You are currently viewing Sri Lanka – Resplendent Island – Part 1

Sri Lanka – Resplendent Island – Part 1

February 1, 2024

Sri Lanka, historically known as Ceylon, and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia. It lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal, separated from India by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait.  Sri Lanka shares a maritime border with the Maldives in the south-west and India in the north-west.  It is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia or half the size of England.

The Sinhalese people form the majority of the nation’s population, followed by the Sri Lankan Tamils, who are the largest minority group and are concentrated in northern Sri Lanka; both groups have played an influential role in the island’s history. Other long-established groups include the Moors, Indian, Tamils, Burghers, Malays, Chinese and Vedda. 

The nation of Sri Lanka has two official languages: Sinhala and Tamil. Approximately 16 million people of Sri Lanka’s 23 million person population speak the Indo-European (specifically Indo-Aryan) language of Sinhala. Sinhala arrived in Sri Lanka around the fifth century BCE from Indian colonists.

“Lanka” was taken from the ancient name of the island, and joined with Sri, meaning “resplendent”. So, Sri Lanka means Resplendent Island.

Sri Lanka’s documented history goes back 3,000 years, with evidence of prehistoric human settlements that dates back 125,000 years. The earliest known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, known collectively as the Pãli canon, date to the fourth Buddhist council, which took place in 29 BCE. Also called the Teardrop of India, or the Granary of the East, Sri Lanka’s geographic location and deep harbours have made it of great strategic importance, from the earliest days of the ancient Silk Road trade route to today’s so-called maritime Silk Road. Because its location made it a major trading hub, it was already known to both East Asians and Europeans as long ago as the Anuradhapura period. During a period of great political crisis in the Kingdom of Kotte, the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka and sought to control the island’s maritime trade, with a part of Sri Lanka subsequently becoming a Portuguese possession. After the Sinhalese-Portuguese war, the Dutch Empire and the Kingdom of Kandy took control of those areas. The Dutch possessions were then taken by the British, who later extended their control over the whole island, colonizing it from 1815 to 1948. A national movement for political independence arose in the early 20th century, and in 1948, Ceylon became a dominion. The dominion was succeeded by the republic of Sri Lanka in 1972. Sri Lanka’s more recent history was marred by a 26-year civil war, which began in 1983 and ended in 2009, when the Sri Lankan Armed Forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

It is the highest-ranked South Asian nation in terms of development and has the second-highest per capita income in South Asia. However, the ongoing economic crisis has resulted in the collapse of its currency, rising inflation, and a humanitarian crisis due to a severe shortage of essentials. It has also led to an eruption of street protests, with citizens successfully demanding that the President and the Government step down. The country has had a long history of engagement with modern international groups: it is a founding member of the SAARC, and a member of the UN, the Commonwealth of Nations and the G77.

The lion in the flag represents the Sinhala race. The sword of the lion represents the sovereignty of the country. The noble eight fold path of Buddhism is signified by the lion’s tail. Curly hair on the lion’s head indicates religious observance, wisdom and meditation.

CURRENCY:             Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR) – $0.0032 USD or $0.0043 CDN


BEER:                        Lion – although much of the country does not drink

GAS:                           368 LKR per litre – about $4.49 USD per gallon

Our flight in business class was wonderful.  It was 90 minutes of comfort with a wonderful cold platter of food on real plates complete with salad, fruit and dessert, a small main course of cold items, bread, cheese and juice with optional tea/coffee.

We landed at the airport in the capital city of Colombo, about a half hour late due to a 40 minute delay departing and there was a wait for luggage – when the plane is full and everyone checks 80kg, that’s a lot of luggage!

We are now another half hour ahead of Pacific Time for a total of 13.5!  We are now a bit further north however, at arounds 6 degrees above the equator depending where we are in southern Sri Lanka.

We were in touch with the car rental company and they were outside waiting for us after we got cash and SIM cards.  Here we paid 2450 LKR (about $9 for 50GB for 30 days).

After settling up with the rental agency, we were on our way; we’d booked a  hotel near the airport for the first night as originally our flight was supposed to land at 8:30 pm with FitsAir but they cancelled all their flights out of the Maldives when the “incident between India and the Maldives” occurred early last month.  So we are supposed to be getting a refund and had to book new flights – hence the move to Emirates Airlines.  We drove the 3km to the hotel and Doug went out to find snacks since we didn’t need a meal, but most of them were not tasty.  We are trying to eat better since we really overdid it at the Avani Resort.

