Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sri Lanka - Safari Magic in Yala National Park

Hello!  So, as the saying goes, even the best laid plans... Two days ago Michael came down with serious food poisoning.  As a result, we thought it was best to postpone our safari plans.  Michael didn't leave his bed, and certainly not the room, for the entire day.  Instead, we just chilled out in our hotel room.
I enjoyed many cups of strong French press coffee
I admired the flowers on our deck
We both took a moment to enjoy the pale wash of pink setting over the Indian Ocean.

 Yesterday afternoon, Michael finally thought he felt well enough to try the three hour safari tour in a very high, bouncy jeep.

Here I am, being melodramatic and silly.

Before we even entered the park gates we saw a lot of water buffalo, cows and a wild fox!
 We immediately spotted a bunch of peacocks - the male peacock is notable for his long, long colorful tail.  The female peacock looks a lot less attractive.  At the end of our safari, we were lucky enough to see a male peacock unfold his feathers (but I wasn't quick enough to capture it).
 The park is really beautiful, and really wild.
 We saw an entire family of wild boars cross the road, and got some good pictures of them snuffling for food in the forest.  They are really big animals.
 The biggest boar lifted his sharp snout and stared right at us, leaving me discombobulated by how much his face resembles that of a rat - it is very long and pointy!
 Unfortunately, what everyone says is true - that the roads are packed with jeeps as everyone races around trying to find animals.  Sometimes we would have a traffic jam, particularly if one of the drivers had intel about a potential leopard sighting.
 We weren't really used to this kind of extreme off-roading - this was our first time being bounced around endlessly on muddy, crooked, and really gritty road conditions.
Does this look passable to you?
Traffic jam
Haven't seen jeeps driving at that angle outside of a movie before...
We were so impressed with our driver.  He was also able to spot animals from what felt like miles away.  Here, a huge water buffalo enjoying a cool mud bath.
This elephant was contentedly pulling up the grass with her adroit trunk and folding it into her mouth in smooth, continuous sweeps.  We felt like she could eat forever.
Other jeeps got tired of watching the elephant eat and left - but we were awarded for our quiet and patience when, at the counsel of our driver, we stayed put for a little while longer.  Suddenly, a mother elephant and a baby elephant emerged!  It was magical watching the three elephants interact (well, eat) together.

 The most magical moment - we got to see the baby elephant nursing!  How amazing is that.

 You can't see it in this picture but across the lake were some antelopes, chilling under a tree.
 We saw this massive iguana...or is it a king lizard?
 We saw two mongoose (mongeese?) fighting with each other - here is one of them running in front of our jeep.
 We saw the painted stork a few times - how beautiful, right?  I love the flash of pink on its tail, as if nature couldn't resist accessorizing a little.
 This was my favorite - this big boar was passed out for his afternoon siesta and nothing was disturbing his slumber.  That's my kind of dude.
This guy is a bit hard to see, but it's a crocodile who emerged from the water to cool off.  His mouth is open because that's how he cools himself down.  So cool!
 So many quiet lakes everywhere, with birds perched in trees and ducks drifting slowly by:
 Even when there were no animals, I loved the sweeping breathtaking vistas:
 This is a male Sri Lankan jungle fowl, who was running away from us as fast as he could, so we couldn't get a good picture.  I've decided that the male birds are always gorgeous.  The female birds are dull and small and brown in comparison.
 Elephant rock in the distance, tons of lily pads in the foreground - this is the largest lake in Yala National Park.
 This is the leopard watering hole, where sometimes you can see a leopard or two in the late afternoon.  Sadly for us, leopards were not thirsty at the time.  We did see a lot of sun-bleached bones littered around the area, though, which was kind of chilling and creepy.
 This is Gambun, the elephant (with tusks! so rare!) who loves to hunt for food from the jeeps.  Sadly, someone must have fed this wild elephant some delicious bananas and pineapple, because instead of eating natural vegetation in the wild he has learned to just follow the jeeps on the roads.  Our driver says that he sees this elephant every day, and all the drivers in the park know him.  I imagine his name must mean "greedy" or "pineapple" or some such thing.  Apparently the cracked windshield on our jeep was due to this elephant, who on a prior occasion drove his tusk into the glass because he smelled the pineapple stored in our driver's dashboard.
Naughty boy
 We got some color!  Posing with our driver in front of the huge jeep after the safari, all grins.
Our driver was great and we really enjoyed it.  He not only maneuvered his way adroitly through the bad roads, he also managed to spot things from miles away, and also got us to sights and then out of the traffic jams pretty smoothly.

Daya Safari

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