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    • TonyQ
      You did well with the range of birds you have seen so far, and you have given us some lovely photos. A shame about the whale watching part of the trip, but you did see some good dolphins
    • wilddog
      Wonderful, I can feel your excitment.   The first lion. Sights and sounds you will never forget.   The perfect 50th Birthday present
    • madaboutcheetah
      @Scooter- Wow ..... That was quick!!!  First of all, Thank you for writing this up!!  so ......  Look forward to the rest of the report/s and what a start!!! Love the Kalahari sunrise.
    • HeatherY
      I think you might be right on that!  I’m sure our guide mentioned what type of bird it was but I didn’t get a chance to write it down! But that sounds familiar. 
    • HeatherY
      Definitely another option worth considering and I’m sure we’ll have some difficult decisions for the next trip. And yes, we do enjoy Indian food so I’ll factor that into the mix!  Thanks for your input!
    • HeatherY
      I don’t think so.  We had no rain in Selenkay or Amboseli and it was just the reflection from the lake (although I’m not sure if it’s a permanent lake?).  There was a lot of water though, so I suspect it had been fairly wet before we arrived. 
    • Scooter
      Researched forever.    Tried to analyze just what I wanted from the trip.     Figured it out,  and booked 9 nights at 3 Kwando camps late November-early December 2019.    It was the year,  both my boyfriend and I turned 50,   and it just seemed like such an epic-once-in-a-lifetime-let's-do-it-adventure.   (little did I know of the massive hook that was about to be set).   (3) nights TauPan (3) nights Kwara (newly re-opened) (3) nights Lebala   My oldest son was in University studying journalism.  (which has quite a photography component)     So he kept jibber-jabbering about aperture,  and editing,   and shutter speed,  and metering,   and focus,  and focal length and ON and ON!!    But once my own trip was booked,   I started to pay attention.     And purchased my first camera,   and had a ready-made instructor living with me.    So I was a complete neophyte for this first trip.    I'd had maybe 2 trips to our local zoo to practice.   And some YouTube.   That's it.   Calgary-Ams-Joberg.      Overnight Intercontinental  airport.         Joberg-Maun.         Little plane.        TauPan.             Can we sleep yet?    Nope!    "Here! Sign these forms!  and Tea is in 15 mins".     (In retrospect,  more time is needed to adjust to such a massive time change).        Very first animal??    Giraffe.      How amazing!    I couldn't believe we were watching one from our deck as we rushed to get into clothing for our first game drive (and it was 44 degrees).    So off to drive to the waterhole to see them.     And then,   we heard the roar of a lion.     Oh My Goodness!!    I had never heard such a reverberation in my chest!    He was close.....and we took off to find him.     My very first night.....seeing,  videoing,  feeling,   watching a male lion roar - just mere metres from me.    Sundowners.   Singing to go to dinner.    What a crazy first day!!   Outdoor shower feels great.    As does bed!!!   And somewhere - in the fog of sleep - and not remembering where you are - you are called to consciousness.   By lions.    Close.    Crazy close.    Heart-stopping roars.     And morning would find prints behind your "chalet".        Night 1,   Night 2,   and Night 3 would have us wakened with lions.    Within camp.    We had wanted to do the "sleep-out".   (the plan was re-thought)
    • KaliCA
      After a few minutes, she walks back in the best evening light, all the while baring her teeth and calling for her cubs.  It looks as if she realized she is missing one. She looks stressed to me.             The mother crosses the road in front of us, gives a long look in our direction, and then keeps walking to the right and disappears behind a berm.     I would have loved to see the little family reunited, but it was not to be, because it's late and we have to leave.  I'm wondering and hoping if the forest guides reprimanded the two drivers for their thoughtless driving and separating the mother from the cubs.  Ooh, do I have mixed feelings about this sighting! Because of stupid driver behavior, this mother got separated from her cubs and was really stressed out. On the other hand, we got some nice shots of her. I hope you understand how conflicted I was after this sighting.  We return to the Tiger’s Den hotel and tell Tilak, the manager, about this sighting. He says that we are very lucky since we are the first tourists to have seen this tigress and her four cubs. Only recently did this tiger family relocate from the buffer zone to within the park boundary.   And the cubs are all new to this traffic and mayhem. Now I feel even worse for them...
