Our day started at 3:50am when the shrill iPhone alarm went off. I went to take a shower and had a fright when I saw a little mouse kamikaze off the top of the toilet into the little bin next to it. I think I must have scared him too! Just after I screamed I heard Sam shriek back in the bedroom…I went to investigate and came across him threatening a cockroach with his flipflop. Not a great start to our morning.
We made our way downstairs for 4am to meet the rest of the gang. Andy, Peter and Claudio (fellow guests at Plantation, Midigama) were joining us on our trip to Udawalawe. Thankfully the owner had made a pot of coffee which softened the blow of such an early start.
Our taxi driver was a nice young chap who stopped to pick us up some breakfast from the local bakery. It took just over two hours to get to Udawalawe and once we were there we jumped out of our taxi and into our safari jeep. Sam and I managed to bag the front seats!
Our jeep driver was really knowledgeable and made sure he stopped whenever there were animals so that we could take photographs. There were lots of peacocks, exotic looking birds and pretty butterflies. We also saw a huge water buffalo taking a mud bath.
Finally we saw an elephant, the animal I was most excited about seeing! It was a single female, that he said was around 55 years old. Females usually hang out together but as this one was so old she could no longer keep up and lived a lonely life. She was cooling off in the shade.
After our driver exchanged some words with another jeep driver we made our way towards a large area of water. This is where the magic was…We saw a whole herd of female elephants and in the middle of them was a baby elephant who our guide said was around 5 months old. It was amazing to see how they all protected the baby, it never ventured from the safety of the herd. We sat here for a while until the elephants made their way into the privacy of the bush and then we continued on our way.
Our guide informed us that you only ever see groups of female and young male (up to the age of 10 years) elephants together. Once a male reaches 10 years old he goes off gallivanting. The group of females is led by the matriarch who is usually the oldest.
We stopped to appreciate a 200 year old tree and took the opportunity to have a cheesy jeep photo with our group.
Once the safari was over, our jeep driver dropped us back to our taxi driver and we started the long journey back to Midigama. There was a particularly scary moment in which we nearly collided with a tuk tuk and a van...shortly after that our taxi driver pulled over at a Buddhist altar and said a quick prayer. I didn't know whether to feel more or less scared...
The safari at Udawalawe was awesome and is definitely a must do if you’re ever in Sri Lanka. Our day was organised by the helpful guys at Plantation but there are several options out there that vary in price. I would recommend getting as many quotes as possible and haggling hard!