There is no shortage of wildlife in Sri Lanka. It’s a case of fun sights, but also, most definitely, some bun fights! Read another of my other posts on Sri Lanka here: https://footeloosefancyfree.com/1-sri-lanka-land…es-and-surprises/
We enjoyed our stay in the Cultural Triangle, venturing out from the beautiful Jetwing Lake Hotel http://www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwinglake/ in Dambulla every day, to visit interesting sites, including Sigiriya: Read about that here: https://footeloosefancyfree.com/sri-lanka-sigiri…o-heaven-or-hell/ Look out for future posts on the fascinating Cultural Triangle area.
Even although we weren’t yet in a National Park, we had some fun sights; land monitors in the lake at our hotel, peacocks strutting in the gardens and elephants on our various drives. One was enjoying a meal of water plants in a lake. Two others were right in the road and while the one crossed over, the other came so close that he filled up the driver’s rear view mirror!
Now though, we were looking forward to seeing some serious wild life in Yala National Park. It would have been a very long 6 hour car journey from Jetwing Lake to our next hotel, especially for our little two-year old. So we decided on a spoil; to go part way by sea plane. https://www.cinnamonair.com/ It was still quite a long journey to get to the take off point; a river in quite an obscure town in the Kandy District.
On the way there, our driver stopped at a river right next to the road. More wildlife; ‘tame’ water monitors, who can raise themselves up to gulp down a fish, handed to them by a human – easier than catching the fish themselves maybe, but I still felt sorry for them and that this was a bit of a money-making ‘con’. We had to pay to watch this – probably the drivers get a ‘cut’ too?
The plane was beautiful and we had a pleasant flight. What a treat!
Disappointingly, we landed at Matara airport, not on another river! Then, it was another 1 ½ hour drive to our hotel.There were more fun sights en route; ; cattle on the highway; huge flying foxes.
Jetwing Yala hotel
We arrived at the gorgeous Jetwing Yala hotel http://www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwingyala/ at about 6pm, tired but happy.
We had lovely buffet meal and it being a lovely warm night, we went to sleep with the doors open onto the patio. We woke to a beautiful sunrise.
But hey, where are our complimentary bananas? There were only skins on the plate! Who was/were the thief/thieves – monkey/monkeys surely? We saw a buffalo and her calf stroll past on the sand dunes just below our room and also some wild boar.
Later we went down to the beach and saw ELEPHANT FOOTPRINTS – yes really!
The hotel staff denied that monkeys had stolen our bananas – there was a suggestion that perhaps it was a genet cat. Ever seen a cat peeling a banana?! Later we saw monkeys in the trees near our rooms – definitely them! Why do the staff not want to admit this?
Later that afternoon Dudley and I decided to go for a birding walk. In the hotel notes it said don’t go out of the hotel buildings after 6pm so we presumed this is when the ellies take a stroll down to the beach. It was about 4.45pm so we were sure we’d be safe. We were just strolling around in the bushes, when suddenly, not very far away at all!!, we saw an elephant walking in the direction of the beach!! My voice went high and squeaky “What are we going to do now?” The elephant then spotted us, and spun around ears flapping. We thought it might charge, but it turned and trundled back the way it had come. Whew. Legs shaking, we continued on our walk but went the other way back to the hotel entrance.
When we got inside, there’d been a bit of a panic, because elephants had walked right past the front of the hotel and the dining area. Our ellie also came back, we think not long after we’d gone, because our daughter saw it walking right past our rooms and then it went down to the beach, where our son-in-law and granddaughter were! But no-one was hurt. No doubt they are more frightened than we are.
So more fun sights, even though we’d not yet got to the park!
Yala National Park
We’d booked 3 game drives for Yala National Park www.yalasrilanka.lk . It is expensive, but if you shop around and talk to your drivers/guides, you can sometimes get a better deal. We did, thanks to our daughter’s perseverance.
Our first drive was early in the morning. We left the hotel at 6am – still dark. We thought we’d be first in the queue when we got to the gate. No such luck – let the bun fight begin! It looked like hundreds of jeeps had got there before us. Sal and our driver headed off to the ticket office and it was light by the time they got back.
