After a very enjoyable few days in Tea Country we were on our way to the very different Southern Province, where we were to spend the rest of our time in Sri Lanka. First stop Tissamaharama, and our base for a trip to Yala Safari Park.
Given the length of time we had spent traveling on the train the previous day, we decided to take the next leg of our journey in the relative luxury of a taxi. While it was considerably more expensive it was well worth it, getting us to our guest house in Tissa in around two hours.
We managed to time our walk through the surrounding paddy fields into the centre of Tissa with all the locals making their way to the river for what appeared to be communal bath time, which was quite an experience. Our route also took us past the impressive Yatala Wehera Temple, which is well worth a visit.
Other than this, there was very little to see in the town centre, and with only a few restaurants to chose from we ended up having one of the most expensive and disappointing meals of the entire trip. It was also by far the most out of place we felt during our time in Sri Lanka, with no other tourists in sight. We did however manage to catch a beautiful sunset over Tissa Lake as we made our way back to the guest house.
The next day it was back to the early starts, waking up at 5am ready for a full day safari at Yala National Park. We were able to arrange this on arrival through our very helpful host, who even prepared a breakfast for us to take with us. The safari was by far the most expensive thing we did in Sri Lanka, costing R.18,000 or around £90 for the day, however we thought it was well worth it. West Midlands Safari Park this was not!
Arriving at the park just in time for sunrise, we were soon driving round on the search for wildlife. There were all sorts of animals to be found including crocodiles, wild boar, and lots elephants. However after a few hours driving around the park, we were starting to worry that we wouldn’t see one of the parks elusive leopards. But there it was! Thanks to our eagle-eyed driver we watched as a leopard ran across the road in front of us, quickly disappearing into the shrub within seconds.
We managed to get even closer to the wildlife as we stopped by a river within the park for lunch. Not only were we sat on the riverbank right next to some wild boars bathing in the water, but we were surrounding by monkeys. As our tour guide dished out the lunch his mother had prepared for us they attacked, and before we could do anything, escaped with a full tub of lentil dhal! Fortunately this still left plenty of the delicious homemade curry to go around.
As the day continued the sightings became rarer and rarer, as the animals retreated from the intense heat and away from the jeep tracks. We definitely didn’t regret booking a full day, as the lunch experience was great and half a day just wouldn’t be enough but somewhere in between the two would probably be perfect.
This was our first experience of a safari so we have no idea how it compares to trips available in other countries, but we loved it and I think it would make a great addition to any Sri Lanka itinerary.