Yala National Park - July 16th 2015

Yala National Park entrance

Yala National Park entrance

Today we head by road to Yala National Park for an overnight stay. Consumed the usual great breakfast and waited out the front for our driver. At about ten past eight, ten minutes late a Nissan Sedan drove by twice and eventually came back to pick us up. This did not bode well as it turned out the driver was a 58 year old doing a good impersonation of a “Dementia” patient.

Our man was unsure of our itinerary and although we headed off in the right direction he had no plans (or could not remember them) to stop at the Turtle Hatchery and Stilt Fisherman per our tour details. He was unsure if we had a morning or night safari and seemed generally unsure of most things including how to drive a car at more than 40KM an hour!

To cut to the chase we drove for five and a half hours to cover 138KM! The overall feeling was that we were in a car being driven by a 16 year old on L plates. We were passed by heavily laden trucks, buses, and every other vehicle on the road. We both eventually lost the plot a little and began to “cuss” each time he faltered and allowed another vehicle to block our way. I am not able to repeat what was said here but I can assure you they were not flattering to his driving skills.

Worn out and fragile we approached Tissamaharama and thought to ourselves “Salvation is at hand”. When he started stopping to ask directions from lots of roadside people we realised he had no idea where the Hotel was. The Hotel had recently changed names which made finding it even harder! We had passed it much earlier and after doubling back we were both looking forward to getting out of his clutches! Not to be he was confused at the Hotel Check in and when we eventually got our key Erica had got to the stage where she needed “Restraining”.

The good news was we were here and the bad news was our Safari started in 30 minutes. We got lucky. Our driver in our personal 6 seater Safari 4WD was young, alert and a driver after our own hearts. He gunned it along the road to the National Park passing everyone he could, leaning it through corners and narrowly missing pedestrians. Our sleeping Adrenalin stores were awakened, we felt alive and the horror trip here was forgotten. This young man was remarkable and resulted us in having a great 5 hour Safari with great sightings. He pushed and shoved his way amongst the other vehicles often tooting and flashing his lights to make sure we got the pics

I will not bore the reader with the list of animals we saw which amounted to almost every creature that inhabits this vast park. Googling Yala National Park Sri Lanka will give you the picture. Our most memorable sightings were Mongoose crossing the road, a black Sloth bear just on dusk, large herds of Water Buffalo swimming at a Waterhole, groups of large Painted Storks, and last but not least the Elephants. Our first sighting was a large tusk less male having a drink at a water hole. He finished drinking and proceeded to walk right in front of our vehicle almost brushing the bumper bar. Visions of the videos we had seen of Elephants like this one crushing cars and overturning them in this park flashed before our eyes but he was a kind type and disappeared into the scrub.

Later we spotted another lone male eating in a gully. Another group of six females were grazing in a lake on Lotus. Just on dusk we spotted 2 more drinking at a large water hole. It was a great afternoon and we felt fulfilled as we sped back to our hotel at breakneck speed, most of the time on the wrong side of the road. Very hard to see the pedestrians at night and Erica was heard to say “If I was driving I would have run over lots by now”. You need young eyes and reflexes for this type of driving. We gave the young lad a tip and congratulated him on his great driving. He shook my hand and smiled with satisfaction at a job well done. We had enjoyed every moment!

Had a fabulous barbeque buffet dinner which was probably the best we have had for a long time. The staff here at Kithala resort Tissamaharama are the most attentive and gracious we have experienced on our journey so far. 

Had great brekky and now preparing for “Our Driver” (the same one who drove us here) to take us back to The Villa at Unawatuna for some R&R. We can both recommend the Yala Park experience and although the park was dry and dusty it was still worth visiting. Would probably see even more on season when there is more grass about. 

The Tsunami did a lot of damage at Yala with the death toll around 350. We were very close to the sea on parts of our Safari so could see how it would have happened.