After leaving the Black Pool Hotel, for once at a decent time in the morning and after a nice breakfast we headed of to Yala.
After a couple of hours drive Sunil suggested to stop and get something to drink in a place on top of a small hill in Ella, were we could oversee the environment. In fact it looked a little like the small worlds end of day before, only without the hike in the burning sun, which we could still feel in our bodies. If only we had known before :-). After a fresh glass of orange juice we moved on and continued our journey.
Although I believe that by private driver is by far the fastest and most comfortable way of traveling in Sri Lanka, even then traffic is quite slow. On average your reach like 40km an hour. For Leen that is the biggest change she sees over the last 20 years when she was here as well.
We took a light lunch, and the obligatory Lion beer, in Tissa before arriving in our hotel in Yala, 20kms further down the road.
The Cinnamon hotel in Yala. After entering the hotel from the road, you need about 5 to 10 minutes by car to arrive at the main reception. The bumpy road is not paved or anything but when you arrive at the lake in front of the hotel, the water buffalo’s and alligators in the lake make you realize you’re already in the national park. It was a really stunning view.
Our jungle chalet on the domain was spacious, the bed had a mosquito net, and the bathroom had a very nice and big shower. When you wanted to visit the reception, bar or pool after dark, a guide came to pick you up to walk you there. Needed for protection against wild animals?! Wtf? Safety first 😉
After swimming, getting amused by monkeys, living in the trees above the pool, and dinner we went to bed, because the next day we were leaving on a whole day safari trip.
5.30 am Safari time!
Sunil and Siri being our guides and drivers for today in a 4×4 Mahindra something. Packed with our breakfast and lunchboxes, a couple of bottles of water, sunscreen, sunglasses and the camera with the 70-200m objective we headed for the national park.
Once we got the tickets, which roughly took 45 minutes (!) we entered the resort and started our 10hour journey. The first couple of hours we were going from one aha to the next oh experience; colourful small birds, peacocks, flamingos and even an owl. Crocodiles, wild pigs, deer, water buffalo’s even wild rabbits, all living free in the national park. Wonderful! Amazing!
After a while we noticed our driver was becoming obviously more and more nervous and agitated, talking a couple of times to other drivers passing by. The driving became more and more hard style rally safari until I could not keep myself together anymore and asked, maybe a little angry:
Siri wtf are you doing, what is going on?
Leopard sir! Leopard! Ok… and are they dangerous to us in the car? NO NO Sir but I want to find it for you Sir! Oh ok… could then please slow down a little, because my stomach is almost in my throat and so are my kidneys.
After another while of driving around, suddenly there it was, twenty other 4×4 vehicles blocking the road, all watching into the bushes pointing at something brown. We found it, the leopard! Mission accomplished! Only one problem, neither Leen nor me saw it. After half an hour of taking pictures of the ‘brown spot’, having tried borrowed binoculars to find it and all other means we gave up. Only later, back in our room, when I enlarged that ‘brown spot’ in light room, we saw it, yes it was a leopard! He was sleeping on a branch in a tree totally not impressed by all the spotters and all the fuss.
The leopard we didn’t really see was one thing but what really cheered us up were the magnificent views, lakes, pools, rocks and ELEPHANTS!!! Yes we saw a elephant couple with a juvenile bathing in a pool, and another big male bathing in a very big lake covered with water lilies.
After a long and tiring day we were happy, happy and grateful for this fabulous experience.
Back in the Cinnamon hotel we took a long shower had a nice a la carte diner and went to bed. Our arranged journey was almost coming to an end. The sun, relaxing and Bentota were waiting.