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Probably that one can be not only fined but also prosecuted if breaking the rules (and laws).

The second sign in top row is a warning against wasps; they are nesting on the rock and can sometimes attack.

I am at lost with the meaning of far left and far right signs on the third row down from top. Any ideas?

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I am learning so much about a country I was born in from a guy from Slovenia, lol!


Wonderful pictures, the telephoto shots of the ladders was very clever. Really shows what's involved. So, does the ladder go to the top of that huge rock?


When my brother went there, they had to pay the hefty fee and wasn't allowed to climb up because of wasp attacks and one tourist had to be stretchered out. They did not get their money back either.


P.S: I had to google the images, and wow! There's a little oasis of green and ponds on the top of that rock, pretty cool!

Edited by Gilgamesh
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Wasp attacks are serious danger. The advice is not to move or run away; easier said than done, IMO.

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Our afternoon safari started at 14:30 from our lodge so it was time to drive back. One last (for this trip anyway) look at the Lion Rock, a quick stop for daily ration of coconut water, and slow drive on narrow but well paved roads. Slow because one never knows with whom the road will be shared :rolleyes: .


Magnificent Lion Rock


Warning sign along the road ...


... for a good reason!


Better than Powerade





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Wasp attacks are serious danger. The advice is not to move or run away; easier said than done, IMO.


I thought "pretend you're dead" was just for bears...

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2/8 - 4/8 – Habarana / Cultural Triangle (continued)



I have already mention in post #70 that Minneriya NP was a no-go after what we have seen at its entrance. As that was also reported on various forums, I did not booke a safari jeep in advance, so we have had free hands to look for another destination. Kaudulla NP was mentioned as a part of the same "elephant corridor", and finding a jeep&driver is really easy in Habarana. The main road is lined with jeeps, drivers and tour agencies. I have questioned a couple of providers, but as I was specific on good English and reasonably good in birdlife, none has given me enough confidence to use its services. At least I have found out what a normal price for this park should be.

Back at the lodge (that all happened after returning from Polonnaruwa the day before), the manager offered his assistance. As the price was the same (5000 LKR for 1/2 day trip) and a good driver was promised, I accepted his offer.


Around 14:00 we returned to Habrana where we were picked by a prearranged jeep&driver. And this indeed was a jeep! Probably used for transporting back in the 60ies, a proper Toyota with bakelit driving wheel and suspension that did not suspend anything! At least the driver was nice to me, as I had to sit on the wooden planks at the back of the car, and he drove very slowly. But inside the park, this old vehicle showed us its true nature, getting us over some serious off-road parts.


Kaudulla NP, like Minneriya, is known for its herds of elephants. They are moving between different water tanks, and as August is dry season, they congregate in good numbers. Minneriya boasts a hundred-strong herd of ellies, but also a thousand-strong herds of visitors. Kaudulla was much better in this regard, we have had two herds that we were able to approach quite close, and with only a few cars around. It was a good decision, switching from Minneriya to Kaudulla.
Driving was on plain mostly, so not much chances to watch for smaller birds. There were some of bigger ones that nicely posed to Zvezda.
Brahminy Kite on perch
Lesser Adjutant
A couple of Spot-billed Pelicans encircled by Black-headed Ibis
Painted Stork with admirers
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But the real attraction of this park is Asian Elephant - Elephas maximus. They usually lives inside forested parts of the countryside, but during the dry season (July-September) they come out of the woods to get to the water and fresh food. There is an established corridor between different natural and man-made lakes in that area, and both Kaudulla NP and Minneriya NP are part of this corridor. And very close to Minneriya is also Hurulu Eco Park.

The "iconic" sight: lake, birds and elephant


Lake is used also by local fishermen


The sight why visitors came to this park






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Our driver has positioned the jeep in a good observing point, and there we have had about 1 hour time to enjoy them. And as Zvezda's photos are much better to describe them then my words can, here they are:


One Hour Inside The Family World Of Asian Elephants (part 1)








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One Hour Inside The Family World Of Asian Elephants (part 2)








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And this was the only other safari jeep in that vicinity!!





On our way out there were more wildlife.


Golden Jackal



Changeable (or Crested) Hawk-eagle


Gray (Hanuman) Langur


Soaring high is ... (??)


This day was the most intense one, filled with culture, social and wildlife aspects of rural Sri Lanka. The weather was great, and back at the lodge we have had another delicious buffet dinner. Curd for desert, of course.



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what a splendid set of photographs!.... Came late from work and was wondering whether there'd be another update, and what a treat. Thanks!


How is Habrana and the Kaudella NP associated? You may have mentioned before, is Habrana the city?


Also, do you have a photo of the jeep you were in and the wooden bench seat?


Enjoyed this segment the most, the wild life is superb!

