This is a small post covering Uduwalawe National Park and Yala National Park which fall under the Uva Province of Sri Lanka.
Among the national parks in Sri Lanka the most visited is the Yala National Park mainly for leopards followed by Uduwalawe for the elephants. Apart from these two the other visited national parks in Sri Lanks are in the western province Wilpattu National Park, Minneriya National park which is near Polonnaruwa, Horton Plains National Park for the various treks and Sinharaja National Park which is a rainforest.
Uduwalawe National Park : I was not sure which route to take to get to Uduwalawe from Nuwara Eliya when I was searching for bus routes. The bus drivers at Nuwara Eliya were very helpful and suggested that I take a bus going towards Tissamaharama and get down at Tanamalwila junction which has lots of buses to Uduwalawe. Since I was not sure about the buses I was at the bus stop pretty early in the morning and there was a bus around 7:30 for Mattara via Tissamaharama. From Tanamalwila going to Uduwalawe town (were I was staying) you actually cut across the National Park and there was this lone elephant near the reservoir enjoying the attention of the tourist who were taking selfies with the elephant.
Typical to Sri Lankan National park there is no facility provided by the park to hire the safari jeeps, you need to arrange for a vehicle by yourself, either from the hotel/homestay you are staying at or I have read that there are 4WD vehicles at the entrance you can bargain a price for. I was the only guest at the homestay wanting to do the safari that evening and so had the vehicle to myself and paid a high price of around 4000LKR for the vehicle and another 3500LKR at the park entrance. On our way to the park entrance there was another elephant (or was it the same one I had seen earlier) again near the reservoir and this time I also stopped a few minutes to take a few pictures.
And it rained. So this was a forest safari experience with rain pouring down towards the end of the safari. Lots of elephants, the last count was like 250 resident elephants or so. And because of the reservoir good for birdwatching too. The forest is not very dense and more shrubs than trees. As we drove through the park saw single elephants walking around, small families usually of 2 elephants and a baby, then there was this huge group of elephants playing, eating and getting into friendly fights. On our way back to the entrance and by then it was raining, there was this small group playing will all that slush and a baby elephant getting under the feet of the elder elephants, it was either trying to get away from the rain or was enjoying the slush, very cute an we more or less spent 15-20 mins just watching its antics.
Hawk Eagle, Serpent eagle and Fish Eagle at Uduwalawe
Lots of peacocks and peahens throughout the park
Horn bills always seen in pairs
An Indian Roller and a Painted stork
Elephants enjoying the slush and rain at Ududwalawe
A baby elephant in the midst rolling in the slush
Yala National Park : Tissamaharama or Katragam is more or less the base for visiting the Yala National Park. There are many safari lodges, homestays, hotels along both these stretch towards the national park. Another great thing was that getting someone to share the 4WD for the safari is very easy because the organisers anyway try to get 4-6 travellers together unless you sepcifically want a vehicle to yourself. So yes the costs do come down drastically. I paid 4500LKR totally ie both the entrance,vehicle and guide charges.
Getting here rom Ududwalawe, you can either go to Embilipitya and from there to Tissamaharama or take a bus to Tanamalwila junction and then to Tissamaharama which is what I did. I was staying near the busstand in Tissamaharama and had booked the safari through the homestay. So its alost 20kms to the park entrance and was picked up around 4:30am for the safari. And you can say that this is a popular destinations, lots and lots of 4WDs were lined up for the safari.
The forest though not very dense was teeming with wildlife and birds. And yes we did get to see the leopards. Actually two of them, they were more or less hidden on the tree but we did get glimpses of them and after all the chasing and rough driving that the driver did to get to the second location when he was called about the sighting makes even this small glimpse worthwhile.
First sighting of a leopard at Yala, hiding in the trees.
A second one we saw also on the branches and covered wit foliage but much closer
Yala was teeming with animals, lots of crocodiles, deer, boars and rabits
My first dancing peacock, a sight to behold
Lots of birds at Yala too.
Bee eater birds, of various varities seen, and its like we could spot one everywhere.
I also visited Kataragama temple, Ruhunu Maha Kataragama temple where the main diety is Skanda-Kumara or Murugan. The peacock statues placed on the walls of the main temple is very beautiful. The main temple is surrounded with many small shrines including a dargha and a huge stupa at the backside of the temple. The main doors to the temple open only after 6:30pm so I missed getting a glimpse of the main deity.
The main temple walls with the temple of Skanda-Kumara seen behind