All Things Wild at the Royal Botanical Gardens

Trip Start Feb 08, 2010
Trip End Feb 22, 2010

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Saturday, February 13, 2010

We spent a good portion of the day at this incredibly old and large garden. Originally conceived in the 1300s as a pleasure garden and formally developed sometime in the mid 1700s, it now comprises about 150 acres. It is the largest of the three botanical gardens in Sri Lanka and is visited by over 1 million people each year and the day we visited, there were lots of school children visiting. There are over 10,000 trees, an orchid house, a huge collection of bamboo from Burma, China, the East Indies, and Japan.

The highlight for me was seeing thousands of fruit bats roosting in numerous trees. They were mostly roosting hanging upside down, but some were also flying and landing in the trees. These mammals were huge. Although I didn't have binoculars, I believe they were larger than gray squirrels. I found references on the Internet to them as "flying foxes". They were simply amazing and the sounds of them screeching was wild. See the video with the attached photos for a sample of what it looked and sounded like.

We also saw Toque macaques in the garden. They were actually quite habituated to people - there were numerous signs asking visitors to not feed them. Actually, these primates appear to be the raccoon of Sri Lanka. Locals don't like them, as they get into the trash, come into houses to steal food, and otherwise are a nuisance. Some families resort to shooting cracker shells (a firecracker like device shot from a shotgun) when ever the monkeys come nearby to scare them away.

After the gardens, we headed into Kandy for lunch at a Sri Lankan Tamil restaurant Ruth recommended. Lunch was rice and various curries, all brought to the table in big pots and poured on your plate. There was no silverware and we ate with our hands (right only) by balling up the rice mixed with curry. It was incredibly good - not like any Indian food I've ever eaten in the US. Very spicy, but not burning. All for about $4.20 for the four of us. After lunch,we headed to a local fruit drink store at a place called Liquid For Life. Shira got lemon/mint, Ruth and Dov got mixed fruit (watermelon, pineapple, and mint), and I got banana. These drinks were a perfect ending to a hot and spicy lunch. I also got something called Fruit Salad (see picture) - fresh fruit with a scoop of ice cream on top.

Somehow, we also managed to eat dinner - at a Sri Lankan restaurant popular with locals for take out. We had chicken curry, fish curry, dahl curry, string hoppers (rice flour noodle pancake), hoppers (coconut, rice flour, crispy crepes), pol sambol (shredded fresh coconut, chile, oinion, dried fish, lime - all shredded), and parata (Indian like bread). For desert, we had watalapan - a flan like sweet made with syrup from palm trees and eggs. Despite the different diet here, none of us has gotten sick. By the way, breakfast generally has been fish curry, dahl curry, pol sambol, and string hoppers.

After dinner, we went shopping for spices and tea at a local grocery store. It was fun trying to figure out which curry to buy - there were so many choices.

You may be wondering how I'm getting to the Internet. As it happens, Ruth purchased a USB mobile web device for her use during her stay and I'm connecting via the cell network. I've been using this to connect. It's worked in most places (although, as I'm writing this now, the Internet connection comes and goes - probably not great cell service here).

I'm now about 2 days behind on updating the blog - this is being written on 2/15 at about 7:30 pm. More coming when I get a chance.

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Jim Vekasi on

Thanks David, for the detailed commentary. I'm having a great vicarious trip.

We have the big "flying foxes" in Tonga also, although they were a popular dinner item and may be gone by now.


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