26 July 2018

A Sri Lankan Wildlife Adventure

The thing about travel for me is how enriching it is, how it brings you new sights, new knowledge and new memories. Our trip to Sri Lanka pre children is one that has stayed with me for so many reasons. It gave us the opportunity to experience a country that is extremely bio diverse with rolling tea plantations up in the mountains, to rice paddys below, jungles, stunning coastlines and national parks all showcasing the most incredible flora and fauna. 

On our 10 day adventure touring this stunning island, we saw an abundance of wildlife living in harmony with people and felt so lucky to see them in their natural habitats. I wanted to share my top five, not to be missed, Sri Lankan wildlife experiences in case you are planning to visit anytime soon:

1. Releasing baby Sea Turtles at Kosgoda 

This for me was undoubtedly the highlight of our trip and something I will never forget. The Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project is operated by local people with the help of international volunteers and it was wonderful to learn about the very important work they are doing to protect these beautiful creatures. 

A beautiful sea turtle in the wild

Sea turtles are endangered thanks to predators and poachers so the conservation project have a hatchery where they rescue and hatch baby turtles before releasing them into the sea at night when they are ready. At sunset we headed by tuk tuk to the beach and wished some baby turtles well as they scuttled into the surf, I can't really explain how emotional it felt seeing them being given the best possible chance at survival and freedom and how lucky we felt to have witnessed it.

Releasing a baby sea turtle at Kosgoda in Sri Lanka

2. Asian Elephants in Udawalawe National Park

Seeing majestic animals like elephants in the wild absolutely takes your breath away and is an entirely different experience to seeing them in captivity. We were amazed at how close we were able to get to them as they grazed whilst on safari in Udawalawe National Park. The move so gracefully for such a large animal and being in their presence really centres you. 

An Asian elephant in Udawalawe national park

We were hoping to spot the elusive Sri Lankan leopard during our safari but sadly it was not to be. The safari experience was really special and definitely something we would like to do again, I know the girls would love it when they are older. 

3. Monkeys at the Dambulla Cave Temple

We loved spotting the monkeys on our travels and the cheeky little things were the source of much entertainment. They were clearly very used to humans visiting the temples as they watched us and leapt about. Some had tiny babies gripping on tightly, some slept and others scrapped or played, it was fascinating to see. 

Monkeys at the Dambulla caves in Sri Lanka

Despite these world heritage site temples being thousands of years old the monkey's were a reminder that primates existed way before humans although they have certainly made themselves very at home here.

4. Lizards up Sigiriya Rock

One of our most challenging and hair raising experiences of our trip was climbing Sigiriya Rock -although it was totally worth the hot ascent up the rather precarious 1200 steps for the outstanding view at the top. Sigiriya Rock is a is seriously impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must see if you are visiting Sri Lanka. Even with lots of fellow tourist it felt very serene up there and we were luck to spot this little fellow basking in the sun...

A lizard on the top of Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

5. A Cow on the beach

Cows are sacred in Sri lanka so expect to see them wandering freely. One of my favourite sites was this cow grazing right next to the beach, she looked so content and so incongruous at the same time I had to take a photo of her and even though it is an animal I see every day back in the UK it is one of my favourite travel wildlife moments.  


a cow on a beach in Sri Lanka

The culture and wildlife in Sri Lanka totally stole our hearts and if you're thinking about visiting I'd say absolutely go for it. We really only scratched the surface and will definitely return to this beautiful country again. 


Competition

This post is an entry to the Trips 100/Audley Travel Blogger Challenge for the chance to win a once in a lifetime safari adventure to Kenya, something that has always been on my travel bucket list. You can find more details here: https://www.trips100.co.uk/2018/06/win-a-safari-for-two-with-audley-travel/

You can also win an African Safari with Audley Travel by sharing your best wildlife photograph or video on your social media channels.  To enter write #AudleySafari and @AudleyTravel on your instagam or twitter posts or share directly to the Audley Travel Facebook pageTo find out more or enter via the website visit www.audleytravel.com/social. Entries must be posted between 20th August and 23rd September 2018. Good luck!


