Here in Sri Lanka it is really hot, especially in Colombo. Once we left the big city, though, the heat wasn’t quite so bad. After Colombo, we went to the beach at Mirissa where we took surfing lessons, and then to a small town called Tissa, short for Tissamaharama. We went to Tissa so that we could go on a half day safari at Yala National Park and also visit a very interesting Buddhist and Hindu temple site called Kataragama. Later on our trip, we will do a longer safari in Tanzania, but Tissa would be our first chance to try it out. I really didn’t know what to expect.
On the afternoon of the safari, we got into a jeep which was completely open in the back. The driver gave Miles and me some gum and off we went. When we got to Yala National Park, we saw a lot of other jeeps there, but since we planned it in the afternoon, there weren’t as many as there would have been if we had gone in the morning. At the entrance, there were open plains with some trees and grass. It was sort of how I imagine Africa will look. As we were going, we saw a ton of water buffalo and a lot of different birds. The birds were really colorful and most of them had pretty big beaks, with names like “spoonbill”, but there were some small green birds too, and we even saw a few parrots. After that, we saw an elephant drinking water out of a pond, surrounded by more birds and buffalo.
Our driver had a really good eye for animals, so when he stopped or paused, it usually meant that there was something interesting around to see. We would stop and he would show us the animals, and tell us the names. Once, we saw an owl, but he pronounced it “eagle”, which was sort of confusing. Another time, we saw an actual eagle!
As we drove around, eventually we got into more of a jungle plain, which was what I had been hoping for because I really like that kind of terrain. In the jungle, we saw some mongoose, which were kind of ugly but really funny to see at the same time. There were peacocks, crocodiles on small islands in the middle of watering holes, deer, more birds, and even a whole family of elephants. There were four elephants, and one of them was small, one was medium, one a little bigger, and one quite big, so we though they were just like our family!
After a while longer, we stopped and our driver told us that when we were done with our break, he had a surprise for us, so we explored a bit by foot. We were by the ocean at this point, and it was really cool. We saw a crab there, and there was jungle coming right up to the beautiful sandy beach. After we were done exploring, we went back to the jeep and when we went back, there was some fruit waiting for us, which tasted amazing. We saved some of it for our driver because he was so nice to us.
After that, we got back in the jeep, ate our fruit, and started looking hard for a leopard. The driver and I were looking hard, but we couldn’t find any leopards that day. I was getting a little bit disappointed about the leopards, but right then, a HUGE elephant popped out on the road and started walking straight towards us. The driver stopped the jeep and we all were pretty scared that it might charge at us. The driver motioned for me to be really quiet, so I put a hand over my mouth so no sound would come out. Eventually the elephant came so close that it almost touched the side of the jeep and it started looking at us. I think it was thinking, “Should I charge at them, or should I just keep going?” Finally it started walking away. When it went far enough away for us to speak, the driver said he thought it had stopped because it wanted the leftover fruit in our jeep. We all laughed and joked about it, and when we were done laughing, we did one more look for a leopard — also unsuccessful — so we started going out from Yala. We saw some more mongoose and other animals.
Then it was time to leave Yala National Park and go back to Tissa. For people who aren’t scared of elephants, I would really recommend a safari at Yala, because it is such an amazing experience. Maybe you might see a leopard, and definitely you will see good things.