    • KaliCA
      A little later, we have one heck of a sighting.  After hearing some alarm calls, a few Gypsies are racing down a road and around a bend. A tigress is coming out of the bushes and crosses the road, followed by 4 tiny cubs. Everything goes so fast, and we are hanging on for dear life so after we come to a stop it takes a few seconds to get the camera up to shoot or record. I only catch the last two cubs on a short video. Here two bad proof shots.   Then mayhem ensues. Two Gypsies are racing ahead and somehow manage to separate the mother from the cubs. Who does that? First rule in the wilderness is "never come between a mother and her babies", be it elephants, buffalo, or tigers. I can read the stress in the tiger mother's face after she loses track of her cubs. We think that three of them ran to our left and one cub is hidden in the grass on our right.   Cubs are running away from the stupid jeeps in front of us   The mother returns and looks around for her babies. CB made sure that there is a wide space between us and the two thoughtless Gypsies in front of us. The tigeress knows who the bad guys are and she charges the Gypsy in front of us twice; bares her teeth, flattens her ears, growls, and leaps towards them.      Quite a fearsome sight to behold, then she runs and leaps across the road and stays by some bushes further back, calling and looking into the bushes. Two cubs are back there with her.     My video shows two cubs are back there with her. This pic shows one cub is with her.  
    • KaliCA
      After getting back around 11 am, we rest, have a late lunch and then go out for our last game drive in Bandhavgarh NP.   Wooly-necked Stork It's special cause it's TWO Kingfisher This one we know from southern Africa: Hoopee   Pretty soon, we happen upon a few standing vehicles and guests are looking up on a hill. There is a tiger lying under a bush. It's far and hard to see.   Phil's shot   And two bad screenshost from my video More vehicles are parked ahead, and it looks like they might have a better view. When my husband is asking CB to please move further up to where the others are parked, his response is, "You can see from here." And we stay put. Oh no! that's the wrong answer when a client is asking for something important to him for photography. My husband is not amused and quite sour about this incident. 
    • KaliCA
      And guess what? No wedding music disturbing us! Yay! It would indeed be a treat to be part of an Indian wedding. We had one at the hotel in Khajuraho and saw a tiny bit of it. This deer, Muntjak, we saw on our way home last evening.   We start our morning game drive and it's a second visit to the Kitouli sector. Check in station Beautiful morning light   The Flame Trees are starting to bloom and are attracting many birds. So this morning is mostly a birding morning.                        Feel free to name the birds, please.
    • KaliCA
      @xelas@michael-ibk@GalanaThank you all for your nice comments! Galana: After 20 game drives, it's still not clear to me what the rules are. Maybe there are "no texting allowed" rules, but they are ignored, even tolerated? Or maybe it's one of those things no one wants to talk about...  
    • kittykat23uk
      Day 3 To Yala We awoke to cloudy skies, a few palm squirrels were feeding outside our balcony window. We left after breakfast and headed towards Thissamaharama. We made a few stops on the way, first spotting some more western race purple faced langur, a female Asian Koel, Green Imperial Pigeon, Brown Flycatcher, Red-vented Bulbul, White-vented Drongos, White-breasted Kingfisher and Wet Zone Toque Macaque, one of three races of Toque Macaque. P2051667 Palm Squirrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2051694 Palm Squirrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2051784 Purple-faced Langur - Western race by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2051838_01 Indian Koel /Asian Koel by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2051899 Brown Flycatcher by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2051936_01 Red-vented Bulbul by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2051951 White-vented Drongo by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2051970_01 Wet Zone Toque Macaque by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052001_01 Wet Zone Toque Macaque by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2052079 White-breasted Kingfisher by Jo Dale, on Flickr   A Brown Mongoose was spotted from the minibus as we continued on.  P2052149 Indian Brown Mongoose by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052169 Common Lime Swallowtail butterfly by Jo Dale, on Flickr Our next stop was to search some local villages for owls. Chin’s network of contacts delivered here and he met up with a local gent on a motorbike who was able to direct us to a number of owl species. After a false start with a no show scops owl,  the first species we encountered was a pair of diminutive Jungle Owlets. They were roosting in a large tree in a private garden, peering at us nervously from between the foliage.  P2052317 Jungle Owlet by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052412 Jungle Owlet by Jo Dale, on Flickr We were then directed to a roosting Brown Hawk Owl. This sleepy owl gazed languidly down at us before dozing off. Sunbirds in Sri Lanka did not seem to be as numerous or visible as in Africa, but we did manage to spot Loten's sunbird flitting through the bushes along the roadside.  