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Wildlife variety is as good as in Wilpattu, and it is a missed opportunity if one came only to "hunt for the leopard". So many great sights are missed.


Water buffalo loves the mud bath


And so does the wild boer family


Spotted Deer is a gracious animal




Asian Water Monitor not so much


A juvenile Saltwater Crocodile


His older (but not adult) brother



Surely there were plenty of big birds around, Painted Stork being the most colourful one.




Life is not always colourful in the marshlands.



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Yala NP borders on Indian ocean and there is where the only picnic spot is located. The only place where passengers can get out of the car to stretch their legs, and to eat what is in the lunch box, and to take care of other bare necessities. At the time of our visit the toilets were not functioning; so be extremely cautious when walking into the bush area. Look at your feet at all times! And not for the danger of stepping on the snake. I really hope the toilets area will be finished really quickly, as that was the only part of Sri Lanka where I have been annoyed by the garbage.


But back to the sun. The ocean is deep green in colour, and the fine sand is golden colour, and it would be so inviting to swim in if not for the strong waves, and probably also strong rip tides.







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The afternoon was spent the same way as the morning, driving around and taking photos and enjoying the sunny day. Mostly of birds.


Shore fishing


Bee-eaters do eat bees!


Male Indian Peafowl in his splendour




Green (??) Sandpiper



Black-winged Kite





For Zvezda, Yala is even nicer than Wilpattu, for its great landscape views. As we have been able to avoid main »leopard roads« we have avoided the crowds … and sadly also the leopards. So by now, I can say officially, no leopard was seen or photographed in Sri Lanka. Yes, another excellent reason why we will return soon. To end this day, a couple of ellie's photos.




Edited by xelas
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You are right, the variety of birds and animals in Yala is wonderful, what an amazing place. The antlers of that spotted deer...wow!

It's hard to tell from the picture, how big was that water monitor? Are they dangerous to people? Or only look mean and dangerous?

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It was not that big, @@xyz99 . I have seen bigger in Malaysia. Since getting out of the jeep is not permitted they pose no threat.

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Lovely shots and descriptions! So reminiscent of back home for me. That purple monkey is a very nice find.

Those langours are real pests. We had papaya trees in our home and those trees in fruit-bearing season were magnets for those monkeys. They became braver every year. Once my 4 year old brother was eating a banana seating all alone. A monkey came, grabbed the banana and gave him a tight smack before running away. I agree water monitors look mean like Comodo dragons but I've never heard them attacking a human.

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@@Chakra thanks for additional explanations. Glad you are enjoying this trip report.

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12/8 - 14/8 – Tissamaharama / Yala NP and Bundala NP (continued)



The second day was time mainly for birds, at Bundala NP. It is a Ramsar site, and closer than Yala, so we had one hour of sleep more. Bundala NP is located in the wetlands along the Indian ocean. In stark contrast to Yala, there were only 3 jeeps waiting to enter it. A park ranger can be hired, and is included in the price. Yet we felt confident that we would manage on our own.


Early in the morning the light was golden!


Lesser Adjutant


Purple Heron


A group of Gray Langurs watching the sunrise



After the sunrise it was time for breakfast. Not for us, for monkeys!







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Although early in the morning it was already a busy day in Bundala, searching for food or looking after sun rays.


Yellow-wattled Lapwing



Local fisherman was harvesting lotus pods.




Bon apetit!



Our driver/guide sharp eye has noticed this young Rose-ringed Parakeet emerging from the nest.


How is the weather out there?


Great, another lovely sunny day!


Time to show off



In Bundala the mammals are not as prolific as in Yala. Beside monkeys, this wild boer was the only other species seen in the park.





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Birds are plentiful, and also quite well behaved, so close ups of bigger ones were easy to obtain. It must be a hotspot when the migrants return in winter months.


Grey-headed Fish Eagle


Purple Swamphen


Pheasant-tailed Jacana


Great Thick-knee


Black-tailed Godwit


Brahminy Kite


The highlight of the visit were a pair of Lesser flamingoes doing a fly-by; they should not be seen that far south, as most of them were still in the north of Sri Lanka, around Jaffna.




This is how it looks when there are plenty of them; photos done by Prasanna Ambigaibagan one week later, near Jaffna.






Thank You, my friend! Not only that you are a nice person and a great naturalist guide, you are also an excellent photographer!



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It was only a 1/2 day tour this time around. A few more non-wildlife photos and it was time to say good-bye to Prasanna, hoping that we will meet again soon.


Temporary fishermen post



Salt pans near Bundala





A postcard


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Quite exhausted after past two safaris, and as hunger kicked in, we have found this place that is well reviewed on Tripadvisor: New Cabanas Restaurant. Indeed it fully deserves their reviews as the food was tasty, and while sold at tourist prices, not expensive.


The restaurant


The food



The happy couple


Calotes calotes aka Green Garden Lizard is common but beautiful



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Prasanna Ambigaibagan

Hello Alex&Zvezda,


Thank you very much for your visit and given me an opportunity to serve you. your photographs are awesome, really i fallen love with birding after been spending 5 days with you...

now a days i spend some more time with birding too.

looking forwards to share some good topics with safari talk sooner,


Kind Regards,
Prasanna Ambigaibagan

Freelance Naturalist

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I have warned you, Prasanna, that birding is infectious! Glad that you have become a member of this gtreat forum, as you will find plenty of informations about your upcoming trip to Kenya.