Our rental car is a tiny Suzuki Alto manual with AC car that is really not full of guts.  Renting a car here in Sri Lanka required Doug to get a temporary Sri Lankan driver’s license which required a copy of this US license, his International Driver’s license and his passport.  The rental agency took care of all of this for us ahead of time which was great.

They required an initial $100 USD deposit, payment in cash (rupees) on pick up and a $300 USD cash deposit – we did not have $300 USD so Doug talked them down to $266 which is all we had.  He promised we’d get this deposit back in USD.  We paid for the rental in rupees and the guy had no change so he owes us 3000 rupees when we return the car.

The hotel we’d booked was close to the airport ($42) and unfortunately the pool was already closed but both slept very well in the nice air conditioned room.  Here in Sri Lanka it’s even warmer than the Maldives!

Friday morning, we awoke refreshed and left the hotel shortly after 7:30 am heading to the southwest of the country to the city of Galle.  Here there is a large fort.

We took the toll highway at the suggestion of the hotel reception in Colombo – he advised that the non-toll is very slow and passes through many, many villages with lots of traffic.  We were thankful for this advice as at one point, we missed the exit to the next toll highway and had to take a six kilometre smaller highway which was full of tuktuks, motorbikes, bicycles and people.  It reminded us very much of Mumbai without the cows and the horns – quiet chaos at times!

We did take advantage of this detour to stop for ice, drinks and snacks and to fill up the gas tank – we got the car on half.  We stopped once for a bathroom break – at a cost of 40 rupees each ($0.13).

Sri Lanka is very green with palm trees, banana trees and more everywhere we look.

Galle Fort was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. It is a historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument, which even after more than 432 years maintains a polished appearance, due to extensive reconstruction work done by Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka

The fort has a colourful history, and today has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. The Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people who still own some of the properties inside the fort are looking at making this one of the modern wonders of the world. The heritage value of the fort has been recognized by UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a cultural heritage site under criteria iv, for its unique exposition of “an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries.”

The Galle Fort, also known as the Dutch Fort or the “Ramparts of Galle, withstood the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 which damaged part of coastal area of the city. It has since been restored.

We arrived in Galle around 10:30, parked near then fort and went out in the blazing sun and heat.  We decided right away, we are NOT  walking around the entire fort.  We passed through the entrance tunnel, walked to the main bastion with a clock tower and then one more before we turned around.  We needed a bathroom and we did find one that charged 50 rupees.  Doug stubbed his big toe just before reaching the bathroom and cut it.  There was a lip that should have been marked so you could see it.  After using the facilities we went to complain; first we paid money to use bathrooms and the ladies had no TP and more importantly, Doug had really taken a good chunk of skin off his toe and it wouldn’t stop bleeding.  They showed us to a tap to wash it up and luckily Fran had a couple of Band-Aids in her purse.  We patched it up best we could and upon returning the car cleaned it and his sandal up better as the Band-Aid was already falling off as it bled a lot more but it had stopped by the time we got back to the car (at which point we were really sweating).  Fran suggested we drive around inside the fort on the perimeter so we got the AC running and did just that.  At about the halfway point, we parked and took a few pictures and found a café to have lunch inside with AC.

The clock tower dates to 1883 in honour of Dr. Anthonisz who served as the governor’s doctor:

a huge tree in a square in the fort
The Galle lighthouse – very famous in the country

We finished the drive after lunch and made our way to a supermarket on the way out of the city to pick up some things for dinner.

Our hostel for tonight was near what is considered Sri Lankas’ best beach, Dellawella so we next stopped to check that out.  It was okay but it was no atoll in the Maldives!  The waves looked quite strong, the beach was not very wide, there was no shade and with Doug’s newly cut toe, he didn’t think he wanted to go into saltwater.   Fran did her usual step in the sea (the Indian Ocean like the Maldives  and warm but a bit further north and closer to India) and we drove to the Tiny Royal Palace hostel.

Here at Tiny Royal Palace ($55) we had a room with a queen bed, private bath, access to a kitchen and a swimming pool – yeah!  There is good Wi-Fi and hot water and it’s not busy.  After settling in, we changed into our swimsuits and went to the pool to cool off and spend some time reading (as we’d done every day for the past 8 days…..) .

We made our own dinner and spent the evening in the room.

