Soph’s travel diary: Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

    Ever since my trip to Northern Thailand in late 2012, I have fallen in absolute awe with elephants, so when I found out that I could do an elephant safari in Sri Lanka I was over the moon. After spending some time relaxing on the beach in Mirissa, we ventured two hours north to Udawalawe National Park to spend the next two days surrounded by animals left, right and centre. We set our alarms for 5am so we could get out in time to watch the sunrise before beginning our 6 hour elephant safari through the park when the gates opened at 6am. Within the first 10 minutes of cruising in our Jeep we saw our first elephant, a 30 year old male on his lonesome. Not only was he close enough to not have to squint into the distance to see him, but he was actually within hands reach of us – I could have touched him if I was allowed to (oh I was so tempted)! Over the next 6 hours we were lucky to see around 40-50 elephants as well as a dozen Estuarine Crocs, multiple gangs of Water Buffalo, chameleons, monkeys and hundreds of different bird species including toucans. It took me quite some time to comprehend the fact that there were toucans in Sri Lanka, because well, toucans! I definitely did not know that they inhabited the area but it was such a pleasant surprise. It was very sad to see the 6 hours come to an end, but after having some downtime in the afternoon we decided to venture out to the Udawalawe Reservoir to catch the sunset because what better way to finish an incredible day with a sunset, right? What made it even more special was the lone elephant that decided to hang around right in front of us for the duration of the sunset. I think he was just doing us a favour as he slowly wandered off into the distance after the sun had disappeared, but it was the most perfect way to finish such a memorable day. Udawalawe National Park exceeded my expectations and has made my heart very full with happiness. 

    This little one carefully stepping over the electrical fence to get back into the park.

    We barely saw any other jeeps when we were out and about. Everything felt so remote and personal.

    For those that are tempted to ‘alight the vehicle’ it is unfortunately prohibited in Udawalawe. I definitely had a giggle.

    Welcome aboard the Spencer Safari!

    Kavinda our awesome driver for the day posing for some photos. He had such a great eye for spotting birds and reptiles in the distance.

    Sea Eagles Nest high up in the tree top

    If I reached out my hand, I probably would have been able to touch this gentle giant.

    There’s a peacock down there!

    Check out this cutie hiding away in the tree. We stopped for a few minutes to watch these monkeys play in the valley – it was so precious.

    Look closer and you can see more crocs camouflaged in the distance

    The holes in the ground are the footprints of the Water Buffalos.

    Oh deary me, I wish I had a telephoto lens so I could capture these majestic animals. Here are some spotted deer! They don’t hang around for long when they see or hear the Jeeps, so unfortunately this was the closest we could get.

    This beautiful elephant was one of the oldest in the park at 100 years old!

    Check out these Estuarine Crocs in the Udawalawe Lake. We spotted just 13 from where we were. Absolutely incredible!

    Exploring some of the terrain in Udawalawe National Park

    I could not wipe the smile off my face. It was absolutely amazing to get so close to elephants in their natural environment.

    TIP: If you are planning a trip to Udawalawe National Park be sure to get in contact with Amila (0770517941) – he picked us up on the first day to take us to the Elephant Transit Home and since then we used him for absolutely everything. He is such a sweet heart, extremely helpful and even gave us the title of ‘Best Family in Sri Lanka’, so we are a pretty big deal. Oh and he also let Dad drive his tuk-tuk when we went out to find our sunset spot – scary, but so cool. An absolute gentleman that will make your experience in Udawalawe just that extra bit special.

    All the love in the world,

    Soph xx

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