Birdwatching in Bundala National Park

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April 25th 2019
Published: April 25th 2019
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We left Ella for our next destination, Tissamaharama, early the next morning. Saman stopped at Rawana Ella Waterfall, 19 meters high and only 6 kilometres from Ella. We were driving along a winding road through Ella Gap and the scenery was stunning. We stopped briefly at the waterfall and joined a large group of orange clad monks on the bridge overlooking the falls. We left the hill country and were passing through flat farmlands before we arrived in the busy crossroads town of Wellawaya. A short detour here from the highway out of the town took us to Buduruwagala, an ancient Buddhist site dating from the 10th century.

At this spot stands a 1000 year old standing Buddha statue (at 15 meters high it is the tallest on the island) which is carved into the rock face. It was a very well kept and peaceful site, surrounded by tall trees and ringing with bird sounds. There are a total of seven figures carved into the rock face with the main statue still showing traces of orange stucco. At one stage it is presumed the statues were once brightly painted. It was a lovely spot and we were very pleased we
Buddha statues at BuduruwagalaBuddha statues at BuduruwagalaBuddha statues at Buduruwagala

Jerry is in the foreground
chose to visit it.

A couple of hours later we arrived in Tissamaharama where we were to spend the night before rising before dawn to visit the Bundala National Park next day. We had booked a guest house on the edge of town and it proved a great choice. The Moonlight guesthouse was surrounded by rice fields and the owners were a lovely family. The rice fields were busy as the rice was being harvested by machinery but was being bagged by hand.

After arranging a tour next morning with the guest house owner we walked into town. It was a very typical non tourist town, and it was great to wander down the shopping streets watching the locals go about their daily lives. We walked towards Tissa Wewa, a huge artificial lake which is in the centre of the town. Enroute to the lake we circled Tissa Dagoba, built around 200 BC. It had an enormous white dome which was being repainted. Workmen, without safety restraints, were clambering over it’s curved sides.

It was a much longer walk to the lake than expected and we were surprised when we arrived to find the lakeside walk edged with rice fields. We were expecting to find a couple of cafes or food stalls at least. We walked the length of one side of the lake, passing some locals bathing, and ignoring the boatmen trying to sell a boat trip on the lake. There were the usual swan paddle boats as well. I should imagine it would be very busy at the weekend and presume food vendors would set up stalls on the edge of the walkway then. Our hunger pains were relieved when an icecream vendor drove by in his lime green tuktuk.

We ate dinner at the guesthouse and had an early night.

Early next morning we drove half an hour to the entrance of Bundala National Park, a wetlands sanctuary and one of Sri Lanka’s foremost birdwatching areas. We had been told that the park is very quiet and gets none of the jeep traffic that clog the surrounding national parks. Surprisingly this proved to be true as when the park opened there were only three jeeps and we all went our separate ways once we entered the park. The park stretches along the coast for 20 kilometres, enclosing five lagoons and is edged with sand dunes.

We thoroughly enjoyed the next three hours and saw many birds,

lots of grey langur monies, crocodiles and to our delight, even two mongooses. Thankfully we had a guide to point out the birds as I doubt we would have seen many of them otherwise. We saw many different water birds, including spoonbills, flamingos and a lesser adjutant eating a long snake. We saw lots of colourful bee eaters and kingfishers, many peacocks and jungle fowls which are the national bird of Sri Lanka.

We stopped at a beach side cove, with very fine red sand, and watched some fisherman in small boats bring their catch ashore. The coastline was stunning - very vibrant colours. Our guesthouse had packed a very full picnic breakfast basket for us which had more then enough food to feed our driver and guide as well. It was a great morning, very peaceful but unfortunately eventually we left the park and returned to our guesthouse where Saman was waiting to drive us along the coast to Tangalle where we were planning to spend the next few days. Saman was leaving us there and returning to his family and a belated birthday party for his daughter in Negombo.

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