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A long day it was, thus so many photos. Looking back, that day was the most diverse, and one of the best days of our entire trip.


Unfortunately there is no photo of the jeep we have used. However I have found this one on the web. The pick-up part was transformed with two roll-bars to hold the canvas roof, and two wooden benches that were positioned parallel with the driving direction.





For visiting/exploring so-called Cultural Triangle several locations are usually used: Dambulla, Sigiriya or Habarana. Dambulla and Habarana are small towns on main roads, and Sigiriya is a small village adjacent to the famous Lion Rock. Having our own car using Habarana as our base was an excellent option as we have had easy access to activities in the area. If looking on the Google Maps or similar, you will find out that Minneriya NP, Kaudulla NP and Hurula Eco Park are located all close to Habarana.



Now the not so good new. As my Chief Editor of Photography (aka Zvezdana) has left the town (business trip to London) the next instalment will be posted only next Monday! So for all of you reading this report, now is the time to ask questions.

Edited by xelas
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Peter Connan

This model of the Land Cruiser was the first 4x4 I ever drove! I was about 13 years old, and the vehicle belonged to the then head ranger of the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, mr. Erwin Leibnitz.


The second was in fact a real Jeep. A CJ5.

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5/8 - 7/8 – Kandy



Driving distance between Habarna and Kandy is less than 100 km, so we were in no hurry to leave it. On the way to Kandy an average visitor stops at Dambulla to see Dambulla Caves. As I tried hard not to be an »average visitor«, instead of Dambulla Caves I opted for Popham Arboretum. What a great little arboretum, and what a great little man that is a curator of this natural place. He took us all around, what is now, his property, he explained so much about the way that nature should be respected, and even the fact that we were late for any meaningful birding, it was a great stop-over. If coming back we should stay during the night as this is one of the rare places where lories can be spotted.



Bats ... sorry but have not taken note of what species they are


Have I shown you a Common Kingfisher already?


Mr Jayantha, the curator of Popham Arboretum


Cocky as a National Bird should be


Mr.Popham photo


A very different bee hive




We did not stop at Dambulla to visit either the Cave Temple or the Golden Temple, so this two photos from a drive-by is all we can share.


Entrance to the Cave Temple and Golden Temple



Huge golden Buddha






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Arriving closer to Kandy we have seen some of the preparations for the famous procession known as Perahera that took place in Kandy every August. Very scenic but also attracts quite a number of spectators so both nearby towns as Kandy itself were filled to the brim. Anticipating this, and having no real wish to be trampled by a crazy elephant (it did happen already) our 3 nights in that area were booked in the hills above Kandy. Those are already tea plantations areas, with very steep and narrow roads, but lush vegetation and quite forested.

Traffic becoming dense


Very attractive building


Preparations for perahera




Once safely out of downtown Kandy the road winds uphill. That are tea plantations country, plenty of fresh air, birds and ... bad roads.


Crested Serpent Eagle



Tea factory




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The place we slept for 3 nights was Jungle Tide. A statal home with 4 rooms, and a separate smaller house for a family. And a big pool! A proper swimming pool, not a plunge one.

It was DBB as for 12 km from Kandy I needed 60 minutes, and the moment I parked my car I knew it would only be moved again when leaving the place.


I have promised Zvezda 2 days of relaxation and book reading. And I kept that promise … at least the first afternoon. The second day, after a tasty breakfast shared with a family from New Zealand working in India and on holidays in Sri Lanka, we went birding around the road that winded up the hill and over it.


Our target for the day ... not really


Crimson-fronted Barbet


Oriental Garden Lizard


Road, path, trail, .. ???


A proper type of car for those roads





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Slowly walking, with constant breeze or wind that cooled down the air, and a new bird around every other corner, we reached the top of the pass in no time (OK, in 3 hours). Walking back was not much faster so a refreshing swim in the pool for me, and a comfortable lounger for Zvezda was what the doctor ordered.


Before tea it was coffee


Curious Layard's Parakeet


A flower


View over the tea fields


The road is winding up the hill side


Almost reached our destination


On top of the pass


Sri Lankan Junglefowl



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The second day we did a shorter round route (which should have been even shorter if I would not have managed to loose my way while approaching the local village). Nice walk it was, and we were back home around midday, for more swimming and reading. And camera was at the ready for any birds that decided to fly nearby ... or any monkey :) !


Early morning visitor


Toque macaque in front of our room


Golden light time


Bus is going everywhere in Sri Lanka


On their way to the office


More monkey businesses







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So as you can read, we did have two very relaxing days at the hills above Kandy. We did miss the first day of the perahera procession, and we have not seen any of the major tourist attractions in the town of Kandy, but I am not one bit sorry for that. And frankly, even if staying in Kandy next time, it will be the same location.



