One of the major goals of Sri Lanka’s visit apart from the train was to visit one of the national parks. We decided between various national parks. One of the parks we were considering to visit is Sri Lanka’s most famous Yala National Park. While reading different reviews and blogs, we still decided to take advantage of Udawalawa Park because it was on our planned route and there is plenty of elephants on a relatively small area. Yala Park is much bigger and there is a bigger and unique opportunity to see leopards, but we were still loyal to the elephants (in addition, the more expensive ticket of Yala park helped us to make the decision).
In order to reach Udwalawa, we had to use the local bus system for a few hours. The bus service in Sri Lanka is very simple, buses run very frequently and the locals are helpful to show you which bus you need to take. We walked to the local bus stop, which location we had been investigating from the local policeman the day before. At the bus stop, we talked to the locals to understand when and what bus goes to our desired destination. We had to change over the other bus twice on the road, and it went very smoothly. However, it should be taken into account that the local bus drivers are driving as fast as a famous Estonian rally driver Ott Tänak.
There was also a quick pit stop on the road because the wheel of the bus had to be changed due to flat tire – local workshop guys acted quickly and during this 10 minutes, the passengers were even not asked to leave the bus. We doubt some of even realized what has happened. Shortly we hit the road again towards Udawalawa.
We arrived at Udawalawa in the evening and our accommodation was 2 km away from the village center. We decided to walk because the local tuk-tuk men asked for a higher price than we were willing to pay. Moreover, we had been sitting on the bus almost whole day so walking was good for us. We reached to our pre-booked Airbnb and it was as nice as we had imagined it to be on the pictures – a great comfortable house in a beautiful place by the river.
Previously, we had agreed with the host that next morning we would go to the nature park safari. It seemed normal there that every man has his own safari jeep, and the safari service is offered to the guests. The price that was offered to us was significantly cheaper than we had studied on the internet, so there was no doubt for us. The host also cooked us a variety of curries for dinner, which was also cost much less than we were used to paying.
The same evening, we also visited the sanctuary of orphaned elephants and looked at how they were fed with milk. Baby elephants are fed with milk every three hours. When the elephants are 5 years old, they are released back to the national park, and they are being observed with a radio device to make sure they adopt the life in the wild nature.
The next morning we were forced to wake up early because at 6 o’clock we had to be behind the gate of the national park to spend half a day watching different animals, especially elephants. The day was quite tiring, but worth every penny and minute. In addition to elephants, we also saw eagles, peacocks, turtles, crocodiles, buffaloes, goats, monkeys, and coyotes. We also hoped to see leopards, but we knew in advance that leopards are observed very rarely in this particular national park. So this did not particularly make us sad. Entering the National Park gives you the opportunity to hire a separate guide, but we did not want to use this opportunity because we hoped that our host driver could also be a guide. Fortunately, so did. Every time we saw an animal somewhere, he introduced it to us, and he was also showing us the right place in the National Park book so that we could read about it ourselves as well. In addition, he also introduced us to different plants.
At 2 o’clock we were back from the safari, and we had planned move on the same evening to the city of Mirissa, south of Sri Lanka. We had previously discovered that there are beautiful beaches in the area. The host took us kindly at the bus stop and showed us the right bus. In the city of Matara, we had to change to the next bus and we arrived safely before the dark. You can read more about the southern coast of Sri Lanka, in the next post.