P2052442 Brown Hawk Owl by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052473 Brown Hawk Owl by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052489 Loten's sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr Our final owl species for this morning came in the form of a pair of Collared Scops Owls which proved tricky to photograph, being that they were both hiding in a tangle of vegetation and backlit by the sun.  P2052559 Collared Scops Owl by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052591 Collared Scops Owl by Jo Dale, on Flickr After that productive session it was time to carry on to Yala and check in to our hotel. We were meant to be staying at Kithala Resort in Yala. We actually stayed at Oak Ray Wild Yala Hotel instead. There had been no discussion beforehand about this change of accommodation, but to be honest we hardly spent any time at the hotel so I didn’t even notice at the time that it wasn’t the one that was set out in the itinerary. The room was comfortable, but our balcony looked out onto a small walled garden area, without much going on. I availed myself of the pool which was fine.  However, looking back on it now, whilst both hotels are closely located, Kithala Resort looks to be in a nicer area with grounds that look out over expansive paddy fields, whilst our hotel was on the opposite side of the road, in quite a built up area.  IMG_20240205_122400 Oak Ray Wild Yala by Jo Dale, on Flickr We had lunch and a bit of a rest before heading out to Tissa wetlands, to do some local birding.  P2052607 Green garden lizard (Calotes calotes) by Jo Dale, on Flickr I used this opportunity to log onto the wifi and check in with Ian back home. It turned out he’d had an eventful day as he opened the front door to find a stray rabbit hopping around on our front driveway! He’d managed to wrangle it into our pet carrier and it was currently residing in our kitchen, well away from our three bunnies. With it being a Sunday in the UK, the vets were all closed, but I suggested that he try a local contact who fosters for one of the Norfolk rescues. She was kindly able to take the bunny in, which was quite a relief! In the late afternoon we birded around Tissa. Chin demonstrated his knowledge, deftly pointing out all the birds that we were seeing. This included species familiar to me including Grey and Purple Herons, Indian Pond Herons, Blue-tailed and Little Green Bee-eater,  White-breasted Water Hen, Whiskered terns, Purple coot (swamphen), Indian Darter, Plain Prinia, Red-wattled lapwings, Coppersmith Barbet (here known as Crimson-breasted barbet),  Brown-headed barbet and so on (most of which were new to Eric). We soon found that in Sri Lanka many of the birds that I was familiar with from India were called different names here, and indeed several species in the tick lists provided by Chin, were called out with different names by Chin when we were out and about, it certainly led to some confusion!  P2052670 Purple Heron by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052714 Indian Pond Heron by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052766 Blue-tailed Bee-eater by Jo Dale, on Flickr White-bellied Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kites drifted gracefully over the marshes. Less familiar species included, Ceylon Woodshrike, Red-backed woodpecker and Sri Lanka green pigeon. As it was getting on towards early evening Chin took us to a private garden to await the arrival of the endemic White-naped Woodpecker. While we waited for it to show up the owner showed us an exquisite little nest that was the home of a Purple-rumped Sunbird. The woodpeckers arrived before it got dark and we got some nice views, if not decent photos of them. We then went to a massive roost of pelicans, egrets and Indian Flying Foxes where we spent our final hour before retiring to the hotel for dinner.  P2052770 White-breasted Water Hen by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052866 Purple Heron by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052890 White-breasted Kingfisher by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052912 Ring-necked Parakeet by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052918 Whiskered tern by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2052998_01 Purple coot / swamphen by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053015_02 Indian pond heron by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053026_01 Red-wattled lapwing by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053064 White-bellied sea eagle by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053223 Green Imperial Pigeon by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053230 Green Imperial Pigeon by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053253 Brahminy Kite by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053259_01 Brahminy Kite by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053308 Grey Heron by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2053352_03 White-bellied sea eagle by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053383 Little Green Bee-eater by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053405_01 Ceylon Woodshrike by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053410  Little Green Bee-eater by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053426  Little Green Bee-eater