Me x

19 July 2018

Thank You For Helping Me Grow Teacher Gifts

With the end of term approaching I wanted to share our easy homemade teacher gifts with you which I think make the perfect thank you present for play school, nursery and school teachers. With seven people to thank this year I wanted to make something cost effective and thoughtful at the same time. I love the sentiment 'Thank you for helping me grow' so used this for the basis for our gifts of little hand painted plant pots which worked out at just over £4 each. You can find a simple tutorial and a list of everything you need to make one below.

Little painted plant pots tied with string and a thank you for helping me grow tag

You will need


  • Terracotta plant pots (ours were 45p each from the local garden centre)
  • Plants, alpines or succulents work well or a little flower would also be lovely (ours were £2.49 each from the garden centre
  • Some paint sample pots (you can use any paint, we used a Little Greene sample pot of Paris Grey and Slaked lime left over from when we renovated the kitchen last year)
  • A paint brush
  • Some brown string or raffia (available from DIY/Craft Stores)
  • Some gift tags (I ordered ours complete with lettering from Creative Feel Designs for £1.20 each)
  • Some scissors

You will need, plants, plant pots, paint, string, tags


Step 1 

Paint the outside of your pots and leave them to dry, I also painted the rim and just inside the lip of the pot so that once the plant were potted you wouldn't see any terracotta. You can paint them any colour you like, we opted for a neutral grey tone as I thought it goes with most colour schemes.

Paint your pots with spare paint you might have, we used Little Greene slaked lime

Step 2

Tie string or raffia around the rim of the pot and pop in your plant

Once your pot is painted pop in your plant and tie string around the rim

Step 3 

Add your tags. If you are good at lettering you (which I'm not!) you could buy plain ones and write your own, or put them through the printer using a typography font, or use a stamp set.

Thank you for helping me grow plant pots

I ordered ours from Creative Feel Designs and they were exactly what I had in mind. The children wrote a message and their names on the back.

Thank you for helping me grow plant pots

Teaching our girls gratitude, to be thoughtful and to thank people is really important to me, they are really excited to give their teachers their little pots this year and have made matching cards to go with them using their hand and finger prints. We simply painted their hands green to make a plant and then added petals by finger painting. Its such a simple idea but one the children really enjoyed doing and it has involved them in the process of taking the time to thank those who have helped them grow and learn this year.

Easy handprint thank you for helping me grow cards for teachers at the end of term

Me x

Why not pin this post for later?

Painted plant pots with succulents in and tied with string

15 July 2018

A Day Out At Paradise Wildlife Park

We were kindly invited to spend the day at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire earlier this month. As well as plenty of animals to see, there is also a World of Dinosaurs attraction, a paddling pool, five adventure playgrounds to explore and lots more! It really is a full family day out with lots of activities to keep you busy. The park is family run, is well kept and has a lovely feel to it, it was perfect for our girls aged 6,4 and 2.

The girls loved the giant gorilla at Paradise Wildlife Park

We visited on a lovely sunny Sunday in July, the girls were so excited when we arrived and couldn't wait to explore. We arrived shortly after opening around 10am to allow plenty of time to see everything without having to rush. We made our way to see the animals first of which there are over 400 species including big cats such as lions, tigers and snow leopards to camels, zebra and alpaca.

Ellie and Daddy saying hello to an Alpaca at Paradise Wildlife Park

There is also a reptile house and a tropical rainforest enclosure with an array of amazing creatures to see. The enclosures are have been thoughtfully created to give the animals privacy but with viewing areas for visitors to catch a glimpse of them and they seemed quite interested in us too!

A camel at Paradise Wildlife Park

The lion and tiger enclosures have tree top platforms around them which allow you to look down from above as well as large viewing windows at the perfect height for children; we were lucky that they were out sunbathing for us!