Saturday morning, after our morning exercise, (Doug managed a run despite the heat and his injured big toe) we left the hostel and made our way along the coast to find another ATM – like in Jordan, people want payment in cash even for the two safaris we’ve booked so we needed more and we weren’t sure how readily available banks would be as we head inland.

Just before reaching the bank, Fran saw on our mapping app that there was a turtle hatchery – that sounded interesting so we found it and parked.  You pay about $10 USD each to get in and they show you around this little rescue centre.  The beach outside the building is protected and here they manage to rescue many eggs.

behind this fence are mounds of eggs from various types of turtles that were laid on the beach here

Fives kinds of turtle nest near this spot:  green sea turtles, Olive Ridleys, hawksbills, loggerheads AND leatherbacks and they had eggs from all five buried in a secure sandy patch with dates on them of when they had been laid.  The beach is patrolled and after eggs are laid, they rescue them and bring them here.

After the turtles hatch, they put them in a small pool for a few days, then move them to a different one and after a week release them into the sea under cover of darkness to protect them from birds.

They also keep rescued turtles here and they had a few recovering from fishing line cuts on their necks, a missing limb and broken shells.  They even had an albino sea turtle with a deformed shell that had actually been born here in the hatchery so it has never been in the wild.

We carried on to the bank and then hoped to see part of the Kogala Lagoon but there was no view point on the ocean or east side that we could find other than when we crossed the bridge where the water comes into the lagoon.

We did see some macaques playing on the wires above the street while trying to get to a spot with a lagoon view:

We made our way along the toll highway after the lagoon and made good time.  We saw water buffalo in the fields at times:

There were signs warning of peacock crossing, but we never saw one on the highway, just on a side road.

For more photos of our first few days in Sri Lanka, click here  .

Driving here is similar to India but not quite as chaotic and noisy – the horns are not going nonstop like in India and there are no sacred cows mingling amongst the vehicles but we are back in the land of tuktuks and they are everywhere.

As we approached the national park, we spotted two solo different elephants along the park boundary enroute and managed to stop near the second one.  We saw kiosks of fruits and figure these elephants know that people will feed them here – especially fresh mango this time of year – where you can buy a bag of already sliced up fruit.

We arrived near the village of Udawalawe before 2pm and after finding a block road to access the lodge we booked, we finally find it.

Udawalawe National Park is a national park in sri Lanka.  The park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir. The reserve covers 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and was established on 30 June 1972.f

Before the designation of the national park, the area was used for shifting cultivation (chena farming). The farmers were gradually removed once the national park was declared. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third-most visited park in the country.

Many elephants are attracted to the park because of the Udawalawe reservoir, with a herd of about 250 believed to be permanently resident. The rusty spotted cat, fishing cat and Sri Lankan deopard are members of the family Felidae present in Udawalawe. The Sri Lankan sloth bear is seldom seen because of its rarity. Other animals in the park included the Sri Lankan sambar der, Sri Lankan axis deer, Indian muntjac, Sri Lankan spotted wild boar, water buffalo, golden jackal, Asian palm civete, toque macaque, tufted grey langur and Indian hare.  Five species of mice also have been recorded from the park.

We have our own cabin here at Wild Lake Camp Lodge ($35) with a private bath and a balcony overlooking the river.   It’s still quite warm here but we think not as humid as the coast.  Milan took us to our room and we ordered dinner for 6:30.  We have booked a safari in the Udawalawe National Park through the lodge for tomorrow morning at 5:45.  The price for this two person private safari was $120 USD.

Wild Lake Camp Lodge offers cabins, breakfast, dinners on request, WIFI, AC, free parking and of course, safaris.  We turned on the AC immediately and as the room cooled we sat on our balcony for a bit listening to the birds and a bit later we enjoyed a cold one.  While sitting enjoying our beer, we saw a few monkeys, squirrels and a red bellied paradise flycatcher (partially obscured by leaves):

Here’s what it looks like (photo from online):

It really feels like you’re in the jungle here with all the lush vegetation and bird sounds.

We arranged dinner with Milan for 6:30 and had pre-ordered fried rice and Kottu (a Sri Lanka dish).

Kottu translates from Sinhalese as chopped, and this hugely popular Sri Lankan street food consists of chopped up roti (a type of flatbread), stir-fried with chicken, vegetables and egg.

The meal was tasty although we couldn’t finish it all.  It was a good thing we shared the dishes.  They gave us each a beer and after we finished eating, we took the beer into the room for the evening.  The AC worked quite well and we went to bed early as we had a 5:45 am start the next day.