by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053504 Coppersmith Barbet (Crimson-breasted barbet) by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053518 Coppersmith Barbet (Crimson-breasted barbet) by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053548 Red-backed woodpecker by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053557 Red-vented bulbul by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053563 Red-vented bulbul by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053603 Indian Darter by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053660 White-bellied Sea Eagle by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053687 Plain Prinia by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053760 Sri Lanka green pigeon by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053779 Brown-headed barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053805 Brown-headed barbet by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053811 Purple-rumped sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053835 Purple-rumped sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2053978_02 White-naped Woodpecker by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2054004_02 White-naped Woodpecker by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2054072_02 Indian Flying Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2054099_02 Indian Flying Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2054121_02 Indian Flying Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2054124_02 Indian Flying Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2054165 Spotted-billed pelican by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2054174 Indian Flying Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr   VID_20240205_182627 Indian Flying Fox leaving their roost by Jo Dale, on Flickr VID_20240205_182712 Indian Flying Fox leaving their roost by Jo Dale, on Flickr   Chin told us that we would go for a night drive between 10PM and about 2 to 3AM. I asked why we would start so late rather than go out straight after dinner. He advised that because we would be driving around the local fields etc we needed to wait until human activity died down to have a chance of finding the cats and other targets. Night driving in Yala itself is not permitted so we spent our time looking around local farmland and paddy fields. It should have been a good area for fishing cats.     Well the night drive wasn’t particularly productive. Whilst we did see a few small cats they all seemed to be feral types, not any of our targets and I wondered how we were ever going to find any truly wild cats in this area. We had a sighting of an Indian Gerbil, the first of several Black-naped Hares, and a few bats. We did see a Painted Snipe, both Indian and Jerdon’s Nightjars, and an Indian Stone Curlew but otherwise it was pretty unproductive. Worse still, when we got back to the hotel at about 0230 we found that we had been locked out of the complex! Whilst Chin tried to raise the night staff, one of our drivers scaled the fence and went off to look for someone. It took about half an hour before someone finally came to let us back in, so we didn’t get to bed until gone three am. We had an early start as well for a full day drive in Yala. I hoped that would be more productive than the night drive had been.      P2064204 Painted Snipe by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2064232 Indian Nightjar by Jo Dale, on Flickr P2064274_01 Indian Stone Curlew by Jo Dale, on Flickr
    • kittykat23uk
      Day 2 Mirissa whale watching   Chin advised us that we had time to grab breakfast before heading to the harbour to board our boat. As we ate we saw many other boats departing the harbour and I wondered whether we were making the right decision to leave it a bit later or not.. Chin had arranged a private boat for us. He then told us that, since it was a private boat, and we were only two people, that he had invited some of his photographer friends along to fill it. Whilst we were not unhappy at the prospect of having other people join us on the boat, given that more eyes might be useful to help us spot the whales, I was left wondering about whether we were either paying for his mates to effectively get free passage on the boat, or if he was charging them on the side? Given it was so early on in the trip I didn’t want to create a bad atmosphere by raising it as an issue with him, but it didn’t really sit too well with me, especially since snorkelling seemed to be a non-starter! In hindsight it would have been better to have got a bit more clarity on the extension so that we could have come to a different arrangement about sharing the cost of the boat with anyone else who might have wanted to join us, but like I said, he wasn’t all that forthcoming about the details!     As we waited to depart, a Striated Heron perched briefly before being spooked.  We left the harbour under grey skies passing the myriad of colourful Sri Lankan 'Oruwa' fishing boats, and equally colourful larger fishing vessels that were docked there. Various species of terns coursed between the vessels and crested terns of the lesser and greater varieties dived for fish further out to sea. A Whimbrel perched on some rocks as we passed a promontory.     