And then we were off! ….to see….we hoped….elephants, leopards, bears, buffaloes, spotted deer, crocodiles and loads of birds, and more. Jeeps raced this way and that, bouncing over the bumpy roads, churning up dust, overtaking whenever they could. Our driver though was good. He didn’t speed and was considerate towards the other drivers. The bun fight traffic did thin out somewhat when we were in the park itself. What a beautiful park it is and there were lakes and waterholes everywhere.
We got back to the hotel after 10 – but just in time for a delicious buffet breakfast, although the hotel had also given us snack boxes for the game drive.
We went out again that afternoon, leaving the hotel at 2.30pm. The ticket office wasn’t nearly as crowded as it had been in the morning.
We’d seen so much; elephants, buffaloes, crocodiles, land monitors, mongooses, a jackal, spotted deer, a Sanbar deer and crocodiles wresting chunks off a kill in a river (we couldn’t see that clearly because it was very bushy but a good sighting nevertheless).
The birdlife was amazing too and it was great to be able to identify the ones we saw in the Sri Lankan bird book our guide had brought along. We didn’t get photos of them all but these are most of the ones we saw – quite a few that we get in South Africa too: Woolly-necked stork, painted stork, grey heron, other herons, sacred ibis, African hoopoe, , red-wattled lapwings, Layard’s parakeet, Little egret, Common kingfisher (nothing ‘common’ about him – a beautiful bird and it looked very similar to our Half-collared kingfisher), White-throated kingfisher, Blue-tailed bee-eater,loads of Green bee-eaters (posing on branches right next to the road), Purple swamp hen, Ceylon Jungle fowl (Sri Lanka’s national bird), Crested serpent eagle, Crested hawk eagle, Shelduck, Oriental darter, Indian cormorant, Black robin, Jungle prinia,
It was the mating season for peacocks and they were displaying everywhere – what a magnificent sight – even the back view.
We got rained on in the afternoon but it wasn’t too much of a deal. But we hadn’t seen any leopards or bears.
We were heading to the exit gate. It was coming up for 6pm when all drivers had to be out of the park. If they’re late, they are banned from taking clients in for a whole week.
There was a commotion in one of the side roads. A sloth bear had been spotted! All the jeeps…dozens of them, were reversing up the little road – presumably so that they could make a quick getaway for the gate after this sighting. Mayhem…bun fight, as all the guys tried to find a position where their clients could catch a glimpse of the sloth bear nonchalantly chomping grass. He seemed totally unfazed by the hulla-Baloo (get it?!). These bears are much smaller than black or brown bears. He was certainly cute to look at it but not easy to get a photo with all that jostling – I didn’t get one. Amazingly, there were no accidents and not even any really cross words between drivers.
The next afternoon we went out again. Our guide/driver was on a mission to finds us a leopard, so we went further into the park than we had previously. It was really beautiful.
We saw more elephants, buffalo and crocodiles and more gorgeous bird life, including the exquisite Common kingfisher – nothing ‘common’ about him though!
But no leopards. People in another jeep said they had seen one crossing the road..
Many other jeeps had obviously had the same idea as ours, i.e. going deeper into the park to find leopards. Then suddenly they all seemed to realize they had to get back NOW and at speed. We were racing along, bumping over ridges and potholes, when we came across a special elephant – with tusks – right in the road – a fun sight, as only 2% of elephants in Sri Lanka have tusks. We would’ve liked to just enjoy his company for a bit, but our driver sped past him, almost bumping into him, even gave him a fright, calling back over his shoulder, “No time…sorry madam!” He, who had been so restrained before, even overtook a couple of jeeps. This spoiled things for us. But still, we all felt the whole National Park experience had been very worthwhile over all.
And then the next day, while relaxing by the pool, a snake appeared. It reared up before slithering into the water, swimming across and getting out on the other side and then disappearing into the bush. A pool attendant said it was a non-venomous rat snake – still, quite scary for us, but also a great wildlife surprise at a 4 star hotel! I didn’t get a picture, but found this one on the net.
Sri Lanka’s wildlife gave us lots of ‘fun sights’ in spite of the ‘bun fights’!
Thank you to my husband Dudley, who took a lot of the animal and bird pictures with the Canon. He has much steadier hands than me and I was enjoying just looking through the binoculars.
Gorgeous park and stunning photos. Thanks for sharing, Jane.
Thanks Sue. We hadn’t known what to expect so decided to keep our expectations low – and then we were pleasantly surprised!
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