Phoebe looking at the tigers at Paradise Wildlife Park

We particularly loved the penguins, otters and meerkats as they are just so interesting to watch and so full of character. There are talks from the keepers at various enclosures throughout the day which include feeding times. We timed our visit to the penguins perfectly for the morning talk and learnt all about the penguins and watched them jump into the pool for their fish! 

We loved watching the penguin feeding time at Paradise Wildlife Park

The girls were also fascinated by the giant anaconda snake in Amazon and Beyond and could not believe how big it was! It was great to be able to teach them about the animals and for a fun family day out to be educational. 

Phoebe and Lottie loved the Temple of Angkor reptile house at Paradise Wildlife Park

The park supports a number of conservation projects and has it's own registered charity - the 'Zoological Society of Hertfordshire' which I think is great as teaching the girls about the world we live in and understanding the part they can play in how to care for it is really important to us.

Ellie taking a break with a Zebra at Paradise Wildlife Park

After visiting the animals we made our way over to one of the play areas for the girls to let of some steam and enjoy our picnic lunch. There are lots of picnic tables around the park for this purpose and there are also several places to buy lunch or snacks at a reasonable cost. The girls loved the play areas, particularly the giant vehicles including a steam train and fire engine and the pirate ship in Pirate Cove.

The girls exploring the fab adventure playgrounds at Paradise Wildlife Park

We were really excited to visit the new World of Dinosaurs attraction which opened earlier this year in March and is one of the UK's biggest dinosaur attractions. Walking through the giant gates is like walking into Jurassic park, helped by the fact that the theme tune plays intermittently!

Entrance to the World of Dinosaurs at Paradise Wildlife Park

There are dinosaur eggs which you can climb into for a photo just inside the entrance and a cafe and dedicated dino gift shop. 

Three little baby dinosaurs hatching at World of Dinosaurs at Paradise Wildlife Park

We sat and had a coffee while we watched the girls played palaeontologists in the discovery area uncovering dinosaur bones in sand with paintbrushes and spades. They loved it so much in there that it took an ice cream to entice them out! 

Little palaeontologists in the World of Dinosaurs at Paradise Wildlife Park

The World of Dinosaurs is set in shady woodland with 30 animatronic dinosaurs to discover as you walk the route. The life size dinosaurs are quite impressive and the fact they move and roar really brings them to life for little imaginations.

Dinosaur teeth bigger than the girls at World of Dinosaurs at Paradise Wildlife Park

There is a great photo spot in a safari jeep in front of the most famous dinosaur of them all - the T-Rex! The girls aren't particularly dinosaur mad but they really enjoyed it and asked lots of questions about them. We thought it was really well done and if you have dinosaur fans in your household they will love it I'm sure. 

Watch out there is a t- rex behind you!

There is a little train ride in this part of the park called the 'Rex Express' which takes you past some of the dinosaurs which the girls were desperate to go on. It is £2 per person for over 2's and whilst it only lasts a few minutes was worth it for the joy it gave the children. 

we really loved the world of dinosaurs attraction at Paradise Wildlife Park

Our final stop of the day was to the 'Paradise Lagoon' which is a little paddling pool area perfect for cooling off on a long day. I had packed the girls swimsuits and bought towels with us so they could go in it and they had loads of fun splashing about and going down the little slide in it into the water. It was very busy but that was to be expected on a hot weekend day and it was worth it to cool the girls down before our car journey home. For cooler days when you perhaps need to warm up or escape the rain there is an indoor soft play area too.

Meeting Moana on the Safari Stage at Paradise Wildlife park

On our way back to the car we happened to walk past the Safari Stage where Moana was singing and doing a meet and greet which finished the day off perfectly, the girls couldn't believe it! I thought it was really lovely that there was so much additional entertainment offered throughout the park in the way of various shows throughout the day. All the timings for the shows are on the website and on your park map which you get on arrival. 

Paradise Wildlife Park has so much to discover, Phoebe loved these paintings inside the playhouses in one of the play areas

With so much to do I'd say its definitely worth planning your day roughly before you visit and familiarising yourself with all the things on offer so you can make the most of your time there. The park is open every day except Christmas day so is a great year round attraction.

