Monday, August 16, 2010
Thunder from down under - III
So one fine night, under the blanket of overwhelming Srilankan stars - me, Kani and Jane hit the road and headed towards the Yala National Park - famous for its wildlife. While we were driving down, I was expecting it to be just another fun filled weekend with some dose of adventure. But boy oh boy!!!... I couldn't be more wrong. Organized superbly by Kani, it turned out to be one of the most adventurous and enthralling experiences of my life. It was my first chance to see the world the way it is meant to be - UNTAMPRED.
As soon as we hit the park, the stage and sounds changed and a whole new world awakened for us to explore.
Yala is one of the most famous and most visited wildlife parks in SriLanka. It’s the country’s second largest wildlife reserve located about 300 km from Colombo. The low-density flora provides ideal conditions for safari as it allows a clear and unobstructed view of the wildlife. But it also does make sure that you are covered in dust by the time you are done with your trip. So if you are planning to make a trip to Yala, don’t forget to get a good headgear, big shades and an even better sunscreen. And even if you don' t, trust me - the thrilling experience is worth all that and probably even a little more dust :)
Yala is supposed to be one of the best places in the world to locate leopards. But the leopard was definitely a bit elusive and it’s said that one needs to be fairly lucky to spot a leopard. If this is true, then I believe that we were more than lucky since we spotted two - a fully grown leopard and a leopard cub.
The adult leopard settled on top of a huge rock, like a king sitting on his throne - while the awestruck visitors resembled the common people in his royal court, paying their greetings to the king of Yala. Immediately after that, we got to see a leopard cub perched comfortably on the branch of a huge tree. staring down at the crowd of his international admirers clicking away to glory. He seemed like a sensational superstar obliging the paparazzi without much ado. And just like everyone else, I just couldn’t stop admiring the cub either.... just so adorable and cute... from far I guess!!! LOL
Another great spotting for us was that of a tusker. When we spotted him, he was far away, behind the trees and bush... majestic in its form and playful in his activities. But then he started moving towards us. The thrill of the tusker coming towards us and getting up close to the caravan of jeeps waiting for him is simply an extraordinary experience. He was just so calm and so serene, though he did scare me off a bit when he came close to the jeeps. But apparently all he wanted was to cross the trail and go to the other side. Surprisingly enough he was totally unperturbed by the human presence and did not even bother to look at any of us. I wonder if we as humans can ever have that kind of attitude towards the rest of the species. Like live and let live, like why trouble someone unless it’s a food chain requirement or unless someone is attacking you. Why can’t we all live in harmony like these animals do? I think these animals have a great lesson to teach us all... and not just about how to live in tandem with the nature and with each other, but also about how to be satisfied with what is enough instead of running after more all the time.
Ok, too much of philosophy... lets switch back to Yala Mode!
Inside the park, I couldn’t help but notice the diversity of its landscape. The park features not only green areas but also a sandy beach, freshwater lakes, scrubland and a river. I guess that’s the reason why there is such a diverse range of animals that not just occupy but also enjoy this reserve.
The park also has some dramatic rock monoliths spread throughout the park, one of which is called the elephant rock since it resembles one. It’s amazing how the flora, the fauna and their surroundings merge in to each other so effortlessly. A place that houses elephants has a rock that looks like one and the fallen sticks in and around the water pools resemble a snake or a crocodile. It’s hard to differentiate unless you really look carefully.
But "I" learnt to spot the crocs and I seemed to be good at it too... I am glad I learnt SOMETHING: D
In Yala, there is a substantial population of spotted deer, wild buffalo, jackal, mongoose, monkeys, langurs, painted storks, crocodiles and peacock. I have never seen so many peacocks together in my life. They were beyond fascinating; and beautiful would be an understatement.
They say that the bird life here comprises over 120 species. Well, obviously we did not see all of them but we did catch hold of a few including the most fascinating and extremely camera friendly bee eater. He seemed like he was posing for the camera jumping from one branch to another and looking directly at us with a series of expressions. The cutest thing ever!
Not just this- I was also deeply impressed by our jeep driver cum safari guide who I fondly named Nandu. He's been working there for over 30 years now and still seems to love his job. And the depth of his knowledge and his sense of fun was just simply superb - completely skilled and entertaining.
Although, we did miss out on the sloth bear. Kani is doing some kind of research project on them so I believe it was a bigger disappointment for him than me or Jane. Or maybe it was a bigger disappointment for me and Jane because we may never get to go there again while he has done it earlier and I am sure will be going to many more trips like these.
Anyway... to sum it up, I would like to mention that till date, I know of no finer adventure than being in the wild, in an open air jeep, trying to spot various animals that you get to see only in the zoo. But it’s not the same... the zoo with all its exotic species suddenly sounds like a boring museum to me. Because now, for me, the finest way to experience the exhilaration of being close to nature, the flora and the fauna, is by being on a wildlife safari and capturing these animals in their natural habitat... unrestricted and being themselves in the world of nature isolated from the impacts of man.
The big thing about this trip is how little I am and how great this is... I am privileged, I think, because if the humans continue with their destructive streak and keep messing with the environment, I am not sure if my grand children will ever be able to experience something so incredible. Loosing myself to nature and seeing so many beautiful creatures free in the Wild was a surprisingly lovely experience. From standing in the back of our jeep and marveling at the animals to sitting by the pool and gazing at the stars, the trip was surely one to remember.
PS: have posted the pics on my facebook, so you can check out and you would understand exactly what I am talking about!