Sunday 28 July 2019

Safari in Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

In the dry season, scores of Sri Lanka's wild elephants gather in either Kaudulla National Park or nearby Minneriya National Park as they gravitate towards the remaining water sources. The local safari guides will know which of the two parks is the better bet in any given week and you might even see elephants crossing the road on the way there. In any case, heading out in the afternoon as the day cools down is more civilised than getting up before dawn to catch the early morning action. Depending which of the deeply-rutted tracks your jeep takes across Kaudulla, you may be the only vehicle in the vicinity as you observe the odd lone elephant, buffalo or fox, bumping your way up and down through the grasslands around the lake.

But once you get deeper into the park and find the extended families of female and baby elephants, you'll probably end up in a loose convoy of a dozen jeeps or more. Still, there are plenty of animals to see and the drivers tend to respect each other's space, so you tend to get a uninterrupted view. The sheer number of elephants is impressive, while it is both heartwarming and entertaining to see so many baby elephants stumbling around their mothers and siblings.

Many of the safari vehicles have peel back roofs, allowing the passengers to stick their heads out of the top, but some drivers say they can be dangerous. If you go direct to the driver, you should get a full afternoon safari for about US$35 a head, including the park entrance fee, but before a tip. In August, Kaudulla National Park must be one of the best places to see Asian elephants up close and personal. 8/10