I arrived, had lunch and was soon off on a safari, by myself, which seemed a bit excessive seeing as though the jeeps can fit up to 7 people. Unfortunately, since the price is the same for 1 person as it is for 7, there is no incentive to get more people onto each jeep, plus there are tons of jeeps and the drivers all want business. So off I went in my giant jeep with my driver/guide in search of elephants and elephants were found, close to 50 of them! Once I felt like I’d seen enough elephants (not that there is ever enough), next on my list was the leopard, so off we went in search of this elusive cat. Although no leopards were spotted, I did see plenty of water buffalo, some sambar deer, crocodiles, monkeys, and a plethora of birds; my guide was an avid birdwatcher, so made sure to show me each species in his bird watching book. After 3 hours I was pretty satisfied, so it was perfect timing at a cost of $80. Not too bad in my opinion.
Since I got to Udawalawe a day early, the place I had booked was already full for my first night. Instead, I went to a relatively new place just 5 minutes down the road. Because this new place was so welcoming, modern, and clean, I cancelled my second night at the other place. As comfortable as this place is, I should have just stayed the one night and headed to Ella a day early. There is really nothing else to do in Udawalawe besides the safari. If I were rich, I would have done the sunrise safari too, but since I am not, I had a nice, traditional Sri Lankan breakfast at a decent hour instead, even though my neighbours woke me up at 5:30am to go on their safari. I had enquired about going in the morning but was told, no, afternoon is better. Better for who? The driver, who will make 8000 rupees instead of 4000, that’s who.
I did want to go to the elephant transition home and it was only a 10 minute walk away. Unlike the Pinnawala elephant orphanage that has a bad reputation for allowing tourists to interact with the elephants, thus eliminating fear of humans, the elephant transition home makes us stand at quite a distance to observe the feedings. These 40 babies and juveniles (up to 5 years) live in a smaller portion of the park and are fed milk 4x daily. Once they can eat enough on their own and are no longer dependent, they are released into the greater 31,000 hectare park, but tagged so their progress is monitored. Having said that, one of the tagged ones came right up to the jeep and stole an apple out of the cab, so they would still be considered semi-wild and not so afraid of humans. I was happy that my jeep driver was responsible and drove away instead of letting me pet her (though I did sneak in a little trunk pat). I had no idea how much I loved elephants, but omg, they are so amazing!!
After that, on the advice of my guesthouse owner, I took a tuk tuk to another rock monastery. It wasn’t quite as nice as the last one, but it was okay. I’m surprised that people still want to have their photos taken with me – I find that so bizarre. I was back by 11:30, so other than that, I sat around my guesthouse, did some reading, went for a walk, and planned the next legs of my trip. A little bit of a boring day, but that’s okay once in awhile.