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Uda Walawe NP

March 1, 2008

Helen – We had coffee before we left and some brownies and chocolate cake which we brought from home, saving the big breakfast for when we returned from the safari.  The park is supposed to open at 6:30 and we arrived on time but we were told that since it was the first day it was going to be a little late.  We waited at the gate with the army patrolling the park; we are actually getting used to all the security guards everywhere.

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Finally they say we can go to the visitors center but can not get our tickets until after the park is blessed at 7:45.  The center has a small table set with a Buddha, the offerings, and incense.  The monk arrived, and they washed his feet at the door, then dried them with a towel.  He entered and sat at a table and began the prayers.  We all sat on the floor, with heads bowed and hands together.  Then a man tied a white string to a bowl on the table and passed the string through the hands of everyone sitting on the floor thus connecting all of us together.  While the blessing continued we were told that we could now buy our tickets.  By now there was one more visitor (from Wales); since we have a residence visa our fee was 700 rupees (about $7) the fee for the other man was 3000 rupees ($30).  Great break for us!!

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The jeep and driver were arranged by our hotel, and since we were the only ones there we didn’t have to share the jeep either.  Usually, the jeep holds 8 people; so we were free to stand through roof partitions and get really great views.  We picked up a guide at the center; he was volunteering today.  He had retired after 37 years with the national park system.  By now, we had missed the morning water hole gatherings which occur about 6:30-7:00.  It was now 8 and we were afraid we weren’t going to see much.  We were pleasantly surprised.  Our guide found the first elephant by a tree with grass covering the bottom half of its body.  He said it was a male and that males travel alone while the females are in herds with their young.  The eldest female is the herd leader. 

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Our next elephant spotting was two males which is usually a dangerous situation because it was mating season and they tend to fight. 

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We saw many peacocks; more males but only a few with their long tails.  The guide said that they would open their tails later in the day for shade.  The monkeys were crazy jumping through the trees, one actually grabbed a branch which broke and sent him flying to the ground.  He was ok!! 

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Little green parrots caught our eye several times as well as two hawk eagles with large wing spans.  Finally, we came to a herd.  A young female charged us running out of the woods.  The guide quickly raised his hand and yelled at her to stop.  I couldn’t believe she just stopped.  He said she would charge again and she did as we moved the jeep for a better look.  Behind her were several more large elephants and it looked like a couple of little ones.  He said that the charging elephant was about 18-20 and was pregnant probably for the first time.  We just parked the jeep and watched her, then several other elephants joined her. They were breaking branches off the trees and eating the wooden parts which surprised us.  One larger elephant turned back and began calling some of the others to come.  What fun it was and the highlight of the trip.  Driving back we saw several more males and were happy with our sightings.

 A few interesting facts on how elephants spend their day:

  • 2-4 hours sleeping on their feet
  • 18-20 hours eating
  • 1 hour bathing
  • 2-4 hours moving
  • 1 hour resting
  • 10 minutes drinking (they don’t drink through their nose – they pick up the water with it but squirt it in their mouth!!)
  • Nurse 1-2 years
  • They can hear especially well even with their feet. They can hear an average of 2 miles and depending on conditions, sometimes even further.  So they can signal each other of danger or where there is water.
  • Their shoulder height is about twice the circumference of their footprint
  • They have 80,000 muscles in their trunk
  • The trunk can hold 1 gallon of water
  • Can lift 700 lbs
  • The trunk is composed of the nose and upper lip
  • Live to about 65 years in the wild and 75 in captivity

Back to the hotel for a breakfast of more fat (cheese omelet, bacon, sausage, butter on toast, cream in coffee) than we usually have in a week – but it was really good!  Paid our bill and got into the car; we were parked in a tight spot by the reception area. Tom had to back up the car to leave – two seconds later, “Crunch” the right side view mirror was pointing the wrong way and a tree trunk was in the driver’s side window.  There was a tree right in the middle of the driveway as you pulled into the hotel which I guess didn’t make much of an impression on us when we entered last night.  It made a definite impression this morning and thus it was the third minor accident with the car!  Tom is dreading taking the car back to the rental company.

 Nearby on the other side of the park, there is an Elephant Transit Reserve.  Orphaned baby elephants are brought here and cared for up to four years then released back into the wild with a herd.  There were 32 elephants there with the youngest being 2 months.  He was so cute…the herd had stepped on a mine then ran into the forest leaving him behind. The navy found him and he was brought here.  They are fed milk every three hours around the clock.  We got there about 11:15 so we just looked around and watched that baby in his pen.  Minutes before feeding time the elephants began marching home for feeding.  They have an eleherd (shepherd) watching them and bringing them home.  They feed the two babies first while the others pile into the corral area and into a separate pen where they wait their turn.  The babies were fed with a large bottle but the others had a funnel with a long hose attached.  As the elephants ran to the fence, they quickly grabbed the hose with their trunks and stuck it into their mouths or just ran up with their mouths open and the feeders inserted the hoses in their mouths.  They gulped the milk quickly and then went to another waiting area.  Two were fed at a time, so it was fun watching them come, eat, and go.  One elephant kept trying to come back for more and the eleherd had to keep chasing him away.  This all took only about 20 minutes, we then headed home. 

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We ended the day by watching the sunset sitting on our wall by the beach.

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2 comments

  1. monks and elephants and peacocks, oh my! looks like fun!
    love, stacy


  2. Got to check out the site for the 1st time in a while. My, you two have been busy. What’s up with the Latin Love poster above the bed on the February post………..that’s HOT stuff!!!



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