The safari jeeps arrived in the late afternoon. We had travelled from Colombo that morning to the Udawalawe Safari Village Hotel, visiting the Elephant Transit Home en route and were looking forward to the game drive.
Udawalawe National Park was established as the fifth national park of Sri Lanka in 1972. The total area of the Park is almost 31,000 hectares and this makes the park one of the most expansive in the island. The most common type of environment here is dry grass and scrubland and the park is home to one of the highest densities of elephants anywhere in Asia. They are smaller in stature but more aggressive than the forest elephants of Sri Lanka.
The jeep took us past endless safari hotels and waiting jeeps to the Udawalawe Reservoir and then on to the park entrance. You are supposed to get a tracker at the new visitor centre with the its ticket office but there are more safari jeeps than trackers and many have to mange on their own. Most drivers are pretty good and knowledgeable and the lack of trackers is not an issue. Chamika Cooray who owns Udawalawe Max Safari and drove our jeep, was an excellent tracker and guide with a sound knowledge of the park’s mammals and birds. http://www.udawalawemaxsafari.com
I was hoping to have close encounters with the park’s elephants. I did not have to wait long. We came across lone males and herds with babies, all too busy feeding to bother with us. Some came so close we could reach out and touch them – almost! (see video clip below).
We watched a jackal eyeing a herd of deer hungrily. Buffalo wallowed in mud pools and a brown mongoose scurried along the track and disappeared in to the bush. Crocodiles basked in the afternoon sun.
Pea-hens were everywhere making loud calls and a few peacocks displayed in the sun. (see video clip below)
Birding that afternoon was excellent. There were Bee-eaters, Forest Wagtails, Plovers, Sandpipers, Yellow-wattled Lapwings and Malabar Pied Hornbills. Once a Blue-faced Malkoha flew across the track in front of the jeep.
We had cakes & ginger beer on a gigantic rock formation overlooking the Udawalawe Reservoir before driving back to the hotel. There were fishermen in their little dugout canoes casting nets as the setting sun coloured the water pink.
It was the most rewarding game drives I have ever had at Udawalawe.
(The Udawalawe National park tour was expertly arranged by Flamingo Tours of 129/14, Kadawatha Road Dehiwala, Sri Lanka, Tel: 077-1739773, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.flamingolanka.com)