When the weather takes a turn for the worse, there’s only so much Netflix under a parasol that you can watch before you feel a major case of FOMO. Having travelled 12 hours to get to this little corner of paradise, it was time to venture out of the hotel and start having a Sri Lanka adventure. As a total animal-lover (I had all the wildlife Filofax’s dontchaknow!) seeing some of nature’s most majestic creatures outside cages and chains has been on my bucket list since I was 7 years old. Which is why a Sri Lanka safari was top of my to-do list whilst we were there.
After deliberating between Yala and Udawalawe National Parks and hearing conflicting opinions about the treatment of the animals we decided that the latter was best at 2.5 hours away. Speaking as an early riser, even I struggled with the 3am wake up call but we were told that sunrise is when it all happens (doesn’t it always?!).
We slept most of the journey and were awoken by our guide just as we were driving over the foggy tree canopy. With exotic birds flying overhead and a silence that can only be found at the heart of nature, we knew this was going to be an experience like no other. A notion that was confirmed five minutes later when our driver slowed down and pulled over to show us a lone elephant eating grass on the side of the road. It was the most unusual yet natural thing I’ve ever seen and we sat there watching it for the best part of 15 minutes. If this was the only sighting of our Sri Lanka safari I’d be pretty content with that!
Being there just puts everything in perspective…
Luckily, because of the rain we had a safari Jeep to ourselves which meant that we had complete control over what we saw, where we went and how long we ogled elephants for. The next 2.5 hours were spent lulling around the plains, keeping our eyes peeled for anything that moved and occasionally faking being excited about things we had at home (a peacock? Snap snap!). Although I’m not much of a twitcher, seeing multi-coloured parrots and albatrosses was actually more exciting than I thought it would be.
As a self-confessed David Attenborough fanatic (and what?), I wasn’t prepared for the emotion I felt seeing the animals in their natural habitat. Nothing quite compares to seeing them with your own eyes and it wasn’t long before we stumbled across the parks watering hole where we found submerged water buffalos and a family of elephants. We parked up in the rain and watched the mother show her young how to swat the grass clean, with her baby duly following suit. It was such a touching moment and we felt so unbelievably lucky to witness it on our own with nothing but the sound of falling rain.
We may not have seen a leopard like we hoped (although I saw it’s tail which definitely counts, right?) but we watched monkeys play, steal food from the driver and throw it at us as, a herd of deer and the only elephant in the park with tusks. But the best thing about our Sri Lanka safari? No animal was chained, confined or ill treated. All of the drivers were discreet, respectful and although the animals were clearly used to visitors as they were close enough to (almost) touch, they were free which is hugely important.
As we drove back to the hotel along the canopy road, wet, muddy and buzzing, we talked about the park, the animals and how being there puts everything in perspective. Just as we were almost at the end of the road our driver pointed into the lake and just said “crocodile”. Gathering at the window, there it was, a lone croc in the water and that decided it. We need to go on another safari!
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