When we drive from the small village towards the east, the road is covered in a light fog, and the scenery almost looks like home with dykes and cyclists. Then, the mountains in the distance appear above the fog, and we see our first wildlife in the reservoir to the left. At the entrance, a guide is appointed, and we soon find out that his English is very poor, and that he is best versed in asking for a big tip, even indicating how high that tip should be. We ignore his pleas, and enjoy the scenery instead. Soon enough, we see a herd of spotted deer hiding in the shade of trees, and from then on, we are on full alert, as we spot wildlife almost continuously. Birds of various sizes, chameleons, a peacock with its colourful feathers trying to attract a female, and other small animals, while the guide is clearly geared towards finding us elephants. He does not know that we have seen plenty a few days before in Minneriya, up north.
We finally see a small group of elephants, one with a necklace: one of the orphaned elephants who has been released into the wild from the orphanage in Udawalawe village which we would visit in the afternoon. The elephants are very close to our vehicle: we can almost touch them if our arms would be long enough. They are constantly eating, and clearly used to humans looking at them. We see some more, before we reach a viewpoint over the reservoir, always with the mountains of Sri Lanka as a backdrop. From here, we take smaller trails, and we almost inevitably see more. One of the highlights is the gruesome scene of an eagle devouring a small bird: the poor animal gets completely torn apart before it disappears into the pointy beak of the bird of prey, chunk by chunk, leg after head after intestine. When there is nothing left, the bird takes off into a mighty flight.
We drive to the banks of the reservoir now, and directly spot a huge crocodile on the other side, its mouth fully open. The driver switches off the engine, so we can better enjoy the scenery, the multitude of birds, kingfishers, storks, egrets, bee-eaters, and more. There, we see more crocodiles. We drive along the shore of the reservoir, see more birds, and then come across a lone male elephant taking a batch in the lake. It is irritated, makes a charge at us, after which it goes back to showering itself in water. Around the corner, we come across a big herd of buffaloes, who seem to be enjoying themselves in the water of the reservoir. They are all partly or fully immersed, so we never get to count them all, or even see how big they are. But the more we look, the more we see. On the way back to the exit, we see more eagles of various types, and the guide painstakingly tries to make us see another chameleon in a tree - it is a miracle he has spotted it while we were driving by. When we finally arrive back in town, we are impressed by the amount of wildlife we have seen in a couple of hours. Our visit to the elephant orphanage in the afternoon is an extra: we get to see many small elephants, learn they drink up to 5 litres of milk a day, and that elephants are endangered in Sri Lanka, too.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
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