Safari Adventures in Sri Lanka

Kerry Gallagher spent an action-packed afternoon in Yala National Park

Picture the scene. I’m sat in the dining room at Cinnamon Wild, a stunning safari lodge nestled in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka.

After a generous helping from the lunch buffet, I dig into a delicious dhal curry, only to be startled by a thunderous clattering on the roof, followed by a burst of activity in the trees just metres away from me.

In a split second the trees are filled with a dozen or so monkeys, swinging from branch to branch.

And so begins my adventure in Yala National Park.

As we headed into the park I was struck by the contrasting landscapes. The Indian Ocean frames the south and east edges of the park, while inland was a mixture of light forests, scrubs, grasslands and lagoons.

As I was busy admiring the scenery the driver slowed to a stop and just ahead a herd of elephants were gathered in the trees. They really are a majestic sight, moving slowly and carefully through the trees.

During the next hour the sightings came thick and fast – a crocodile relaxing on the banks of a lagoon, a peacock who, unfortunately, kept his feathers firmly hidden, a water buffalo cooling off in a mud bath with an egret perched on its back poised to feast on the surrounding insects, and a couple of spotted deer trotting across the paths. There is an abundance of bird life within the park too – 215 species to be precise, including kingfisher, heron, flamingos and my favourite, the crimson-fronted barbet.

Driving down the rust red paths is an experience in itself – be prepared for a bumpy ride! Overall our expert driver took it slow and steady, but after an animated phone call we were told to hold on and he took off at speed, racing through the park before arriving at a spot where a handful of other Jeeps had already started gathering. We were told to look to three o’clock across a vast arid plain towards trees and bush at the back far away. “What are we looking at?” I asked. “Leopard” came the answer!

In all the excitement I scanned my eyes back and forth across the landscape trying desperately to pinpoint its location with no luck.

“I don’t see it” I exclaimed.

The driver laughed at me as he passed me the binoculars. “You’ll need these” he says.

And after a bit more back and forth I finally located a sleeping leopard, just ahead of the trees out in the open. This large adult male was absolutely magnificent and I couldn’t take my eyes (or should that be binocular lenses) off him. I could make out the vibrant colours and spotted patterns of his coat, resting head, and huge paws.

After watching for a short while we were getting ready to move on, when all of sudden the leopard woke up; it was like he somehow knew his audience was about to dissipate. As if putting on a show, the leopard stood, stretched, circled, preened and then spent some time rolling and playing on the ground. It was a magical show to behold and the absolute highlight of my safari in Yala.

I thought nothing could top the leopard sighting but we carried on throughout the park stopping to admire the stunning landscapes and saw several more herds of elephants in plain sight, including some adorable babies. Then as the sun began to set and we made our way back to the park exit to conclude our journey we slowed to see our last elephant of the trip. And as if he knew we were on the last stretch of our adventure he walked out from the bush and crossed the path directly in front of us, before disappearing back into the trees. A truly magical end to a truly memorable safari experience.


Follow in our footsteps

We flew to Sri Lanka with SriLankan Airlines and visited Yala National Park with Cinnamon Wild Yala.

For more information on Cinnamon Wild Yala and holidays to Sri Lanka, speak to our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678.

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