I had an afternoon safari in the park as I arrived at my guesthouse just in time to arrange it, planning to have another safari the following morning. Unfortunately there was nobody else at the guesthouse that I could go with, so I was alone in a huge 10-seater jeep! My driver was excellent and very pleasant, with quite good English. First we visited the Elephant Orphanage where orphans from the park are fed with milk until they are old enough to be released into the park. Having previously visited Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage where you actually walk among the elephants, this orphanage was more like visiting a zoo, as the young elephants are in a fenced area and you watch the feeding from a distance. I wish I hadn't bothered going, even though it only cost 400 rupees. We then drove to the park itself, where I paid what I thought was a very steep entrance fee of Rs3750. But the high cost was explained when a ranger/guide climbed on board, who was extremely knowledgeable and spoke perfect English. Within two minutes we saw our first family of elephants, very close to the track! This set the scene for the rest of the safari as we were constantly seeing elephants, in the distance, very close up, or crossing the tracks in front of us. In fact there were so many, I soon felt I had seen enough and asked the guide to take us to see other animals and birds. My eyesight isn't that great, but the guide spotted and pointed out so many creatures - land monitor lizards, rodents and so many different bird species, that I was able to see everything clearly, particularly with my binoculars.. I think he was a bit put out by my already knowing most of the birds, as this was my 3rd visit to Sri Lanka, and in fact I caught him out in a mistaken identification at one point! I hoped to see two species of monkeys, but unfortunately we were not able to find any. When we reached the large lake in the centre of the park, the birdlife was amazing, and we drove very close-up to where birds were feeding and roosting, which was ideal for photography. by then the light was fading, which seemed to encourage wildlife out into the open, and I was delighted to see a family of four jackals running very close to the jeep, and later another family with cubs, which the guide said was a very lucky and unusual sighting. Altogether I thoroughly enjoyed my safari, and would have gone again next day had the entrance fee not been so much, on top of the Rs4500 I had to pay my guesthouse for arranging the safari for me. I would recommend people not to arrange their safari at their accommodation, but make their own way to the park entrance, where there are jeeps and drivers waiting, so you can just pay the going rate for a safari without the extra cost added on by the accommodation.
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