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Welcome Prasanna!


Alex, some really great birds and photos again!


On a point of order, is it still a fisherman if he is "fishing" for plants?

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Good question, Peter. I think the main occupation of this man is fishing, and harvesting lotus pods only a side business.

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15/08 – Udawalawe NP

Udawalawe NP is very similar to Kaudulla or Minneriya, at least on the paper. As it was (almost) on the way to Sinharaja, I decided to give it a try. We have finally had a normal wake-up call, and breakfast, before starting another calm day on Lankan roads. There are two national parks along the main road between the hill country and the south coast: Udawalawe and Lunugamwahera. The former is more known, and also more visited. The later has better wildlife diversity, similar to Yala.

An old road sign


On the way to school


Roadside shops



Finding a nice room for only 22 USD helped a lot. The homestay name Silent Bungalow was aptly chosen as the house sits in the back trail behind the army camp and almost no one walks or drives past it. It is very nice place for the price paid, food was very good, room modern and clean, and only the fact that there was no A/C probably keeps the price so low.







Owner has 3 sons, and the oldest one is already heavily involved in a family business as a jeep driver and a guide. Only around 20 years old, he was keen to show us the beauties of the park. We went there for half day safari, in the afternoon, as that is better time to observe larger mammals.

Jeep fleet


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We entered the park around 3 PM, as according to the owner, elephants are coming to drink in the afternoons. Not the best of times for other wildlife, though. Lizards, being cold blooded animals, do like the heat.




Birding was not the best we have had, but we did get one new species there.

Indian Roller


Open-billed Stork



Indian Peafowl showing-off


The bird and the prey

Edited by xelas
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Where we spent the bulk of our time was what can only be described as the Sri Lanka water version of Deadvlei in Namibia. Tough to describe so I will let photos to speak.






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On the way back we had an »African safari« moment, when a female elephant walked down the road toward us. We stopped the car (no place to turn around), and with some hesitation the ellephant decided to walk around us. Not still completely ending the low »Phewww…« when a large bull followed her steps. The tension increased, both ours and of the bull. Long moments (oxymoron, I know, but when one is in our situation, a moment can be darn long :o ) passed then finally the male decided that following the lady might gave him more fun than »playing« with us.

Elegant ellephant lady


Not so elegant looking male


Let's follow the lady


Onde determined bull


It was one really nice day, in a company of a young and enthusiastic guy that loves and respects the nature of his home, what more one can get from a day in the wild?! Our dinner here, as everywhere else, was cooked by the host and served and eaten in a company of other guests.



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16/8 - 18/8 – Sinharaja NP

While we could do the second visit to Udawalawe, we have declined this option, also because we were a bit tired after spending 3 days in a row driving around rough terrain in an uncomfortable off-road vehicle. Game drives in Etosha and Kgalagadi are pure comfort in comparison to sitting in the pick-up section of a Tata Mahindra. And I assume that all those off-road game drives in private concessions in Africa are more or less similar in (dis)comfort.

So we started our »short&quick« 70 km/2 hrs drive to Weddagala where one of the entrances to Sinharaja NP is. Ha, short in km, and by Google Maps about 2 hrs of driving! Well, I would love to see the hero that can cover this road 2 hours!! Already the first half of the trip took more than 1 ½ hrs, and the worst part of the road was still ahead of us! And the weather was great on this first segment.

More (if not all :) ) of local drivers should have this sign on their vehicles


Almost zero traffic


Working on tea plantations is a hard job


Colourful Hindu temple


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But for any serious driver, doing the B181 is a must!! One of the most scenic roads I have ever driven or been driven on. The incline is steady and the road is winding through tea plantations and on top you touch the clouds and then the same on your way down, and then the same again over the next ridge … pure driving bliss. Luckily only a couple of local buses were on this road, and I was always lucky to find a proper place to give way … after driving up to 100 meters in reverse.

Rain has started after passing through town of Rakwane


Drying clothes can be a challenge


Sun rays piercing through clouds


More hills to conquer


Weather was changing almost every few kilometers


Lankans really love bright colours


Road was also changing in quality


I have no idea what kind of a temple this is


Bright green tea plantation against grey sky


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Instead of Google forecasted 2 hours, we needed 4 hours to cover 70 kms, and thus we have arrived just after the midday. A road past our lodge was under maintenance so some time was lost also there. Blue Magpie Lodge is only one of two lodgings in vicinity of Sinharaja NP, thus it is almost always fully booked. Place was the biggest of those we have stayed at, but it does not look crowded, with two separate buildings built one above another. Our room was on top of them all, with a balcony and great view over the valley. Zvezda decided to rest with a book in her hand (later I have learned she has had an animated conversation with a German lady that was our neighbour on the balcony) and I had decided to try my own luck with a camera and birds.

Funny faces of a juvenile Greater Coucal




Layard's Parakeet


Are we still friends?


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Still enjoying the report and admiring your DIY approach. I can see that you don't entirely subscribe to the philosophy that you shouldn't "keep a dog and bark yourself". (Zvezdana is allowed time off occasionally and you seem to be a more than capable substitute when it comes to taking pictures.)

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Yes, I do steal that camera whenever possible :) but for serious work I just let the pro to do it! But thanks for encouraging words, @@douglaswise .

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