I am sitting in a big 4WD open-top car with no windows, clinging onto the seat belt like my life depends on it. Although sun already set past the horizon in a magnificent spectacle a few minutes ago, I am still wearing my sunglasses. I can see almost nothing in the dusk, but the glasses protect my eyes like a shield from strong long-lasting gusts of wind which render also breathing quite hard. These harsh external conditions make it impossible for me to contemplate about what I have just experienced in the past 4 hours. But do not worry, I am not caught in the middle of a tornado or anything similar. As I wrote at the beginning, I am merely sitting in this big 4WD open-top safari car … somewhere just outside of the Uda Walawe National Park on Sri Lanka. And the driver (and safari guide in one) is speeding on a narrow asphalt road like a formula 1 racer to get quickly to a parking lot further down past the dam as the working hours are over.
Ak plánujete navštíviť Srí Lanku, pridajte si do cestovného plánu aj návštevu aspoň jedného zo safari parkov. Je to dobrá príležitosť vidieť nielen slony, opice a pávy… čítajte ďalej v slovenčine.
Why to go to Sri Lankan safari
Sri Lanka is famous for its distinct fauna and flora and many animal and bird watching enthusiasts often seek to travel to the country. Monkeys and peacocks can be seen roaming free in the rural areas and even bats can be found hanging from the trees. Tourists can also go and watch turtle hatching at Rekawa beach in the south. But if you would like to see some bigger mammals, like elephants, buffaloes or leopards, national parks are the place to go to. In fact, most of the elephants in Sri Lanka live in national parks or other protected areas for their own safety and also for people’s protection. In addition, elephant (and other wild animal) watching in Sri Lanka is a similar business as a safari in Africa. So after adventures at Kruger National Park in South Africa, I was keen to experience the Sri Lanka version of a safari first-hand.
Uda Walawe National Park
In the vicinity of Dickwela, a place where I stayed in the south of Sri Lanka, there are two national parks open to tourists – Yala National Park in the south east and Uda Walawe National Park in the central south. Both, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Book and Lonely Planet Travel Guide about Sri Lanka recommend visiting at least one of these parks. The latter, Uda Walawe, is the sixth largest park, has larger population of elephants and other species, while for leopard sighting, Yala is reportedly better.
Uda Walawe is a 300 km2 dry zone national park with Walawe Reservoir in the southwest surrounded by open plains and foothills. (See a map here.) Before the construction of the Uda Walawe Dam the area was originally a forest. Dead jungle trees emerging from the reservoir are visual reminders of this. The weather in the park is seasonal with rainfall and dry seasons alternating around every three months, while the air temperature is usually close to 28-30°C. The park was established on 30th July 1972 and the entrance is off a road from Hambantota to Ratnapura via Embilipitiya. Entry is allowed only in a 4WD car and so the hotels and guesthouses usually help in arranging this trip. The ticket office is further down the road and the tickets were around Rs 3500 per person for a half day safari (September 2015). The best time to visit is early morning or late afternoon. I’d recommend the latter after experiencing a splendid sunset spectacle.
What can you see in Uda Walawe?
Uda Walawe is home to 400-500 elephants, which often roam in herds around the park. Nearby is also an Elephant Transit Home, established in 1995 which cares for orphaned elephants. The Asian elephants are different than African elephants. They have shorter ears, different skin and no tusks.
Beside elephants, there are also deers, water buffaloes, crocodiles, eagles, storks, peacocks, monkeys and many other animals which all live in symbiosis. Reportedly, Uda Walawe is also home to few leopards, but they can be difficult to spot.
When you visit Sri Lanka, going on a safari into one of the Sri Lanka’s national parks is one of the things you want to do. It is a great opportunity to see not only elephants but also other mammals roaming free. I’d recommend it especially if you like animals.
Place: Uda Walawe
Date: 25 September 2015