On the way down to the coast from Ella, we checked into a dodgy hotel and jumped on a safari jeep. One of those types of jeeps that make eight and ten year old boys jump up and down with glee. A big truck with seven seats and a series of roll bars bolted to the back. We sped along the road, boys standing up with the wind in theirs faces, wooping a lot, and entered Uda Walawe National Park. After picking up a guide (who didn’t speak any English and was useless at spotting wildlife!) and some dodgy safari hats for the boys, we trundled down mud tracks into the scrubland. I wasn’t expecting much really. Dez and Sam went on a tiger safari in India…. I was hoping to see a couple of wild elephants, maybe some deer, perhaps some pretty birds.
Uda Welawe National Park is awesome! Little Green Bee-eaters dart through the trees, landing on branches, becoming almost invisible. Sea Eagles build massive nests in huge trees. We watched one perched in a tree eating what was probably a Monitor Lizard. Hawk eagles, with their funky crest looking like a special hair-do, were poised on branches, scanning the ground for movement, oblivious to the jeep-full of people watching. A Serpent Eagle sat in a tree. Peacocks wander around on the ground. Indian Robins dart from tree to tree. Long-legged black and white chicken-like birds (not their official name, I fear) strut around on the ground making lots of noise. Buffalos wander across the roads.
We stopped at the lake, swollen from the monsoon rains, and got out of the jeep for a while. There are crocodiles in there, apparently, but they won’t be spotted until the lake shrinks in the dry season. Fine by me. I once nearly stood on a crocodile by a lake in Australia. I don’t fancy that again. Part submerged trees sit in the water now with birds perched on their bare branches. Grey herons, white egrets, painted stalks, bright green parakeets and cormorants, and many other birds of all sizes. Bright blue Kingfishers hovered and then darted into the water. Herds of buffalo lazed in the shallows. Sam described it as like something out of Jurassic Park, as a huge pelican flew overhead.
But this was all just a bonus. We were here to see some wild elephants. We drove into the park and turned right down a small dirt track, and there was our first elephant, right in front of us in the road. A single male elephant. Amazing! We turned the engine off and watched it wander out of sight into the bushes. Wow. After that we saw lots more. Groups of females with babies, groups of young males bonding with trunks wrapped around each other, a baby suckling from it’s mother, single male elephants pulling up big clumps of grass and bashing them on the ground to remove the mud before stuffing it into their mouths. Evan counted twenty-five elephants.
At sunset, the sky turned red and the peacocks headed to the trees to roost. A rainbow appeared in the sky. Just as we drove toward the exit, a big male elephant at the side of the road turned and stared at us, a couple of metres from the side of the jeep. A herd of juvenile buffalo ran past and two jackals harassed a peacock by the side of the road. I may have morphed into David Attenborough. Gobsmacking.