We were up and ready on time and we were introduced to our driver/guide and got into the safari vehicle.  It was very nice with six seats in the back of a Mahindra truck that were very comfy and facing forward.  It took about 15 minutes to get the park entrance in the breaking dawn and another fifteen minutes to purchase the tickets and pass through the gate.  There were a good number of jeeps but not hundreds and our guide preferred (as we do) to stay away from the queues of them – for the most part.

We spent about three hours in the park and although we didn’t see a lot of elephant, we did see a few animals and birds we’d never seen before.  This time of year is right after the rainy season and it is super lush and green and very dense.  This means there is plenty of water and the elephants are not wandering the park as much and staying further from the roads that the vehicles can travel on.  The weather is warm but not oppressive like yesterday and it’s more cloudy than sunny and it had rained yesterday.

Here are the animals and birds we saw in the first hour or so:

Changeable Hawk eagle – first time bird

Little green bee eater

lots of peacocks & hens – this was the most common thing we saw

Blue tailed bee eater

Painted stork

one 3 year old elephant more in the bush than out – first time we’ve seen a Sri Lankan elephant in the wild

In the second hour we saw:


a large Crocodile

Serpent Eagle – first time bird


Indian pond heron – first time bird

Golden jackal – first time animal

2 more crocs – one was a baby.

At this point we had a few rain drops but it hardly lasted.  We moved onto a large pond where we saw:

Water buffalo

Black winged stele

Another Indian pond heron

and a Mongoose for a few seconds – he meandered into the bush before we could get a photo.

In the last hour, we saw:

Blue Common kingfisher

A great head shot of a changeable hawk eagle:

Black faced grey langur – first time animal.  Here’s our shot in the tree:

Snap shot from Google:

a few spotted deer:

a pair of Malabar pied hornbill – first time bird (we’ve seen lots of different hornbills but never this one):

And then as we began the drive back to the gate, along down the road towards us came a big male elephant!  What a perfect way to end the safari.  We watched him come towards us and pass by us.


The Sri Lankan elephant) is native to Sri Lanka and one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant. The Sri Lankan elephant population is now largely restricted to the dry zone in the north, east and southeast of Sri Lanka. Elephants are present in five of the country’s national parks but also live outside protected areas. It is estimated that Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia. Human-elephant conflict is increasing due to conversion of elephant habitat to settlements and permanent cultivation.

In general, Asian elephants are smaller than their African cousin and have the highest body point on the head. The tip of their trunk has one finger-like process. Their back is convex or level. Females are usually smaller than males. Only 7% of males bear tusks.  Average adult elephant tusks grow up to about 6 feet. It can weight up to 35 kg (77 lb). The longest tusks of 7 feet 6 inches long were found in July 2011.

Females and calves generally form small, loosely associated social groups without the hierarchical tier structure exhibited by African bush elephants.

It is estimated there are about 7,500 elephants in Sri Lanka. 

Elephants were a common element for over two thousand years and remained so through British colonial rule. Since time immemorial, elephants have been domesticated for uses as work elephants and war elephants in Sri Lanka by the ancient kings. Elephants were exported from the island for hundreds of years and into the Portuguese and Dutch colonial era. The British did not export elephants, instead took to hunting wild elephants and capture of wild for domestication as work elephants continued. Elephant Kraals were organized to capture large herds of elephants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The capture of wild elephants was regulated under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in 1937, with the issuance of permits to capture of wild elephants. This practice stopped in 1950. A census of the domesticated elephant population in 1970 indicated 532 elephants among 378 owners, while this number had dropped 344 in 1982. These domesticated elephants were used mainly as work elephants and for cultural pageants. The domesticated elephant population has dropped further with the need for their labour dropping widespread use of tractors.

However, they remain in use in terrain inaccessible by vehicles for logging and used for tourism. Ownership of elephants are highly prestigious among Singhalese as a status symbol and calls have been made for permission to capture wild elephants or release of orphaned wild elephants in government care to Temples to take part in pageants. Legal reforms pertaining to the captive elephant population was introduced in 2021.

The last thing we saw was the Sri Lanka jungle fowl  (first time bird) which is the National bird of Sri Lanka – looked like a chicken to us!

We had to check out at office on the way out and then again like yesterday we saw elephant along the fence, this time a total of four.