The girls outside Penguin Falls at Paradise Wildlife Park

Finally, I don't think I have been to an attraction recently that doesn't insist that you exit via a gift shop, Paradise Wildlife Park has a really lovely gift shop next to the exit which you can choose to go in if you wish which was really refreshing. The girls had some pocket money to spend so we did pop in and they each chose a little memento of our day. We had a really lovely family day out at the park and the girls are already asking when we can go back and visit again.

Me x

* We were kindly given tickets to the park in exchange for an honest review. 
All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

3 July 2018

A week at Mark Warner's Perdepera Resort, Sardinia

We have recently returned from a wonderful week at Mark Warner's Perdepera resort in Sardinia with the girls and my parents. I hardly even know where to begin with this post as there is just so much I want to say... 

It was our first family holiday abroad in quite some years so one we had spent a lot of time researching and looking forward to. It needed to be something that multi-generations could enjoy from toddlers through to grandparents with something for everyone. I knew from applying to be part of Mark Warner's ambassador programme that their holidays were the perfect fit for us, giving us the opportunity to relax or adventure in beautiful surroundings as a family. We had always wanted to visit Sardinia so it was a fairly easy decision on where to go, although all the resorts have something special to offer. 


Our holiday gave us the most wonderful family time
Time together as a family

Here's what we thought along with hopefully some useful information if you're visiting the Perdepera resort soon or considering a Mark Warner Holiday:

Getting there


One of the things that appealed to us about visiting Sardinia was the sub three hour flight time. This was the first time we had taken three young children on a plane so it was the perfect distance for us. It was an afternoon chartered flight with British Airways from Heathrow terminal 5 which was ideal. It is worth knowing that there BA have a dedicated family check in area in zone A for tagging pushchairs and checking in which we found after struggling to check in on the automated BA system.


Travel essentials!

Due to the short flight in flight meals are not provided but there is an M&S service on board where you can buy sandwiches, drinks and snacks. I wish I had taken something on board for the girls to eat as there wasn't anything particularly child friendly to eat so that would be my only tip. Seats are pre-allocated and we had been grouped together as a family. 

Beautiful Bouganvillia

It is about a 2 hour coach transfer from Cagliari airport to Perdepera which admittedly did feel quite long with three excited children but very much worth it when you arrived and felt as though you had really got away from it all to your own little piece of Sardinia. We arrived just in time for dinner and whilst it was still light which was great.

Sharing our holiday with my parents was really special

The Resort


Perdepera resort is located on the east side of the beautiful island of Sardinia near Caredu. It is a fairly small resort with a stunning backdrop of mountains behind it and a stretch of golden beach and crystal clear seas in front of it. It has a village feel, with villas set amongst lots of shrubs, trees and colourful planting with a lovely pool, restaurant and bar area giving it a community centre but with privacy and quiet when you need it. 


Perdepera Resort

There is a shallow circular section of the main pool which the girls spent hours in, they could all reach the bottom so could splash around with complete confidence. I was amazed at how much their swimming came on over the course of the week as they jumped in, swam underwater and picked things off the bottom - they were such little water babies! 

The girls loved the children's pool

There is also an adults only pool for when you're looking for a peaceful afternoon with your book and a wellness centre next to it for even more relaxation which we enjoyed while the girls were at kids club.  There were plenty of sun loungers, deck chairs and parasols available when we were there, although it was low season so may be different in the peak of summer.

The adults only pool was so relaxing and my favourite spot in the resort

There is a small climbing frame and slide that our girls loved playing on as well as a ping pong table and table football area. These little social spaces alongside the activities in the resort and kids clubs meant that we all struck up some friendships with like minded families and were the source of great fun in the early evening just before dinner. 


Table football fun!

The beach is stunning, with plenty of sun loungers on sand with pebbles at the shore and that is where you'll find the waterfront team with dingys, windsurfs, kayaks and paddle boards

Beach walks and pebble collecting

To see the girls paddling in the turquoise water, making sand castles, giving each other sand mermaid tails and running in and out of the waves in the sunshine was one of my favourite parts of our time at Perdepera. 

