Aliya, Aliya, Aliya!
Hambantota Travel Blog› entry 26 of 68 › view all entries
â€śElephant, Elephant, Elephant!â€ť in Sinhala is the call you hear repeatedly while on an safari in Udawalawe National Park. Just a 3 hour drive south of Kandy, up in the â€śhill countryâ€ť, you come down towards the southern coast of Sri Lanka into the dry zone. In these southern areas, you find two major national parks, Udawalawe and Yala, and a bird sanctuary, Bundala.
Both national parks are known for their large herds of wild elephants, with Yala adding an extra treat of wild leopards. In fact, Yala is said to have the highest density of leopards in the world.
The day started with two land rovers picking up all the family members (all 20 of us!) to make the quick ride from our safari-style cabin into the park. Once at the park, the big timber gates at the main entrance reminded me of that scene in Jurassic Park when everyone entered the park. Maybe that was the effect they were trying to go for, whatever the case, it worked!
Soon after we passed through the gates to the park we had our first elephant sighting, Aliya, Aliya the tracker shouted! There he was, a sole elephant bathing in one of the ponds near the entrance, while a bunch of water buffalo swam a short distance away.
Last time my father visited the park he told us of an encounter down some back road with a rogue elephant. Seems like the elephant blocked the path of their jeep and stood in their way for at least 10 minutes, keeping its ground with ears flared forward. Then at one point, I guess it got agitated and started to rampage at the jeep! So the driver had to haul ass in reverse to get away! Talk about adrenaline rush.
As the safari went on and the further we got into the park the more elephants we saw. Generally we would see them alone (rogues) or in large herds of at least 20 or 30, all with babies in tow, munching on grass and the other flora in the area.
Elephants were not the only highlight in this park, the scenery itself is stunning. The one thing that always amazes me when I come to Sri Lanka is the various different climate zones and terrain this little island has. From the beaches surrounding the island, up into the mountains where the tea plantations are, to the rainforests in the southwest in Sinharaja, down here to the far south (and far north) where you find the dry zone.
A little further south of Udawalawe, is the Bundala National Bird Sanctuary. The wetlands and estuaries found at Bundala lie at the south end of the migratory path of at least 200 species of resident and migrant birds from across Asia. In the right season this place is full of birds of every kind, including flamingos. Unfortunately for us, we were just there before the season started! So there wasnâ€™t much to see other than a bunch of peacocks. Peacocks you say! Thatâ€™s exciting right?!. Well not that exciting considering you see peacocks everywhere in it seems in Sri Lanka, they arenâ€™t as exotic as we see them back home. Just another bird, but still beautiful to see nonetheless.
One note to anyone that plans to visit here, or for that matter any safari park, have a camera with a long zoom lens! My digital zoom is 200mm, I suggest a 300 or 400mm zoom lens for the best pictures. Sometimes the animals are a bit far and sometimes they are well hidden. So hopefully before I get to Africa for my safari there I can snag a good zoom lens! :)