UdawalaWILD Safari Adventure

Let's play a game! Say "Udawalawe" in three quick successions. Udawalale, Uduwe, Uda--whaaat?

This place may be so hard to pronounce, but I tell you, it's soooo easy to love.

Udawalawe is not the first thing that pops up when you search for safari tours in Sri Lanka but it's the one that welcomed me warmly. Yala National Park, the most popular one, was fully-booked that day (plus their rates are $$$!). The Uda-option opened up for me which is perfect because it's along the way going to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka's tea region.

There were tour operators outside the gate, one of them was Manju. As it was a slow day, Manju gave the best rate at 25 USD (Yala was x4!) for the jeep, the whole tour, and a visit at the elephant nursery afterwards. Upon entering, I had to pay another fee to the park itself. Foreigners are charged higher in this part of the world.

A smart purchase! I bought the cap at the entrance for 300 LKR, and it was much needed later on in the tour.

Yay, let's start!

Manju served as both driver and tour guide. I'm so lucky to get his services because he has superb eyesight. He stopped the jeep every time he sees animals and gave me time to take photos of them. Oh, the only rule was not to go down his jeep.

It was breathtaking to see these animals in their habitat! There were also several types of birds (I even met a legit ornithologist!), geckos, wild rabbits, mongoose, even crocodiles, and many others living in this park. I was just not so quick with my camera to capture everything.

Lesson No. 1: I was expecting to come inside a jungle with tall trees and Tarzan vines. Apparently, the natural habitat for these creatures is not the forest-y jungle but the grasslands. 🌾

Wild buffalos in the house! They're not wild in a sense that they go crazy but because they're not domesticated, which makes me so happy for them. How I wished my Dad was with me. He would surely want to bring home one of those.

The trip took almost 3 hours to complete. The majestic finale was a sunset by the dam while watching the elephants play in the water. 😍

In total, I met 41 free elephants that day (yes, I counted!) but Manju said there are more out there hiding or in the outlying parts of the park.

That scene from The Jungle Book about how elephants are so regal kept playing on my head. It's really magical to be so close to these creatures, especially when they're just openly roaming around. One of them looked me in the eye and I felt she was telling me that everything will be ok.

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I was already so tired after the tour so I opted out from the nursery visit and asked Manju to point me to a place where I can stay for the night. He dropped me off at a lovely home that's only 1,500 LKR a night for a big room. The nice lady even cooked some Lankan dishes for me and other tourists who had liquor to share. I took some courtesy shots, headed to my room, and slept peacefully knowing that free elephants mean there is still good in this world.

Oh, and I talked so much about Udawalawe in the succeeding weeks that I can already pronounce it perfectly! 😄

Thank you for existing!

💗 I'd love to hear your thoughts about this trip! 💗


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