A safari of a lifetime

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Asia » Sri Lanka » Sabaragamuwa Province » Udawalawae NP
November 25th 2013
Published: November 30th 2013
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Against the doctors orders, I headed out on the road for Tangalle on Saturday morning. My energy level was good, but I just had this cough that just wouldn't not go away... At least, I had a good rest day behind me and a good cocktail of drugs to try and put this to rest. :-)

On our way out of Galle, we stopped at an HSBC ATM to get some cash and to my pleasure the bills came out in 2,000 Rs (around $16 CAD) notes rather than the usual 5,000 Rs notes. This is an issue, because no one in this country has change! It is so bad I have to hide my small dollar bills (100s and 50s) when I pay for something, as the person I am transacting with will always ask for my change rather than supplying me with change.

The noise was deafening as we left town. All the birds (and bats if I want to get picky) were in full chorus and it was so bad we couldn't even speak to each other. At least this time, the noise was not coming entirely from the crows…

Given that the civil war
Fruit BatsFruit BatsFruit Bats

These run a close second in numbers to the crows some days.
here only officially ended four years ago, it is amazing where this country has come since then. Knowing that fact, I am amazed at how many hotels, resorts, and guest houses there are in this country. We have already passed literally hundreds of them since Colombo. Given our experience in booking some of the more popular ones on Trip Advisor, I would guess many of them are pretty well empty these days (high season starts in mid-December) unless they have some arrangement with a tour company. As well, as good as our accommodations have been so far, I have been frustrated with how little info is found on the guest house websites (we tend to stay at the guest houses for the hospitality). Basic info like prices, check-in time, and check-out times are not usually available. I would think all of this is frustrating for the guest house managers as well, as they have to answer so many questions from me that they really shouldn't have to.

Another peculiarity with the guest houses is that once you book in, no one checks in on your room afterwards. The longest we have stayed anywhere has been three days so far, but no place so far has had someone come into make the bed or change the towels.

As you can expect, we are drinking lots of tea in tea country. It is generally quite good, but simple. I would say we are drinking at least three cups a day, which is way more than what I would drink back home (one a week). Most guest houses pour it quite freely upon arrival and at breakfast.

This would be our last day on the coast until the end of our trip, so we enjoyed the beautiful backdrop one last time. I won't miss the heat and humidity though. By the time we arrived in Tangalle, I was exhausted and didn't have a much left in my gas tank. This guest house was partially owned by a Canadian women from Kamloops. She had come to help out during the Tsunami and never left… This place was done up very nice, and probably our best rooms to date. Internet was a bit of struggle though… In this digital age of research and booking, it is amazing how dependent we become of it. I didn't not bring one piece of paper with

These are the elephants that ended up getting a bit too close to our jeep.
me. Everything is on my MacBook Air.

As we were having dinner that night looking out out over the Indian Ocean, it dawned on me that there was nothing really between here and Antarctica… That is a lot of ocean!

The next morning we were on the road again for the fourth time in five days. We were headed to Uda Walawae National Park, which is suppose to rival those in East Africa! That is setting the bar very high in my books. I did go on a similar safari in Thailand years ago and drove around the park for two days without seeing one elephant...

We decided to take the B roads for most of the way today, which was much quieter and more enjoyable than the A (main) roads we had taken to date. On one of our stops, we stopped for some bananas. In Bentota, I had bought six small bananas for 115 Rs (just less than $1 CAD) at a Food City (supermarket chain), so I gave the vendor a 100 Rs note this time and I asked for as many bananas as I could get with that. He nearly cut down an entire stalk of bananas for me! When I told him I only need half of that, I gave him a 50 Rs note and much to my surprise he still gave me back a 20 Rs in change… Another great example of the Sri Lankan honesty.

Not shortly after, we were biking along and out of nowhere a wild (rather terrified) peacock ran out on the road. It was one of those WTF moments, as I have seen many random things in my days, but this was up there. We tried to stop and get a picture, but before we could the bird was back in the bush. While not native to Sri Lanka, they are to India and were introduced here many years ago. We also found out that the meowing like sound which is so common in the early mornings around here actually comes from these peacocks.

I find it interesting to see so many motorbikes with a male driver (usually a father) riding with one or two children. The driver has the helmet and the children have none… Interesting how the priorities working here.

We stayed at a nice resort with 58 rooms with only four occupied for the night we were there. Ironically, the next night was fully booked with two big tour groups. As I said earlier, those who have the the tour operators locked up own the travel industry here.

The following morning we had hired a jeep for $40 USD to take us out to the national park. Before we were officially in the park, we came across a female and baby elephant just off the road, but behind the fence. A good start in my books! We picked up a "volunteer" guide at the park gate and we were off on our big adventure. It was an incredible experience, as we saw dozens of wild elephants. So much so it became a bit boring after awhile. ;-) That was until we got too close to two large male elephants with one passing within a couple of meters from our jeep. He could have easily used his trunk to haul me out of the jeep and have his way with me. On top of the elephants, we saw lots of exotic birds, a crocodile, a jackal, and monkeys. The elephants were the highlight though. Apparently, there are about 500 in the park.

Our safari was around three hours and just the right amount of time. We decided to hire a van to take us in to the hill country (1,900 m), so we needed to be back for our noon departure. We just didn't have the time to climb it and I don't that Shauna's knee and hip could have taken the stress. Our arthritic joints have been doing well in this warm moist climate though. :-)

I continue to be amazed though at the hospitality and honesty of the Sri Lankan people. As a result, I have my guard way down when it comes to buying things. Most people wouldn't even think about trying to rip me off. This is such a nice change from so many of other developing countries I have visited. This country has SO MUCH potential for tourism. We just need to get the word out. :-)

KM 281


30th November 2013

Nice Pelace
Hi panchoy... it's great wild place hope one day I can visit that place and we can talk business what we can do for our program. cheers and visit me at www.mytb.org/giostanov & www.facebook.com/mwbaliholiday
30th November 2013

Sounds excellent!
Sounds like a very nice place to visit, I'll try to go there myself!
30th November 2013

very informative blog...nice photography...nice word for the places you visited.
30th November 2013

Amazing photo. Great blog.

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