P2040002 Boats by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2040004 Boats by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2040005 Boats by Jo Dale, on Flickr   IMG_20240204_074435 Mirissa by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2040067_01  Striated Heron by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2040076_01 House Crow by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2040084 Whimbrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2040188_01  Lesser Crested Terns by Jo Dale, on Flickr   Our first sighting was of a pod of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins including some calves. Conditions for photography were not ideal. It was quite squally, with intermittent showers. But it was a sizable pod that spent a fair amount of time playing around the boat.    P2040304 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2040361_01 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin by Jo Dale, on Flickr   We next encountered a school of spinner dolphins, unfortunately not really living up to their name as we didn’t see much of their signature spinning out of the water, mostly we were just catching shots of a slender beak or tail as they breached the surface of the ocean.    P2040701_01 Spinner Dolphin by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2040711_01 Spinner Dolphin by Jo Dale, on Flickr   Something odd happened after that. Apparently our skipper got word of blue whales, which got our hopes up, and there was a whole load of boats all looking in one area. We were still some distance away. As we approached, I could have sworn that I saw a large blow in the centre of the activity and I thought, “ah that must be the whale”. However, as we arrived on the scene we caught sight of a pod of Risso’s Dolphins and we spent all of our time on the scene following and photographing these odd-looking cetaceans, as did the other boats. I enjoyed watching these blunt-nosed dolphins and they were challenging to try and photograph, I’m pretty sure these were a lifer for me. When we lost sight of the last of the Risso’s I began to wonder about the whales, most of the other boats had started to head back to shore, but we carried on out to sea.    P2040987_01 Risso's Dolphin by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2041235_02 Risso's Dolphin by Jo Dale, on Flickr   A box lunch was provided for us on board. Chin spent a lot of his time on the boat either up top with the skipper or chatting to his mates, one of whom was terribly seasick, and it was at this moment that it would have been helpful if he could have spent a bit of time letting us know what was going on. We initially thought we were trying to relocate the whales we had been chasing, but nothing materialised, and we seemed to be motoring along without a plan. The wind had picked up and the intermittent squalls were not making this the most pleasant of boat trips, and activity seemed to have died off.     I assumed, because Chin had mentioned pelagics the night before, that we might be going further out to look for albatross and shearwaters but none materialised. So eventually I approached Chin and asked him what the thinking was behind our current course. To my surprise, he advised that the skipper was mistaken, none of the other boats had seen any whales that morning and that we were just out here looking on the off chance. Well that was very puzzling since I was certain that I’d seen a blow! Was I mistaken, had I just seen some sea spray or engine exhaust? Was the skipper really mistaken, or was Chin just trying to make us feel better by telling us that we weren’t the only ones who hadn’t found the whales because we were late to the party? I don’t know, there didn’t seem to be any English people staying at the resort to ask about their sightings, but either way, we never saw any blue whales or other baleen whales for that matter. On the way back we did get me another lifer in the shape of a very brief sighting of Pygmy Killer Whales, sadly I didn’t manage to get any shots of these.    On our way back from the dock, we encountered our first Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Oriental Garden Lizard. After we got back from the cetacean watching Chin took us to the grounds of another hotel, owned by one of his many friends (Chin seems to know everyone in Sri Lanka!), to do some birding and watch for some Indian flying foxes. Before we could get any birding in the heavens opened and the whole place was engulfed in a deluge of biblical proportions! We resigned ourselves to sitting in the open air restaurant drinking tea and watching a Greater Coucal making short work of a scorpion under a bush. The photo is terrible as the light was non-existent. The weather eased off at dusk and I think Eric was amazed at the size of the flying foxes (a first for him) that flew overhead as we lost the last of the light.    P2041465 House Crow by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2041481 Oriental garden Lizard by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2041513 Blue-tailed Bee-eater by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2041564_01  Greater Coucal by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2041591_01 Greater Coucal by Jo Dale, on Flickr   P2041607 Indian Flying Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr   In hindsight this extension definitely didn’t live up to my hopes or expectations when I started planning this trip. By the time we arrived I had started to suspect this is what we would end up with but even so, I don’t think this extension was worth the cost.    