The sea was so clear and calm


Accommodation


We booked two interconnecting rooms and a double room nearby for my parents. The interconnecting rooms were fantastic for us, giving us plenty of space with the girls in one room together and Oli and I in the other. 


The girls loved our little villa

Finding hotel accommodation as a family of five can be really tricky which is why we have previous booked self catering breaks so I was delighted when I discovered that this was an option. The rooms are fairly simple and perhaps in need of a little updating, but immaculately clean, with everything you need and to be honest we were only in ours to go to sleep! 


Terracotta villas set amongst gardens

The rooms are cleaned, beds made and towels replaced each day. There is a large wardrobe so you can unpack and make yourself at home, a desk/dressing  table area and TV, although we didn't turn ours on. The bathrooms have showers which always had hot water and toiletries were also provided. The rooms are air conditioned which was very welcomed and also have a private outdoor seating area and drying rack. 

Knocking on nana and pap paps door for breakfast

There are some new superior sea view rooms at the back of the resort which were just being finished whilst we were there which looked absolutely stunning with really fresh modern interiors. The children really loved our 'little orange house' and made themselves quite at home which was lovely.


The girls with Nana and Pap Pap



Activities


There is so much to do at Pedepera but absolutely no pressure to do any of it. I think that is what i liked most about the resort - that you could totally tailor your holiday to suit your family, there was something for everyone and you can do as little or as much as you want. 


The girls were in their element and had so much fun together

We spent a large majority of our time playing with the girls and swimming in the pool and on the beach. On the mornings they went to Kids Club Oli and I had a go at some of the activities available on the waterfront and on land.


Lottie and Oli kayaking

There is a dedicated team of instructors to help you get to grips with new activities or develop skills and offering lessons. Oli really enjoyed paddle boarding whilst my dad made the most of the afternoon winds and went sailing. My down time involved swimming, yoga on the beach, reading by the really serene adult pool and a massage! 


Take me back to that pool!

Oli and I did take a kayak out together which was really good fun, the sea is absolutely beautiful and so, so clear, it felt really calming being out in the water. There is a really varied fitness timetable each day as well tennis courts and off site activities such as walks and cycle rides.


Explore the local area by bike

You can also borrow bikes and head off to explore the local area at your leisure which Oli did one afternoon. Everything is included which I think is just fantastic and you most definitely will not be bored!




Childcare


Childcare at kids club is also included and available from 9 - 12:30 and in the afternoons from 2.30- 5.30 as well as evening childcare from 7 - 10.30pm. This is something we had never used on holiday before and we weren't sure what to expect. It was excellent, the staff were brilliant with our girls, really taking the time to get to know them and offering an incredibly varied programme of activities including mini olympics, art, messy play and games on the beach and pool


Phoebe loved having her face painted at Kids Club

It's a really flexible arrangement which you pre-book but can use as much or as little as you like. As family time is a rarity for us the girls only went for a couple of mornings or afternoons and went to movie club on our last night. The girls were a little apprehensive on their first session but the nannies very quickly put them at ease and they had a great time and by the end of the week they were asking to go to Kids Club!

Phoebe with her key worker and childcare manager Roddy

They were each assigned a key worker in their different groups (toddlers, minis and juniors) which really helped them to settle and I really felt they were being so well cared for and were safe. It was really nice to have a little bit of time to ourselves (something that is such a luxury with three young children!) whilst the girls had fun and made friends with other children. It was particularly valuable on the two cloudy/rainy days we had as it meant the girls were entertained when it would have otherwise been a bit tricky to keep them busy.

Ellie feeling proud at her Kids Club presentation

At the end of the week there was a lovely presentation where the girls were awarded certificates and performed in a little show for parents, they were so proud of themselves and it was great to see their confidence grow throughout the week.



