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A traditional fishing village with a golden sand beach, Balapitiya also sits on the Madu Ganga (River) estuary, connected to inland Randombe Lake by two winding channels. Together they form one of Sri Lanka's biggest wetlands, a vast swathe of densely-forested mangrove swamp that makes a wonderful home for wildlife. With hundreds of varieties of plants and numerous mammals, reptiles and fish, all adapted to living in the brackish water, this is the perfect place for a river safari, weaving between more than 60 islands and looking for water monitors and purple-faced langurs. Local people fish, tap toddy and cultivate cinnamon, which is bundled into bunches of red "quills".

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To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
Bill Bryson