Sri Lanka - Day 13

Trip Start Jan 04, 2013
Trip End Jan 26, 2013

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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Sabaragamuwa Province,
Friday, January 18, 2013

It's day 13 in Sri Lanka and I want to see some ELEPHANTS!

Its 6am and were hauling ourselves into the back of an open pickup truck furnished with 2 padded benches and roll bars. This will be our chariot for the day as we go looking for elephants.

The Uda Walawe National park is 308 square kilometers of savanna that is sparsely vegetated and were told is great for game watching. Best of all it's only 15 minutes for our guest house. The breeze in the back of the pickup on the way to the park invigorates us for the day ahead.

Admissions paid, a park ranger hops into the truck with us and we make our way to the park gates. About 45 seconds in we spot our first elephants. Two males, still sleepily pulling at some grass. This bodes well for the day's adventure. The four wheel drive jeep makes its way into the park along a muddy, pothole ridden path that swings us violently from side to side as we stand on the benches and brace ourselves with the roll bars. The height gives us an advantage spotting wildlife but every now and again, when you don't properly time a pot hole, the roll bars ram against your ribs or kidneys, knocking the wind out of you. Along the path we see various species of animals (birds, reptiles, pachyderms, and mammals).

About 2 hours into the ride the jeep pulls over for our packed breakfast. Nothing exciting but enough substance to keep is going for the morning. We take advantage of the break to stretch our legs, rest our ribs and wander around the park for a bit. Soon it's time to get back in the jeep and search out some more wildlife. Peacocks, deer, buffalo, jackals, hawks, and crocodiles all make an appearance.

Four hours latter and our morning safari is complete. We settle into the benches of our jeep and enjoy the cool wind blowing over us as we return to our guest house for lunch. We settle in to an outside table to dine el fresco and place our order. As luck would have it there is a wedding taking place at our guest house and we have ring side seats for the grand entrance, complete with drummers and Kandian traditional dancers.

The wedding guests settle in as we finish our lunch. Inside the dining area family members are congratulating the newlyweds as we retire to our rooms (or huts as the case may be) to rest up for our evening safari. Back in the room, comfortably situated under our mosquito net, we edit our mornings photos to the sounds of Sri Lankan hip hop being played over the speakers at the wedding.

4 o'clock rolls around and we hear the sound of our jeep pulling up outside our room. We hope in and make a stop at a near by Elephant Transit Home before returning to the park. The rehabilitation center helps injured and orphaned elephants so that they can be released back into the wild. At the time of our visit 74 elephants had been returned to the wild and 30 infant elephants were been looked after in the transit home.

The highlight at the transit home is feeding time, when the boisterous infants are marched to the main station for one of their four daily milk feedings. The young elephants jostle for position, grunt and shove each other, all trying to get close to the keeper so that they can be fed a bottle of milk. Bellies full they role around in the dirt and play with each other. A fun time for elephants and human spectators alike.

The afternoon sun is on its way down and the heat of the day is starting to wane. With the cooling temperatures (35 degrees vs 38 degrees) more elephants are coming out to
graze. Instead of solitary males we saw in the morning, packs of elephants start to make an appearance, adult females with there young in tow. As the jeep approaches the young elephants hide in the brush. As they get accustomed to our presence, they venture out into the clearings, making sure to stay close to her mothers.

As the day continues to cool, larger and larger packs come out from the shade to eat. They are more active as well now, as they lumber across the savanna on a continuos quest for fresh grass and foliage. Our jeep stops in the dirt road as a pack of about 9 elephants makes its way towards us. Slowly grazing and grunting they pass our jeep paying little attention to us. Soon we're surrounded by elephants.

Four hours have passed and our evening safari comes to an end. We make our way back to our guest house, enjoy a spicy Sri Lanken chicken curry diner and retire to our rooms for a good nights sleep.
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