Date Visited: 08/06/2017
Adventuring through a natural park to find some wild Elephants
From the presumed safety of a doorless jeep we watched. Engine off. The matriarch elephant of the herd grew closer and closer. Within meters we all were silent. Her enormous presence encapsulating our entire view. Her giant trunk hung and her ears flayed out. Intimidating as she was, her wild yet kind eyes gave me the feeling we were not in any danger. In front of the jeep out from the Bush emerged a baby and mother who crossed the road. Matriarch always watching. The rest of the herd crossed the dirt road. Adrenaline, excitement and awe jumbled our emotions. She then turned away from our jeep and follows her herd.
This was only one of our encounters with the giant Asian elephants at Udawalawe national park.
In the space of a morning we saw over 40 of the 500 wild elephants at Udawalawe, each in their own herd free to roam about the 35,000 acre national park. We saw water buffalo bathing in pools of mud, crocodiles slide down the river banks, spotted dear slowly moving through the brush and many species of bright and colourful birds inhabiting the park.
The Jungle Book Dream
My images of being like Mogally of the jungle book and riding on the back of an elephant where shattered like Santa Claus when I realised the cruelty some tourist attractions inflict on these great animals. Other so called sanctuaries elephants or orphanages take advantage of elephants for the tourist dollar. We urge anyone interested in riding or bathing an elephant to look into the cruel practise further. In short baby elephants are taken from their mothers, then have their spirit brutally broken by tortuous techniques designed to make the elephant a fearful slave of the mahout. Please look at sites like trip adviser and read the negative comments to find out what really happens when you look beyond the bathing elephants.
Udawalawe is a picture in how elephants deserve to be treated. There are no chains or cruel mahouts with bull hooks, no cages or broken elephants helplessly giving rides to ignorant tourists. No, these elephants are wild, free and proud. Udawalawe is the only type of elephant sanctuary which should exist. Tourists must remain in the jeep, no touching, feeding, bathing or rides here. Just wild animals in their natural environment observed by a distance, unless the curious elephant wants a closer look at you as in our case.
We booked our tour through our Weligama accommodation Hangtime Hostel. It was super easy to book the tour and the hotel organised everything for LKR 5000 you received transfers there and back, jeep around the park, tour guide and breakfast, this price does not include entrance fee which you pay at the park – LKR 1,800 each. Just 2.5 hours by car including a breakfast stop. This is a day trip we can not rave about more and encourage all who visit Sri Lanka to choose this park and help the real conservation efforts to protect the Elephants.