When I got back home I did a bit more digging on the situation with the lack of whale sightings and the rules around snorkelling with them.  I contacted a company called Aqua Firma who specialise in whale snorkelling tours, and they advised me that, yes, snorkelling in Mirissa is no longer allowed as it’s too busy there with boats. Indeed, it did seem that there were pretty high numbers of commercial whale watching tours operating there.    Aqua Firma gets permits to snorkel with cetaceans, but not in Mirissa. They operate in the North East each March, but they decided not to go ahead this year, instead using it to observe how whale arrivals unfolded. I was told that tropical storms in the NE Monsoon period of 2022/3 interrupted the onshore flow of wind which the areas needed to create upwellings. Upwellings create a bloom in phytoplankton which by March has usually created a huge food chain, which subsequently attracts the cetaceans in. This is why the previous season was so poor in terms of whale sightings.    The NE Monsoon did run normally this last Nov – Feb (23/24) and a plankton bloom did emerge; but they decided to play it cautious, using this year for monitoring only - they didn’t want to disappoint anyone. It would seem that, despite more promising signs for this year, the area around Mirissa at least was not yet fully recovered enough to attract whales in good numbers. A friend of mine who travelled not long after us did see a fin whale and calf, but no blues. He went with one of the commercial tour boats with a “hundred other people” and did not enjoy the experience.    In the event that the situation picks up again in the future I would probably look to a more specialised company such as Aqua Firma if I were ever to consider a whale snorkelling trip in this area. In the meantime I’m looking at some other options outside of Sri Lanka for this activity.    It annoys me as I feel that Chin could have been more forthcoming with his information in respect of this trip and I really feel that we were over promised what we received. Had we been in full knowledge of the facts we might have deprioritised the whales and maybe sought advice on whether February was the best time of year for our other targets. The weather had been unseasonably wet for the time of year which I feel went on to impact our success with some of the other key target species.  
    • kittykat23uk
      Day 1 In flight to Paradise Beach Club Mirissa   Unlike Ecuador, we had no issues with our direct flight to Colombo and everything went very smoothly. Chin and his driver Suresh were there waiting for us and we were soon on our way towards Mirissa. We made a stop at an opticians en route, which not only gave me a chance to get my glasses ordered but we also had our first mammal of the trip, Western Purple-faced Langur (leaf monkey) right next to the opticians.  The Purple-faced Langur is divided into four different races across the island, some of which look quite distinct, and we hoped to see representatives of each race on our journey. Our transport was a minibus and our driver Suresh was excellent and we felt very safe in his hands. We soon found that Chin sat up front with Suresh and mostly chatted to him as we drove between locations, throughout our tour. We frequently found we were having to always be the ones to initiate conversation and ask for information, and it was quite hard to build rapport with this guide, unlike Francisco who always kept us informed and with whom the conversation flowed easily.    Western Purple-faced Langur (leaf monkey) - By Eric Sills by Jo Dale, on Flickr   We checked into Paradise Beach Club, but by the time we reached Mirissa it was already getting on towards dusk, so there wasn’t much time to explore the local area. Eric went for a walk along the beach whilst I enjoyed the pool. We then met up with Chin for dinner and to discuss the plans for our whale watching excursion the next day. At most of the larger resort places we stayed, food was generally either buffet style (breakfasts/dinners which included a variety of local and international cuisines of varying quality) or a choice of three or four main lunch options with a couple of options for starters and desserts. Soup seemed to be served most lunchtimes in addition to starters.    IMG_20240203_200603 Paradise beach club by Jo Dale, on Flickr   IMG_20240204_065517 View from room at Paradise Beach Club by Jo Dale, on Flickr   We timed this trip to hopefully coincide with peak time for blue whales. However a friend of mine who also organises tours to Sri Lanka had advised that blue whale sightings had been down in recent years. At dinner, Chin also confirmed that only a couple of blue whales had been seen recently and worse, the coastguards were not permitting snorkelling trips at all! Before we arrived Chin had not been particularly forward with me about the prospects of the snorkelling tour. It had pretty much gone from “yes I can definitely arrange”, to “yes, but it’s extra cost” and when pressed he did not confirm how much extra it was, to now “no, it’s not allowed any more and by the way the chances of even seeing the whales are not too good”.   Now given that this was a key priority for this tour, and an extension that was costed separately, at a price of US$ 670.00 per person, sharing a twin room, on full board basis, I was getting the feeling that I might have made a mistake with booking this part of the tour! 
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