The ATV Iron Lady | Sunday Observer
Adventure on wheels

The ATV Iron Lady

14 November, 2021

Padmalatha Abeysinghe, Managing Director of Crate Adventure, is a woman who had seen the world and believes that life should be a joyful experience rather than endless toiling.

She is a woman who had done many things in many roles, especially in her career as a media person. She had been a radio announcer, a presenter, a classical singer, a producer, a director, a businesswoman, a sportswoman, and even an astrologer before becoming famous with the picture of her riding an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) in a saree at Port City Colombo.

As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and Padmalatha’s picture became the talk of the town, representing not just a woman who broke barriers but of the endless possibilities for women who think less of themselves and are confined to the traditional roles that society demands.

Clad in a saree and riding an ATV also gave a message to thousands of women that life is too short to be spent in labour. It also showed courage and fearlessness to not be embarrassed to do what you love.


“Women in our society have a lot of responsibilities in the household and rarely do they go out to enjoy, especially the mothers. They need to take a break and enjoy life. There’s nothing women can’t do. I guess that’s what the picture meant for most women,” said Padmalatha.

She added that getting on the ATV at the opening of Crate Adventure at Port City Colombo on November 28 was not preplanned and rather unexpected.

After welcoming the guests including Ministers Namal Rajapaksa, Prasanna Ranatunga and Pavithra Wanniarachchi to the venue, it was at their request that she got on it to show how it’s done, followed suit by Minister Namal Rajapaksa on another ATV.

“I got a lot of responses after the picture was released and saw a lot of memes on social media too. Most women longed to get on an ATV after seeing me do it,” she said.

As the ATV terrains lead the rider up and down the sand dune with surprising slopes, Padmalatha had also led a life of full of surprises and challenges.

Starting off her education at Thaxila Central College, Horana, she had been a marvel at outdoor activities and aesthetics causing criticism from teachers for not being in class. Because of students like Padmalatha, the school had to create a new class so that they could engage in extra-curricular activities without hindrance. Coincidentally, the class was named F! But to the surprise of the entire school, Class F got the best results at O/Ls that year.

Even though Padmalatha spent most of her time outside the classroom engaged in sports such as netball, short-distance running, putt shot, and javelin as well as singing, playing the Sithar and Tabla, debating and also going to SLBC for announcing, she was one of the brightest students to gain entrance to the University of Kelaniya and complete the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

She also gained Visharada from India and continued her career at SLBC as an announcer upon her return contributing to popular programs. Not only was she an announcer, she was a radio drama artiste too. She even passed all her exams in Dhamma School and served as a teacher for a short period.


After marriage, she formed a company of her own to pursue a passion nurtured by both her and her husband - the production of sports programs in a new format. The programs were aired on Rupavahini. During that time, Padmalatha became the first woman to give a live update from the 16th Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Padmalatha and her husband, Anura Thantilage, an award-winning senior program producer, later ventured into wildlife programs as they were passionate about teaching the value of nature, especially to youngsters.

Their program, Wild Asia, became immensely popular, gaining accolades from here and abroad.

Their lives took another turn when they won the Green Card lottery to USA in 2004. However, their love for Sri Lanka and yearning to make a life here was too strong for them to remain in Los Angeles. Therefore, after a few years, they returned to their roots upon which they began an adventure park in Maligatenna, Gampaha to fill a vacuum they saw in adventure tourism.

Forest terrain

The 40-acre forest terrain served well for ATV riding, providing the much-needed opening to boost tourism. Although the April attacks and Covid didn’t fare well for their company, they are hopeful that Port City Colombo would bring the country’s economy back on track.

“Sri Lanka’s future is Port City Colombo and we are proud to be the first to set up an adventure theme here. This provides an experience in the sand dunes in contrast to the forest terrain in Gampaha. Visitors can ride three tracks – A, B and C – which have increasing levels of difficulty,” Padmalatha said.

Regarding safety at the tracks, Padmalatha said they use up-to-date, top notch ATVs which exceed client expectations and take safety as a number one priority.

“All our ATVs are from Canada which have the necessary safety certificates. We have partnered with travel giants in the country. Hence, we frequently go through international health and safety audits from agencies like SGS (Environment, Health and Safety Services). We have scored over 95 percent and even for some we scored 100 percent,” said Padmalatha’s son, Ranul Thantilage, who is the Chairman of the company, currently reading for his Phd in Ireland.

Riders do not need to have a licence to go on the tracks but of course, they cannot take these vehicles to the roads. Children above 16 years are allowed to ride these alone and if they are below 16, they need to be accompanied by an adult in the two-seater bikes.

If anyone is unable to ride it for some reason but still want to get the experience, Crate Adventures provide a trailer along with the bike. They can even go on a beach safari in this. Padmalatha said that tourists, both local and foreign, have started coming to Port City to ride the ATVs.

“Our only hope is that Sri Lanka would be back on track after Covid, reviving its economy and boosting tourism. We hope that life will be back to normal where people can live without hardships to enjoy life’s many adventures,” Padmalatha said.