A Safari in Udawalawe

Let me take you back to when I decided it was time to go to Sri Lanka. It was during our trip to the Seychelles in December 2016 where I wrote in our blog post:

"Our travels to the Seychelles was interesting, we managed to arrive a day later after missing our connection in Abu Dhabi and having to fly through Sri Lanka."

Something about the airport in Sri Lanka had made me decide I wanted to visit this country and had created a small … let’s say large obsession with traveling there.

And in December 2018 my obsession came to life when we headed off on an airplane with our plan in hand to visit the jungle for a safari and the ocean to surf. On landing we rushed outside to the heat, oh the heat … this was glorious after coming from Vienna and the snow.

The first thing I noticed was all the tiny squirrels and the sounds they make. You would never believe that this crazy sound came from such a small creature.

Drive to the jungle
Sri Lankan curry for lunch
Bojan sitting in the jungle

From the airport we had a four-and-a-half-hour drive to our first stop Athgira River Camping in Udawalawe. We had booked a taxi but our flight landed earlier. When we were outside we got tricked into booking another taxi (the guy said he had rung our hotel and confirmed that it was ok).

This was a costly mistake as we ended up paying 70 euro twice. As we were tired though from flying ten hours and spending 7 hours in airports we just brushed it off. Talking from experience, it usually takes a couple of days to get into the "right" mindset to avoid mistakes like this. We always make mental notes for next time, but it still always takes at least a day or two.

Getting to the camp was something that I won’t forget. The drive through Sri Lanka is full of lushest grasslands, animals everywhere running across the road and beautiful landscapes. The camp did not disappoint either. It was close to Udawalawe National Park and our tent with balcony looked over the Rakwana River.

We had booked the all-inclusive package for two nights costing just over 200 euro and including all meals and two three-hour safari’s or one six-hour safari.

Buying tickets for Safari in Udawalawe
Selfie in the jeep
Buffalo herd
Drive in the early morning
Chameleon on tree

On arrival we were offered our first lunch and our choice of Safari. We choose to do the six-hour safari the next day. Our lunch included a traditional Sri Lankan meal which was so filling and delicious.

While eating this meal we were treated to a chameleon changing his head to bright red to attract what we called “Blue bombers” (Massive blue bugs, like flies. We have no clue what they are.) The day ended up being a chill out time hanging by the two pools and then a massive buffet menu by the river.

Surprisingly there were not many mosquitoes at all around. Beers on the tree hut balcony were also another treat while watching the sunset.

Close up of Sri Lankan elephant
Elephant in Udawalawe
Green bird
Elephant cub

Safari time

The second day was all about Safari and Chill. Waking up early we headed out in our private jeep. This was so cool having a private Safari jeep for six hours.

The foggy sky heading into Udawalawe National Park made for a dramatic entrance. Parked up with all the jeeps waiting for entry made me jump with excitement. I absolutely love animals and seeing them in the wild makes me so happy. Here is just a little bit of history about the park.

It was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River. The reserve is 30,821 hectares and was established on 30th June 1972. The park is located 165 km from Colombo and is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan elephants. It is also the third most visited park in Sri Lanka.

Alert Buffalo herd
Elephant in Udawalawe
Nikki in the jeep

Traveling around the park we were surprised by the size of the elephants. They are considerably smaller than the African ones. We were lucky to be right beside two of them and watch them eat.

Around 8 am we stopped by the river and sat down to our breakfast. This was where we got a bit of a walk around in the park. After a good breakfast we headed round the park and saw buffalo, a variety of birds, monkeys and chameleons. The most stand out thing in the park was the number of peacocks strutting their stuff and a bird that posed like he was on the catwalk.

After six hours we were reading to chill by the pool. Our evening ended with another delicious buffet by the river and an early night. Jet lag was kicking in.

Our last morning, we woke up to an amazing buffet breakfast by the river, packed our bags and go a taxi for two and a half hours to Weilgama. Our time in the jungle had come to an end. What an amazing start to our Sri Lankan experience. It was time now to go surfing and to celebrate Christmas beach style.