be, can ensure that you’re safe, relaxed and free to enjoy your trip. First time hikers are recommended to travel with a guide, or an experienced group, not only because it’s easy to lose your way, but also because it may be difficult to navigate through rugged terrain without some help.
There are many popular destinations to choose from depending on your interest. Some include more woodlands, waterfalls and streams, while others feature mountains, steep uphill trails and majestic views. A few of the best hiking spots include the Knuckles forest reserve, Horton Plains, Sinharaja Rain Forest, Ella, Meemure, Batalegala, Alagalla etc.
Many are located within the Central or Uva provinces, so selecting accommodation such as Yoho Bambarella Knuckles, or Yoho Ella Wellawaya Road would be most convenient.
What to wear
Depending on whether your destination is located in the country’s wet or dry zones, as well as the season and the route, your hiking attire may alter. However, much of the landscape is of a moderate temperature and is mostly dry with occasional showers. Thorns, shrubs and tall grass are common in forests, while leeches are ubiquitous. Light, comfortable clothing such as track pants and a t-shirt with an optional waterproof jacket and cap are highly recommended. Durable shoes with a strong grip is an added bonus. And don’t forget your swimwear if you’re hoping to take a dip in a natural pool!
What’s in your backpack?
The trick to packing your backpack is in maintaining the balance between carrying the essentials to help you survive and not over packing and having to carry a heavy bag throughout the trek. Here’s a list of what you might want to include:
- A large water bottle – Although heavy, this is a must have. If you’d like to have cool water while hiking, simply leave your bottle in the freezer overnight and allow the frozen water to melt over the course of the hike, providing instant iced water.
- Food – Include energising snacks such as sweets, glucose or raisins, as well as fruits like oranges, watermelon and apples with a high water content to keep you hydrated.
- First Aid – Basic first aid to treat cuts, blisters, strains and even a simple headache can make or break your hiking experience.
Some other items you might like to consider taking include a small pocket knife, a torch and a bag to collect garbage such as food wrappers. If you’re not a big fan of leeches and insects, pack some repellents such as citronella oil or even Aluminium sulphate (Alum) powder mixed with water which is highly effective against leeches.
Before you head out, check out the second part of ‘An amateur’s guide to hiking in Sri Lanka’ where we’ll be giving tips on what to do once you’re on the trail!
Featured image by the Author taken at Hunnasgiriya.