NJ joining the seasoned travellers – day 5
Uda Walawe National Park
Having decided to do the full day jeep safari I was very grateful for my long lie in – everyone else in the hotel went for the daybreak one starting at 530 and were a little bleary eyed on their return. We had been put off the daybreak one as although this is a good time to see lots of elephants, it is also the busiest time and there might be 30 jeeps around one herd of elephants.
A breakfast of coconut rotti (as requested by jayne) fried egg and daal balls was actually very nice. We were picked up on time and after dropping off a bag of laundry at we suspect was the driver’s mum’s house we headed for the park entrance.
We had the jeep to ourselves – there doesn’t seem to be any push to fill the jeeps which is a good thing for us as we can stop and start when we like, but not so sure about how environmentally friendly it is. Our driver/guide had little English, but knew all the names for the animals and birds we saw which was good enough.
At the start of the day we were in a convoy of about 3 jeeps, but very quickly headed off some lesser used tracks and found ourselves alone for most of the day. Almost immediately we came across a group of females including a baby which seemed more than happy for us to sit and watch them munching on the vegetation. The guide book says that this park rivals the ones in Africa was seeing elephants – I haven’t been to Africa yet, so couldn’t possibly comment, but the fact that they don’t run off when they see or hear humans is definitely a bonus – and perhaps why Jayne managed to take almost 700 photos (not all of elephants) today. Thinking this would be are only sighting, time and again we came across small groups (always females) or solitary males, although we did see one single female and wondered what she had done wrong to get kicked out of her family. It was mesmerising watching the elephants kicking up the grass with their feet, brushing the mud off with their trunks before scoffing the lot without pausing for breath.
Although the elephants are the main draw, there is an abundance of wildlife which we were lucky enough to see including monitor lizards, peacocks, bee eaters, hummingbirds, painted storks, owls, eagles, hawks, crocodiles, water buffalo and mongoose. Some of the animals were scared off by the noise or movement of the jeep, others sat very still thinking we couldn’t see them. How our driver spotted some of the things he saw through branches or camouflaged against the tree I will never know. Jayne continued to be a good spotter of birds in particular, naming them all causing a wry smile from our guide.
After getting hungry we realised it was 230 – how time flies when you are having fun – and asked him to make a stop so we could find out what was in our lunch boxes. We were allowed out of the jeep and sat and had sandwiches (of unknown variety), sausages (not me), bananas (not Katherine), pineapple, cake and a chewy sweet ginger substance all in a tupperware box as we looked across the lake at a large herd of elephants.
Back in the jeep and suddenly there seemed to be people everywhere. Any time we stopped another 2/3/6 jeeps would stop behind, in front or try to get passed and made the whole thing a little less enjoyable. We had been spoiled with what seemed like a very private tour all day. We definitely made the right choice in doing the full day, but it might have been even better to have finished slightly earlier – particularly as we had seen so many animals already.
We made our way back to the hotel picking up the laundry on the way to find everyone from yesterday gone (most people only stay one night, do the early morning safari and then head off somewhere else) and a new influx of people in their place. Decided to have dinner in the hotel again as the walk up the road to the town seems very long after a long day (how come we are so tired when we have been sat in a jeep all day) and, after checking again as we drove through, we still hadn’t seen any restaurants on the main road. Perhaps we don’t know what we’re missing!
A similar dinner to last night but with an international guest list – Dutch, French, Czechs plus us 🙂 then another early night. It has been lovely to stay in one place for 2 nights, but we heading off again tomorrow earlyish.
Wednesday 17th February 2016