Who doesn’t love elephants? They are possibly the coolest, cutest, most interesting animals on our planet. Being able to see these incredible wild animals up close and personal was one of the most memorable things I’ve don’t in my last year of full-time travel. The fact that I saw these on my first ever Sri Lankan Elephant Safari surprised me more than it will probably surprise you, as Sri Lanka was honestly never on my radar.
While I did see elephants (in captivity, at religious festivals and at a wildlife park where they were very, very far away) in both India and Thailand, nothing compares to encountering them in the wild. I still have the very vivid memory from inside Yala National Park in the South of Sri Lanka where a baby elephant came so close to our safari jeep that I let out a small scream and had to jump on to the seat next to me as it peeked into the jeep, it’s massive trunk trying to get at my camera! Even if you only have a short amount of time in Sri Lanka, Yala is a must for every Sri Lanka itinerary.
My first Sri Lankan Elephant Safari
At another stage, we slowed down to take some photos of a bay elephant with his mama when suddenly mama was NOT impressed with us and started charging towards our jeep. This was up in Habarana, a different wildlife park and one famous for its massive elephant population.
The mama was charging straight for us and our guide and driver had to put the boot down to get away from her.She was running seriously fast and we had to keep driving, faster, for about 5 minutes. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a teen tiny bit scared but I was also sort of loving the excitement of it all. It had all our adrenaline running and myself, Dave (from Jones Around The World) and Raphael (from Journey Wonders) got a pretty good laugh out of it!
Let me rewind a little bit. What was I doing in Sri Lanka, I hear you ask, considering it was never on my radar? Well I was lucky enough to be invited to the TBC Asia Travel Bloggers Conference and Awards, organised by Cinnamon Hotels. My friend and fellow travel blogger Jayne from Girl Tweets World summed up the awards pretty well, so I won’t go into too much detail here. I promise to write a separate post about it though – they were pretty awesome plus I won my first awards!
As part of the awards, finalists were invited on a one week pre-conference tour of Sri Lanka, sponsored by Sir Lankan Airlines and Cinnamon Hotels. To say we were treated well would be a huge understatement – it was almost like we were blogging royalty. I chose a trip to the South of Sri Lanka for one reason and one reason only….to do my first ever Sri Lankan Elephant Safari! That’s right, as part of out 6 day tour of the South we spent 2 nights as Yala National Park, famous for its leopard and elephant populations.
Having done many safaris in Africa, it was interesting to compare and contrast. While spotting animals on the great African plains can be easy enough (especially huge African elephants!) it’s much more of a challenge in Sri Lanka. The elephants are hiding in thick jungle, so when you do come across one it is a total surprise. We were standing up in our jeep, peeking left and right, in constant look out for an elephant to just walk out on the road in front of us. Our early morning safari meant we caught an entire family bathing at a waterhole, a memory that I will surely never forget!
Sadly we were not up early enough to see any leopards which was quite disappointing but our hilarious guide told us its of incredible stories about his leopard encounters, including one time some National Geographic photographers sent him out into the jungle to get the shot they so badly needed as they weren’t allowed out of the jeep! You could tell straight away how much he loved his job and he didn’t mind asking al out odd, sometimes hilarious and often times rude, questions about elephants and…breeding! Did you know….actually you probably don’t want to know haha.
Doing a Sri Lankan Elephant Safari in Yala
The best thing about staying at Cinnamon Wild Yala, a hotel that is so close to the National Park that elephants, wild hogs, crocodiles and other animals road free on the hotel grounds, was waking up and not knowing what might be outside your door! We dined mere metres away from lurking crocodiles in the lake and we woke up to the sound of a cacophony of wild birds. it was surely phenomenal – so much so that it really deserved its own blog post (coming soon!).
Below are a few more photos from out trip, mainly from our second elephant safari where we stayed at Habarana Village and admittedly saw WAY more elephants than we did in Yala.
Both our Sri Lankan Safaris, while distinctly different, were nothing short of magical!
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