Meals


The resort is a full board with breakfast, lunch and dinner included which is served at set times, buffet style in the main restaurant.  It was perfect for us and gave me a much needed break from cooking or even thinking about what to have to eat. Everything was very fresh and well presented and there was something for everyone. 


The restaurant at Perdepera

Breakfast consisted of cereal, continental options, pastries and cooked breakfast including omelette's made to order with juice, tea and coffee also. Lunch and dinner included a wide choice of salads, grilled meat and fish, as well as different pasta each day. There was also delicious fresh bread to cut for the table and fruit such as apples, pears, oranges and melon too. Jugs of white and red wine were included at lunch and dinner as well as cold water and juice. 

Pizza at a beach bar long the beach

High tea for younger children is provided between 5:30 and 6:15pm which the girls had a couple of days to tide them over. It included firm favourites like, tomato pasta, pizza, sausages and grilled chicken alongside some vegetables and salad. There is an a la carte dining evening once a week for a small supplement if you fancy a change, or the team are happy to recommend some local off site restaurants to visit. 


Walking up the beach for lunch

We walked up the beach to a lovely beach bar one lunchtime for a pizza and a glass of rose which was very reasonably priced. Perdepera also has it's own beach bar which was open in the daytime whilst we were there which is the perfect spot for a morning coffee or something cool after being out on the water.

Staff


The Mark Warner staff in the resort were absolutely lovely and couldn't have been more helpful during our stay. Local staff work in the resort in the restaurant, bar and reception area which gave the girls a good opportunity to learn some simple Italian like hello and thank you. Everyone was so friendly and efficient and nothing felt like too much trouble. There is a welcome meeting on the Sunday which was really helpful and great to put faces to names and ask any questions, along with welcome drinks in the evening.



Other Handy information



Even on a rainy day Perdepera gave us a rainbow

  • Beach towels are included for each member of your party and changed once midweek which you collect from the lifeguard station by the swimming pool by exchanging tokens given to you upon arrival. With five of us this saved a huge amount of space in our bags which I was very grateful for.
  • Take mosquito spray - I didn't even think about this but luckily my dad who is a seasoned traveller brought a few bottles with him
  • There is a little beach hut style shop selling beach shoes, swimwear, toys and inflatables, postcards etc which the girls loved popping into to spend their pocket money 
  • Water - you can buy 6 x 2 litre bottles from the bar for a reasonable price which we kept in our room to drink at night 
  • The bar is priced reasonably and sells beer, wine, cocktails, soft drinks and hot drinks as well as ice creams. You can either pay in cash or charge items to your room which you pay on the day of departure at reception
  • We took some snacks such as little packets of biscuits and crackers with us for when the girls got a bit peckish in between meals. 
  • If you're planning on using the kids club facilities makes sure that you take a bag that you can put your child's swimming kit and towel in along with a drink and some sun cream
  • Check out on the day of departure is 10am but for a small fee you can book late check out until 2pm for 30 euros which was really handy for the mid afternoon departure and meant we could enjoy our last morning in the pool before having lunch and a shower and hopping on the coach.
  • Free wifi is available to use in the reception area if you need it.

We honestly had the most wonderful week at Perdepera, none of us wanted to go home, to the point we considered hiding somewhere! To find somewhere that had something to offer all the members of our family from 2 - 62 was quite amazing. Having so much quality time with one another was something we will really treasure and as cliched as it sounds we made some wonderful memories. With that it mind one week wasn't quite long enough for us, we could have easily stayed another couple of days in our little Sardinian bubble! 

A holiday we will always treasure

We met families during our stay who had been enjoying Mark Warner holidays for years and we can absolutely see why. Our time at Perdepera gave us so many moments and memories that we will treasure and we most definitely be back. With three children the term 'holiday' can be used loosely and is very often a bit of a change of scene, but this really was a holiday - we returned home sun kissed, happy and relaxed with dreams of our next adventure... where to next?

Me x

*Mark Warner gave us a media discount in exchange for an honest review.
 All thoughts and opinions are my own.*