Elephant Adventure

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There was commotion coming from within the thorn scrub… A crunch of wood and the rustling of leaves broke the silence as we sat barely daring to breath… A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead as the punishing sun beat down from its impossibly overhead position… A small lizard ran across the track an then all of a sudden the source of the noise came into view, crashing through the undergrowth…

… We had spent the morning travelling the two and half journey from Tangalle to Udawalawe National Park by Tuk Tuk… Other than the Sri Lankan trains, this was our favourite method of getting between places. The journey to Udawalawe had been a kaleidoscope of jungle, rice paddy fields and bustling towns. We had come to Udawalawe with one thing on our minds… To see the Elephants…

We watched in awe as two Elephants came into view… Having only ever seen Elephants in captivity, it was incredible to finally see them where they belong.

We had booked a ‘safari’ through the National Park through our excellent host Thilak at Nature House… Our driver and guide had hawk like eyes, suddenly stopping our jeep to point out a tiny chameleon disguised on a nearby shrub. We had looked at other options for seeing Elephants, but for us it was important that we didn’t see them in an environment where they are chained up and made to pose for photos with tourists on their back – also, it only really counts when you see them properly in the wild anyway.

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After watching the elephants for a short while, we continued deeper into the National Park, spotting Hornbills, Bee Catchers, Green Parrots, Mongooses’, Wild Cats and Crocodiles…

We were perched at the edge of a watering hole watching the turtles bask in the sun, when suddenly a small herd of elephants appeared out of the scrub… Led by Grandma and with Mum and Aunties flanking them, two baby elephants excitedly ran into the water to cool down and play around… It made for a wonderful photo opportunity.

Udawalawe National Park gets its name from the giant reservoir the park is located around. Originally the reservoir was built by the British in order to provide a freshwater store for the dry season along the south coast. Today though it stands as one of the best National Parks in Sri Lanka as well as the undoubted best place to spot Elephants. No trip to Udawalawe is complete without visiting the Elephant Transit Home at feeding time… The Transit Home is run by the Born Free Foundation and the work they do is incredible. Please do check them out if you have a chance:

Born Free – Elephant Transit Home

The town itself consists of a row of local shops, businesses and restaurants, interspersed only occasionally by a guest house. Part of the charm of the place is the lack of tourists and the local vibe of the town… We were able to find several essentials within the shops and enjoyed chatting with the friendly locals to find out more about the history of the place.

The scenery was beyond comprehension… In the distance, the mountains of the central Sri Lankan highlands rose upwards towards the heavens… In the fading sun, they stood as majestic purple silhouettes against a sky exploding with colour. As we drove away, we watched as a lone male walked across the plain towards the reservoir to enjoy an evening bath… Everything about the moment was so perfect that words could never do it justice.

… Lying on the hammock looking at a sky bright with a billion stars, I wipe a bead of sweat from my forehead… The sun has long ago vanished into the Indian Ocean, only to be replaced by something equally as hot in the shape of a local style rice and curry… Swaying gently in the hammock listening to the chirps of the crickets my mind drifts back to the Elephants and the majesty of Udawalawe National Park… The memories only grow fonder…

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