This story starts back in December 2019, when I was just a member who joined a Rotaract road trip because I needed a proper vacation. It was a journey with foreign Rotaractors and 3 of our own fellow Rotaractors from Rotaract Mora. We roamed for five long days starting from Colombo, then Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee, Pinnawala and then back to the starting point. We fought, we enjoyed, we explained, we faced challenges and then there were tons of memories collected. (I’m not going to tell those stories right now. There were incidents where we had to run a rescue plans as well :p that will be another story to tell😂)
After getting the offer to be the ISD, my co-director Chamod, and I dreamt about doing this one project we always needed to do and experience again. I know it was a year filled thousand and one obstacles with a pandemic going on, but we tried to do it anyhow. We were checking schedules, travel ban restrictions and tons of other factors as well (we even educated ourselves about the bio bubble concept 😌😂). What Chamod kept asking throughout the year was, "අඩෝ මොකෝ කරන්නේ?", "අන්න travel ban අයින් කරලා???" I was always telling "එහෙනම් අරක බලමූ" sometimes we were like "අඩේ next month පටන් ගමූ". But for some reason or the other, every time we started making plans, another COVID-19 wave washed all our plans away, and we were soaked with travel restrictions.
After several months I always used to tell "මචං උබ VP වෙලා ඕක කරපන්, මං අයින් වෙනවා දැන් ඇති" and "ඕනි නම් කතා කරපන්, sup එකක් දෙන්නන්, හැබැයි මාව එක්කන් පලයන්" (:P :D :D), but then I ended up becoming the president-elect of this club (sometimes miracles do happen, and there are people I am continually really thankful for that <3) and that March last week I took a one week break as well (don't ask me why but I took one😌😉😂) and after sometime when the RI year started, I talked to that person and told him, "අරක කරලා දාමු කොහොමහරි, පොඩි එවුන්ට ඒක පෙන්නන්න ඕන". From that day onwards, he took the responsibility and were searching for data and information about the situation and one day he asked me “මොකද කියන්නේ, කරමුද?”. You can of course guess my answer and he comes up with 2-timelines and we picked April and after several months our beloved VP IS or more famously known as Mr. worldwide (I used to call him that because he used to have so many foreign female friends) came up with several Facebook profiles and asked me to pick one and you won't believe, they were the suggestions for chairpersons for the club's signature project “CEYLON SAFARI” (it was like selecting අවුරුදු කුමාරයා and කුමාරි by looking into Facebook profiles 😂😂) but anyhow, I picked one and he became one of the chairs of Ceylon Safari ‘22.
Then all I knew was that Chamod was searching the perfection from his team for our dream project. Several times I got thousands of complaints from my beloved VP, and I was added to the OC group as well (where I did not message, and I know it is not good but, he always had to PM the same message to me and get the approval 😂😅). Even so, I was updated on all things and all the background stories as well.
Eventually, after several months we finalized our 6 foreign participants for the Rotaract round trip, but because of the country's situation, we had to make the call on whether we were continuing it or not. Simply my advice was, “Let's tell them about the true situation of the country, and if at least one participant is willing to come, we will continue the project”. The team took the challenge and asked every participant, and three of them were okay to be here in Sri Lanka, and then all I had to do was to tell, “let's do this machan for one last time”.
So, from 10th April 2022, we were able to witness a Ceylon Safari again after two long years. It was a rollercoaster ride sometimes, but at the same time it was not.
Phase one was focused on cool upcountry, starting from a beautiful train ride to the Ella rock ("තව පොඩ්ඩයි and අර light එකක් පෙන්නේ එතනට විතරයි😂") to the adventure of finding milkshake in Bandarawela town. Also, at Lipton seat sipping tea with Mr. Lipton and Ambewela farm to taste cheese. We had wonderful four days with our beloved foreign Rotaractors Laure, Michelle and Sebastian. It was really relaxing for me since the beloved Organizing committee headed by Chamod, Namina, and Saeeda took care of all the things, and we just had to relax and enjoy the tour. (Hats off to them <3)
Then they had a wonderful time celebrating Awurudu at the EP house while I took a day's break to celebrate awurudu with my family. Then on the 15th early morning, I was back on road, finding buses to go to Negombo, where the 2nd adventure of Ceylon Safari was about to start. (TBH, I forgot it was the day after awurudu, and I wasn't lucky since there were no buses at all 😅 but fortunately, I got a lift to Ja-Ela and then took a Tuk to Negombo. After all this chaos, I was on time at Ceylonese, where they planned to pick me up) Then, the most extended phase began. We were at Munneshwaram, one of the “Pancha Ishwarams” in Sri Lanka, where we had an insightful and exciting time with stories from the Hindu culture and explanations about each and every corner of the kovil. Then we headed to Wilpattu, where we started the authentic safari ride. We were lucky enough to see a Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) and soo many more beautiful creatures without disturbing their natural habitat. Still, we were not fortunate enough to see a Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus inornatus), but it was a perfect experience. Then we headed to Anuradhapura, the sacred ancient city of Sri Lanka and headed to Habarana on the following evening. And then Sigiriya, Dambulla (where most people get to know about their future from fortune tellers😂), Pinnawala and then back to the EP house.
Then comes the last two days in down south, one of my favorite destinations in Sri Lanka. We spent two whole days on beaches and had good relaxed two days in down south (where Namina got a surprise party and free keratin treatment as well 😂). So at the end, we had our final dinner at Matara on 20th April, where we shared all our experiences, memories and gifts with our wonderful participants.
So, this wraps up the wonderful journey of Ceylon Safari 22, where we got a chance to experience fellowship, love and friendship with both foreign and local participants. For me, it was a good time where I got an opportunity to interact with both my board members and general members and share memories with them. It was really lovely to see a Ceylon Safari after two years, a dream come true even amidst a thousand and one challenges. We were able to give the opportunity to our own members to interact with foreign Rotaractors, and I'm sure that it was a good experience for them as well.
In the end, there were memories collected and experiences shared. As it says in the Rotary four way test, it was a good experience that built goodwill and better friendships between all participants of several nationalities. In my opinion, we were able to share an authentic Sri Lankan experience with all participants without division, whether they were local or foreign. Ceylon Safari never fails to teach how lucky we are, to be Sri Lankans and what a wonderful country we live in. Ceylon Safari will always take that message all over the world while giving an authentic Sri Lankan Rotaract Round Trip Experience.<3
PS: This is my story of Ceylon Safari as a General Member, a director, and a president of this wonderful club, Rotaract Club of University of Moratuwa or Rotaract Mora, as we used to call it. I know it has so many dialogues, and there are many more unspoken stories as well. This is a project where my whole journey was redefined as well as a project where I always loved to be. There can be unsaid stories for my fellow readers where you all so have a story to tell. Make this an invitation to do so and make your own definition of Rotaract.
Cheers to the all dreamers <3