Scarlet Minivet


Lesser Goldenback


Yellow-fronted Barbet



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8/8 - 11/8 – Nuwara Eliya & Ella

Although Nuwara Eliya and Ella are two very different towns, separated by distance and altitude, they both offers very similar experiences so I've decided to put them together. The common denominators for both towns are hiking and tea plantations.

We have left Jungle Tide early, after yet another great breakfast, and nit only us were a bit sad that we have had to leave this lovely place.


Narrow roads sometimes did posed a challenge ... specially when two bus meets on a sharp turn. But nothing that experienced local drivers cannot resolve.



Traffic in towns was always dense; plenty of bikers also. Not always respecting the traffic laws but at least all of them are wearing helmets!


And many times I have asked myself, why they even bothered to draw that white line in the middle of the road.


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Among the many attractions in and around Kandy, we have visited only one. Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya are about 5.5 km to the west of the city of Kandy in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It attracts 2 million visitors annually. It is a large place, and to really explore it one would need at least 3 hours. We entered early so not many visitors were in the park. It is a lush place, colourful, and with plenty of birds.




OK, I have expected to see them more, and might be that in previous days I became a little spoiled. What this place surely don't lack are flying foxes! They are residents, and in huge numbers! Flying fox aka fruit bat is the largest bat in the world.





The map of the place is included with the price; we have done the clockwise route, and below is a mix of what we have seen and photographed.


Avenue of Palms


Asian Koel giving An Eye


A nest and three Rose-ringed Parakeets


Maintaining the garden requires a lot of labour


Purple-rumped Sunbird


Common Myna


Later on more visitors has entered the grounds. It must be a popular place for locals, to avoid the heat and the bustle of the town. For us, it was time to move on.





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From Kandy the road quickly starts to gain elevation, and soon we were driving amongst many tea plantations. Hills becomes higher, and many waterfalls signalled the abundance of water … and rain.


Scooters are popular


Durian is an introduced fruit ... and also here banned to the outskirts


Waiting for customers


Ramboda Falls from distance


Tea plantations everywhere




Fresh vegetables sold on every turn



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Nuwara Eliya is an old Brittish hill station, located at an altitude of 1868 m asl. The architecture of many buildings clearly shows this heritage. However, being high up it means also being close to the clouds. And clouds were obscuring the potential beauty of those buildings to our eyes.

Main bus station


Very victorian


Hmmm, not my preferred architecture


Gregory Lake is centrally located, and is a playground for many boats and seajets. Not exactly what I was looking for.

Gregory Lake looks better under the rainbow


Our place to sleep, Heidi's Homestay, unfortunately did nothing to improve our first impression. I have had problems to find it even when I was staying right below the house itself. There were constructions going on all around, and also on the house. The room we were shown, well, how to describe it without being unfair to the owner? Let me try: a wet concrete cellar turned into room with a great effort of bringing some joy to whoever would use it by painting the walls in bright colours. But it was cold and wet, and the only place I will not recommend anyone to stay at. There were more rooms upstairs, and more were in progress to be finished on top of this, and the owner was very sweet and friendly, but …





Dining room


And the grey sky turned darker as the first rain arrived. Luckily it rained only for 2-3 hours so around 5 PM we had the chance to get out and to warm ourselves by walking along the lake perimeter. Not much to be seen there either, and our mood became as grey as the sky had been an hour ago.

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Ah, the infamous cellar room - at least it looks very colourful. :P

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Our full day in Nuwara Eliya was dedicated to hike the Horton Plains, a high plateau that offers one of the best views in Sri Lanka known as World's End. We have arranged a tour with a local birder/guide. Early out of the bed and it was still dark when he drove us up the narrow and steep road towards Horton Plains. Although it was really early, we passed by a number of other jeeps and vans, all dedicated to reach the park gates before others. We passed through the village with the highest railway station, and then we stopped for a quick birding. That allowed many jeeps to pass us, and when we arrived at the ticket office the line was already long. 45 minutes I had to stand in that line, in only a t-shirt, and my good health (and the warmth of my anger) which prevented me from catching a nasty case of cold. If we would have arrived 45 minutes later, I would have to wait only maybe 5 minutes!! Everyone arrives before 6 AM when the ticket office opens, and 60 minutes later there is no one else to enter the park.

We stopped again, as there was a good chance to find the elusive Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush in that area. No luck but the light was fantastic and the nature also, the mosses on the trees and branches, together with low flying clouds provided for surreal experience.

Toque macaque warming themselves in the cold morning


Best place to look for Whistling Trush


Yellow-eared Bulbul is an endemic resident breeder in the highlands of Sri Lanka


The Horton Plains has over 16 endemic orchid varieties


Layard's squirrel (??)


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