Although the safari started off slowly, it picked up and we were pleased with the result given the time of year.  We did about 35 km / 21 mi in this park we estimated.

On the drive back we saw a monitor lizard cross the road in front of us:

Upon returning to the Wild Lake Resort we were served breakfast, paid our bill and left.  Doug has been looking for cheap cell phones for us to take to more to Uganda with us so we made a few stops in some of the towns we passed through but more often than not, the salespeople claim they can speak English, but don’t so he cannot explain what it is he wants – preferably second hand phones.

Check out more animal photos from Udawalawe here  .

Fran had made a reservation at a resort on a lake for tonight and we messaged to see if we could get an early check in – there is a pool there and we wanted to relax for the afternoon and read.  They said sure and we arrived around 1pm.  We have the main floor of a cabin at Lake Villa Resort ($22) that has a “moat” around it.  It’s a large room with a private bathroom, AC, a sitting area, a fridge and Wi-Fi that we could never get on as well as a large pool with a view of the lake.

After getting all our luggage (we seem to have a lot of bags of stuff: food, drink, shoes etc.), we turned on the AC in the room as it was stifling, changed into our bathing suits and went to the pool.  It apparently rained here earlier today so the deck chairs were wet but we figured we’re going to get wet anyway and chose an umbrella to sit under (the only one with no holes!).  All this we got for $22 USD a night.  There is a restaurant and bar here so Doug ordered a poolside beer after we went for a dip.

We sat here for nearly an hour before we went in for a second dip.  Then the sky darkened and we got back to the room just before a deluge that lasted on and off for maybe an hour began.  Our room had cooled down quite a bit and we sat inside for the afternoon.  We have enough left over food from our last “homemade” dinner that we should be good for dinner tonight without going to the restaurant.

Life is Good!

Monday, was a mellow day; we got a late breakfast at the hotel (we started out sitting outside and then it rained and it came down hard so we moved indoors) and the only thing we had to do today was get to our next hotel in the same area but enroute we stopped for drinks and Doug continued to look for phones with no success.  Here it also rained hard on and off but it never seemed to last more than five minutes.

We asked for an early check in at the hotel that was arranging our Yala National park safari and they told us 1pm would work.  We ended up arriving a bit early at Hotel River Front ($36) but sat in reception on their Wi-Fi for a bit.  We spent the afternoon at their pool keeping cool – the temps are still in the low 30’s C /90’s F and it’s humid.

We had dinner at the hotel which was delicious but the mozzies began to come out so we didn’t linger. We were advised we should be down in the lobby at 4:30 AM tomorrow for the safari.  Yikes!  We have booked a 7 hour safari in Yala so we will be back midday.   The price of this two person safari is $135 USD.

We were up earlier than we hoped due to being unable to sleep – the AC was not working well and having the ceiling fan on high was just making an annoying sound.

We got to reception about 4:20, our bagged breakfast was ready for us and we got into the Toyota Hilux safari vehicle with Pasana as our guide.  He advised it was good to get to the gates of the park as early as possible in order not to be in a queue not only at the ticket, but inside the park.  We arrived by 5:08, he got the entry tickets and then we drove to the gates and there we were the fourth vehicle in the line up to enter the park when it opened at 6.    This vehicle was not quite as new/luxurious as our last one, but it was very similar in design with no seatbelts.

Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka and it borders the Indian Ocean. The park consists of five “blocks”, three of which are open to the public. It is situated in the southeastern region of the country, in the Southern Province and the Uva Province. The park covers 979 sq km / 378 sq m.  Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900,  and in 1938, as one of the first two designated national parks in Sri Lanka. The park is best known for its variety of wildlife and is important conservation of Sri Lankan elephants and Sri Lankan leopards as well as many aquatic birds.  This park has the one of the highest concentration of leopard in the world. 

Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bir Areas in Sri Lanka and harbors 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.

The hope today was to see a leopard.  There are apparently over 150 of them here so fingers are crossed.  The terrain is somewhat different from Udawalawe in that there are more wide open spaces, vut still plenty of dense forest, lots of “tank” (small lakes), the soil is red, there are termite hills and the roads are more rutted.  It reminded us more of African safaris here than Udawalawe did.

