Sri Lanka September – October 2011

I know it has been almost 4 months (blimey where has the time gone!!) but I thought I would start the Wild Barley blog with a tale of our honeymoon… starting with Sri Lanka with the Maldives hot on its heels (although you will have to wait for the next post for that…)

Well, after what can only be described as the most amazing and magical wedding day (I know I know such a cliché! But it’s true!!!), a 10 hour flight and a very short hello to Dubai, we arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka for a week’s wildlife watching honeymoon.
Overwhelmed by variety and tropical nature of the birds, monkeys and bats seen at Villa Talamanga, our first stop just outside Colombowe headed north the next morning with our guide Hetti to Anuradhapura Garden Village which would be our base for the next few nights as we headed into the Wilpattu National Park.
Roosting Open-billed Storks and Egrets

Willpattu National Park is the largest in Sir Lanka covering 425 square miles from the coast inland. It was only opened in March 2010, having been closed due to war (thankfully now over). The Park is a mix of fairly thick dry zone jungle, interspersed with flood plain and lakes where a huge variety of wildlife tends to concentrate. This gave the impression of driving for hours with a wall of tangled trees and vines, with the flicker of movement from the occasional muntjac and a splash of colour from a wild Peafowl or Junglefowl (yep we saw a chicken!), suddenly opening out into the bright green expanses of one of these flood plains and lakes. Here hundreds upon thousands of waders, storks and ducks would be collected, feeding in and around the edge of the water. Others including cormorants would be perched on top of dead trees, preening or drying out their feathers. The surrounding trees were alive with smaller birds, from parrots and finches, to bee-eaters. Occasionally a large bird of prey would leisurely swoop by, sending the birds up into every tightening flocks that swirled in black masses.

Of course it was not just the birds that sought out these oasis, at the end of the first day we broke out of the thick matt of trees into one such open expanse, to see a leopard relaxing in the shade watching the world seemingly without a care…. Though looks can be deceiving, at one point he turned to stare intently at the jungle behind. Quietly he/she/it stood, and slowly prowled into the undergrowth, staring intently at something we could not see….. A couple of minutes later he reappeared, flopping down once again in the shade, whatever caught his attention having either disappeared or proving to much to both with on a hot afternoon….

Leopard relaxing in the shade in Wilpattu National Park

With the colour fading from the sky it was time for us to leave, racing back along the sandy roads hidden within the trees we once again burst out into another flood plain… to see an Asian Elephant casually flicking water over itself! Leaving the elephant to finish it’s evening shower, we raced on, dusk spreading around us, only to come round another corner into an open area of scrub to see a Sloth Bear meandering across the road ahead. Slamming the brakes on, we came to a juddering halt, the bear froze, looking back over its shoulder at what had interrupted its evening stroll…. Then took off, loping into the trees and disappearing from view….

Asian Elephant taking a bath
Sloth Bear taking an evening stroll

Sri Lanka was the compromise, ‘there’s so few birds in The Maldive’s though…..’ ‘Well, why don’t we stop somewhere on the way…’ It turned out to be a special, breathtakingly beautiful place that I would return to in a heart beat, not only for the rainforests and mountains in the south of the island, but it’s one of the best places to see Blue Whales…next time eh?

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