28th May- Udawalawe
Today was all about the safari. While planning our trip to Sri Lanka we specifically went out of our way to make sure we go to this specific place. While our whole trip was spent along the south coast other than Colombo where we arrived, the national park was further north, an intentional detour.
It was a 6am start and the plan was to do a half day safari since we heard that in the afternoon the animals hide from the heat so a full day would be a waste. When we left we realised the animals won’t be hiding from the heat but instead something else. Because of my experience of the Kenyan safari, I decided to wear a tank top, short and to put on both sunscreen and insect repellent.
We stepped outside and it was pouring rain. Just my luck. We jumped onto the Jeep, quite literally, and headed off on our way. The scenery was gorgeous and difficult to describe. Hopefully you can see for yourself with the pictures in this post. You didn’t need to be a pro photographer to take good pictures of the place; the scenery just does it for you.
Besides the beautiful landscape that was made up of greenery, mountains and waterfalls, the animals we saw ranged from elephants, mongoose, peacocks, deer, buffalo, crocodiles and a whole host of birds of course. The elephants were plenty, travelling in herds. Our guide told us that the Asian elephants are smaller than the African ones I saw in Kenya.
After a while of bumpy driving and pausing for pictures, we arrived in a location we were allowed to get down and walk around in for the sake of the view. Soon we were on our way back. Our guide told us they have a leopard but that it is a rare sighting. He’s worked there for 4 years and has only seen it three times and not even close but instead from a distance.
He also told us that Animal Planet were there yesterday recording and taking pictures. He suggested that we should go see the elephant orphanage nearby and since nothing was planned for the rest of the day we decided to head there next. After we got home we napped of course and ended up sleeping past its opening time and so we hoped we would get to see it tomorrow before going to our last hotel in Matara.
For the rest of the day we just enjoyed the good food on offer as well as going for a walk around our area and watching Finding Nemo. Later on would be the Champions league final, if only we could stay awake that is.
29th May- Udawalawe to Matara
Today we were determined to go to the elephant orphanage called Elephant Transit Home. Yesterday our safari guide told us any abandoned or orphaned elephants are sent there and taken care of and when they grow older they are released back into the wild, quite often back into the national park.
The elephant orphanage had a live feeding show on every day every three hours starting from 9am. So breakfast was eaten quickly and followed by a tuk tuk ride. Soon we were there watching one baby elephant take apart some branches to eat. Then suddenly in the distance, we could see a big herd of elephants, more than we saw at the safari, gather and line up outside the feeding area.
Slowly but surely, they were let in one by one by the staff to first drink some milk then run off to eat its greens. Some elephants were more playful, some obedient and some more naughty. For example, some would do as they’re told while others wouldn’t want to let go of the funnel through which they were drinking milk from, signalling that they wanted more.
This would cause the staff to swat away at them with a stick. At times it was a little harsh but most times it was a soft tap like you would to a child who was being disobedient. After the feeding we headed to the information centre, it appeared we were the only ones interested in learning more. The locals instead headed out or to the souvenir shop. To be fair to them they probably drop by all the time.
The information centre was beautifully painted and it covered a range of topics; from art and history to facts and figures. For example, we learned that elephants are a matriarchal society with the oldest female elephant leading a herd, compromised mainly of the young and females. The males leave their herds, once of age, in order to avoid inbreeding.
After the information centre it was our turn at the souvenir shops where we got notebooks made from elephant dung (it’s not as disgusting as it sounds, I promise). Now it was time to head back, pack and leave to Matara. 2 hours later we arrived. This city was far busier than everywhere we’ve been, with constant traffic and people around on every street.
Our hotel was located at a calmer location next to Polhena beach, called the Culture Resort. A beautiful place and a lovely location. Of course on arrival, it was time to rest, relax and then eat. It was at this point we realised that the plans we made for Matara were flawed and we were left with too little to do for 4 nights worth of stay.
For example, whale watching was a seasonal activity that wasn’t available at the time. We decided to sort it all out tomorrow and instead to spend the rest of the day walking around our area. Our unsuspecting selves didn’t know we would be in for a day of history and tea tasting.