There are three popular national parks near Habarana in Sri Lanka. During July to September large groups of elephants are found in the Minneriya National Park, before they migrate to Kaudulla National Park between October and November due to high rains and lakes getting filled up. The elephants then move on to Hurulu Eco Park for the final leg of their migration between December and January.
On our January visit to Hurulu, we were told that the park which opened in 2010, was relatively small with only a limited number of very rutted tracks.
As we were staying near Dambulla, it was an hour’s drive to Habarana to meet up with our jeep and driver at the Cinnamon Lodge, where we were able to use the washrooms. It was then a 20-minute drive to the park entrance where the usual paperwork was exchanged.
Our private jeep took six, and we sat behind each other for better all-round views and, as the roof was rolled back, we could stand up, although this meant the sun was beating down on us.
We drove for what seemed a long time before spotting our first elephants, but it soon became apparent that this was going to be a real scrum down. Firstly, the vegetation in the park was dense with trees, bushes and high grasses. Secondly, the number of jeeps outnumbered the elephants, and the drivers were not always very ethical. Guests in the other jeeps appeared to think it was a day out at a zoo and were more interested in taking photos of themselves with the elephants using selfie sticks, which we thought were a thing of the past. We did have some reasonable sightings, but we were always hemmed in by so many vehicles.
After a while we suggested leaving, as there appeared to be no other animals of interest in the park.
Having left, we’d swapped jeep for our car, and spotted a large tusker who was obviously wanting to cross the road. We drove slowly past and stopped to watch as he managed to find a gap in the traffic and cross with ease.
This was one of our most disappointing experiences on our trip and we were just pleased that we’d already seen elephants in both Yala and Udawalawe National Parks.