We saw:

Termite hills – these really reminded us of Africa

Crocodiles – three different times

Elephant – three different times; once a bull and the third time was a pregnant female but none of them were really out on the open

Spotted Deer a few times

Some Jungle fowl but we got no photo (there are some above from our first safari)

Lot and lots of water buffalo; some domesticated some wild

Wild boar a few times but never that close

Lots and lots peacocks of course

Painted stork several times

2 leopards; one male named Lucas (were not told the female’s name).  She kept trying to mate, but Lucas was not interested.

The Sri Lankan leopard is a leopard subspecies native to Sri Lanka Sri Lanka. It was first described in 1956 by Sri Lankan zoologist Paules Edward Pieris Deraniyagala.

Since 2020, the Sri Lankan leopard has been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as the population is estimated at less than 800 mature individuals, and is probably declining.

The Sri Lankan leopard has a tawny or rusty yellow coat with dark spots and close-set rosettes. Seven females measured in the early 20th century averaged a weight of 29 kg / 64 lb and had a mean head-to-body-length of 1.04 m / 3’5” with a 77.5 cm / 2’6.5” long tail; eleven males averaged 56 kg / 124 lb, the largest being 77 kg / 170 lb, and measured 1.27 m / 4’ 2” with a 86 cm / 2’10” long tail. The Sri Lankan leopard has possibly evolved to become a rather large leopard subspecies, because it is the apex predator in the country. Large males have been suggested to reach almost 100 kg (220 lb), but evidence for this is lacking.

The Sri Lankan is a solitary hunter, with the exception of females with young. Male’s ranges typically overlap the smaller ranges of several females, as well as portions of the ranges of neighboring males, although exclusive core areas are apparent. They are more active and prefer hunting at night, but are also somewhat active during dawn, dusk, and daytime hours. 

Pasana had received a text message from a fellow driver about the location of Lucas and we went over there.  He jockeyed for position and we got these shots as he walked out of the bush past and across the road:

Then we drove off, stopped and waited for most of the vehicles to leave.  He took us back to the intersection we last saw him and lo and behold he was back and a female was with him!  We had front row seats this time to viewing them on the road and they did not seem bothered at all by all of the vehicles around them or the people viewing them.  We had read that the guides here can pester them but we did not feel it was nearly as bad as we read and they kept a respectful distance.  It was so amazing and we were pretty mesmerized; although we took several shots, forgot to take video except one.    Definitely the day’s highlight and  mission accomplished – we were very lucky to see two together!

Later we saw monitor lizards

Asian open billed stork


Indian darter

Purple Heron

We ate our bagged brekkie watching  deer by the lake with heron, croc


Saw a mud bath with a few water buffalo

Then there was a stretch of nothing for about 30 minutes – hardly even a peacock!

There were two kinds monkeys at bathroom stop; macaques and the black faced grey langurs

We stopped at a large pond with lots of birds in the trees:

a cormorant

and lilies in the water:

A Mongoose running down the side of the road but this time we got photos

Elephant rock and lake

Baby monitor lizard

Woolly neck stork

We figure we drove about 50 km / 30 mi in the park and it was enough for us.

This park also is said to have a few sloth bears but we suspect they are in the part of the park not open to the public.  Here’s what they look like (thanks to our friends at Google):

We were heading back to the hotel and we tried to get a leopard souvenir at the park’s gift shop but other than post cards and cheap magnet photos, they had nothing.  It was all about the Sri Lankan elephants.

Pasana took us back to the hotel (we’d already moved our luggage into our car as they had no room for us tonight) and we paid our hotel bill before moving on.  On our way back Fran had found and booked another hotel nearby with a pool located in the rice patties which sounded different.

Here’s the link to more Yala National Park photos with lots more leopard shots  link .

So in total we spent three  nights in this area at three different hotels.

BTW hotels in Sri Lanka are cheap – we’ve mentioned prices beside each one above for reference.  We are using the app here as well and always filter for rated 8 out of 10 above.  Keeping in mind that standards are not North American, we have not had a “bad” room yet – maybe that has something missing (i.e. bad Wi-Fi, or bad AC) but nothing at all dreadful.  Food is cheap too as is eating out.

We arrived at Rice Rice Villas ($28) and were taken to our own little “villa”, where turned on the AC, changed into bathing suits and arranged dinner for 6:30 before sitting by the pool with a view of the rice patties enjoying some cold beer

We had dinner up in the upper terrace:

And saw a bit of colour from the sunset through the palm trees:

Next morning we did our usual morning routine and had arranged breakfast at 10 am before beginning our drive further inland to Ella.

Fun facts will be at the end of the next post when we are done with Sri Lanka.