Posted by: tim ellis | July 18, 2010

Sunday 18th April 2010

Asian Elephant

Another 6:15 start for the first of two game drives today. We take our bus to Udawalawe. As we approach Sue issues a challenge – who can be the first to see an elephant, as they are sometimes visible near the fence along the side of the road. I can’t see any elephants, but there is plenty of evidence that they have been here in the form of their droppings!

Footprints!
When we get to the park, we transfer into two Tata jeeps. Vilmos, Enikő, The Andersons and myself in one jeep, and everyone else in the other one. We are barely through the gate before we find a herd of elephants, and soon after that we find some very clear leopard footprints in the dirt track we are driving along.

As we continue into the park we see a number of different birds, from parakeets to pea-fowl, taking in kingfisher and an adjutant stork on the way. We also see a Fish Owl, which takes flight as soon as I point my camera at him…

On the mammal front we see jackal, langurs, macaques and mongoose as well as the elephants (which included a young tusker – only about 5% of Sri Lankan bull elephants develop tusks). Robert, meanwhile finds a striking jumping spider on the roof of the Jeep!

Jumping Spider
We stop at some buildings by some shaded water to eat our packed breakfasts and stretch our legs. Stefan manages to find a huge water monitor sitting on the bank, we are even more impressed to be told they can grow even bigger!

We drive back to the gate along the same route, adding spotted deer to our list, then head back to the hotel for a couple of hours out of the midday sun. We leave again at 2:15 for the Elephant Transit Camp where they are feeding the young elephants at 3pm. There is quite a crowd, and in addition to the elephants we also find land monitor, initially half way up a tree apparently looking for birds eggs, then subsequently wandering about down on the ground.

Monitor Lizard

Once the show is over, it is back to our jeeps for another trip into the park. We take a different route this time with more adventurous terrain. We can add hornbill and wild pigs to our list of species seen (although in the case of the latter, they have run across the road and vanished into the undergrowth before it registers what they are).

Dusk is falling when we get back to our bus, and there is just time for a shower back at the hotel before dinner. Apparently some flights to Europe have restarted, so we hope everything will proceed as planned. Laurence and Yvette are off tomorrow to Yalla, and the Andersons also leave us, while Wicki will accompany the rest of us on the bus back to Negumbo.

At the end of the meal is a surprise, a Birthday Cake arrives. Chas says it isn’t actually anyone’s birthday on the trip, but Vilmos’s was just before, and Sue’s is just after, so this is a joint celebration!

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