Our Southern India & Sri Lanka GP & Pharmacy Conference has us returning to the subcontinent only 18 months after exploring the northern parts of India with our sold out ‘Land of the Raj’ Conference.
The Southern India and Sri Lanka conferences were designed as either standalone programs or they could be combined into a seamless travel experience covering two of the most in demand travel destinations.
As with all Amaco conferences, we integrated the educational program into the daily program ensuring that conference participants didn’t miss a thing.
Southern India (22 Sept – 1 October 2018)
The Malabar Coast in South Western India has escaped the hustle and frenzy that dominates so much of India and in its place participants found an altogether more laid-back and relaxing destination. The state of Kerala, or as it is fondly referred to by locals, ‘God’s Own Country’, enjoys a number of unique geographical features that have made it one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Asia aiding in its selection by National Geographic Traveller as one of the 50 destinations of a lifetime.
For many visitors, Kerala is not only India’s most relaxing destination it is also the country’s most beautiful region. It has an equable climate and is where you will discover more than 600km of serene beaches, tranquil stretches of backwaters and canals, lush hill stations and exotic wildlife which all combine to form the major attractions of this region.
Our 10-day Southern India Conference Itinerary began in Kochi (or Cochin as it was known when under British rule). A vibrant city, Kochi has been called home by Arabs, Chinese, British, Dutch and Portuguese traders who all left indelible marks on the history and development of the city. Some of the highlights of our time in Kochi included tours of Mattancherry or ‘Jew Town’ with its nearly 500 year old synagogue, Fort Cochin, Royal Trail and the vegetable and spice markets in nearby Ernakulam town.
Departing Kochi, our itinerary took us south along the Arabian Sea coastline to Mararikulam, a peaceful haven with palm tree lined, golden sand beaches. Some of our time here will be spent exploring the backwaters and learning about some of the traditional farming practices. A visit to the local Shiva temple where we participated in the candle lighting ritual was a definte highlight as was the specially organised motorbike ride through the winding small roads and lanes that criss-cross the area.
The third destination on our Southern India itinerary was the village of Kumarakom – a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake. The local bird sanctuary, which is spread across 14 acres, is a favourite haunt of migratory birds and an ornithologist’s paradise. Egrets, darters, herons, teal, waterfowl, cuckoo, wild duck and many other birds live in these parts and provide a fascination for visitors. Our itinerary included a relaxing afternoon aboard a well-appointed house boat, complete with private butler and sailors. Participants had the opportunity to experience the lifestyles of the locals who live on the ‘backwaters’.
Sri Lanka (1 – 10 October 2018)
Formerly known as Ceylon, the island nation of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean offers visitors diverse landscapes ranging from rainforest and arid plains to highlands and sandy beaches. The ending of the 30-year civil war in 2009 has brought great improvement in domestic infrastructure and seen the country attract to more and more visitors each year.
The Amaco 10-day Sri Lankan Conference began in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka where we had the opportunity to visit most of the significant historical and cultural landmarks that together form the tapestry of the life within the city limits of Colombo.
After a few days there, our itinerary had us heading to Kandalama, a small village located within the Central Province which is home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Our hotel, designed by the famed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa was one of the best examples of Tropical Modernism. While in the region, we’ll also visit The Dambulla Cave Temples, the largest and best-preserved rock cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.
Kandy, our next destination was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings. A highlight of our time here included a visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – another UNESCO World Heritage site. This Buddhist temple is located in the Royal Palace complex where the sounds of chanting and drums reverberate around the prayer halls, as hundreds of pilgrims pass through to ask for blessings at the sanctum where the fragment of the tooth of Buddha is kept. We then moved to Galle, one of Sri Lanka’s most historically interesting towns having being occupied by the Dutch, Portuguese and British. The history of Galle dates back to 1505 when a Portuguese fleet bound for the Maldives was blown off course and took shelter in the Galle Harbour. While staying in Galle, we also visited the Handunugoda Tea Estate (also known as the Virgin white Tea Factory), the closest tea plantation in the world to the sea.
Our return journey to Colombo was memorable – with a visit to the Turtle Hatchery in Kosgoda. This pioneering sea turtle conservation project is helping to protect prime nesting sites and is a collaboration between locals and international volunteers.