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Published: April 24th 2016
When I was waiting at a bus stop in Ella, a man approached me and offered me a ride to my next destination. At first he offered it to me for 2000 rupees, then when I refused he went away. He came back about a minute later, and offered it to me for 1500. Nope. The bus was approaching and then he offered it to me for 1000 rupees. Rain was brewing as I looked up. Would have cost way less to take the bus but it would have been three bus transfers in potentially crappy weather. Plus 1000 for a 110 km ride in a car was a steal. Turned out this driver had brought two travelers up to Ella and was heading back and wanted to make some kind of coin, regardless of how small. Sure enough the rain began. I got into the car and we were off. I guess I lucked out. I didn't actually know how long it would have taken by bus and it was already the very late afternoon.
I was on my way to Udawalawe National park. Considering Sri Lanka has some of the most diverse wildlife on the planet, I figured
it would be cool to see what a safari was like here. Udawalawe was known for its elephant herds, many bird species, water buffalo, and a few others. I had been on safari in Tanzania already, so I wasn't expecting this experience to top it. But it seemed like it could be really fun, plus seeing an elephant in the wild is always amazing. Our journey took about two hours and on the way we stopped by a nice waterfall and conversed about different things. Sandun turned out to be a pretty nice guy and on the way he stopped and bought me corn on the cob. It was raining hard, monsoon season was beginning in the region. When we arrived in Udawalawe town, he took me to an affordable guesthouse within my budget and dropped me off. Once there, I talked to the hotel staffer about trying to organize a safari with some other people to bring down the costs. Initially he couldn't find anyone else for me to join but then eventually found one other solo person. I went to bed early because the tour was beginning the next day at dawn.
I was feeling pretty groggy
the next day as the jeep approached the entrance gate. An older woman from Slovenia was sitting near me. The skies were clear after the dumping of rain we received the night before. Other jeeps began with us until we veered off and continued along some ridiculously bumpy roads. At some points I was literally flying out of my seat. The jungle was dense at points, and there were many lakes. I got to see some Tucans, King Fishers, male and female peacocks, and all sorts of other birds. He passed Iguanas, crocodiles, and various reptiles as well. There was a big group of water buffalo grazing. We found one elusive younger elephant and spent some time watching it. I wasn't particularly fond of the driver who wasn't very accommodating to photography. And my safari companion didn't seem to have much patience either. Despite this, I was happy to be among the animals and apart from crazy bumpy roads it was relaxing. The park itself is known for its large elephant population but unfortunately we weren't able to find any herds. One theory was that the heavy rain from the night before created good watering holes in the center of
the park and drew the animals in, where the jeeps couldn't really follow. Good for the elephants the non-selfish part of me figured. It ended after a few hours. It wasn't anything that blew me away, and the circumstances could have been better, but these are the realities of going on a safari. I thought Udawalawe park itself was really beautiful and gave me an opportunity to get a better glimpse of Sri Lankan wildlife.
I was dropped back off to my room and within the hour was on yet another bus back towards the southern coast.
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