The Island’s varied landscapes and climatic zones and plentiful national parks mean the country’s always excellent for wildlife sightings and although our recent Sri Lanka tour was in no way a specific nature or birdwatching trip we were lucky enough to have a keen-eyed wildlife specialist as our guide so sightings were even better than usual.
We had come away without a zoom lens so all shots are pretty much close up and if we hadn’t have left it in the cupboard we’d probably have got a lot more! In no particular order then…
The one everyone wants to see – wild elephants! With an estimated 6,000+ on a relatively small island, they aren’t hard to spot and we’d already seen several on the roadside before entering any national park. (As the highways department cuts back the verges this provides plenty of tempting shoots and lush greenery so elephants are consequently often seen grazing along the sides of highways.) The above mother and baby were seen in Udawalawa (or Udawalawe) National Park in the southern part of the country.
Also regularly glimpsed from bus windows are some of the Island’s bountiful population of wild peafowls – now sadly rare in most other Asian countries. This is what we reckoned was a more unusual but equally spectacular rear view of a male in full display mode.
Certainly more familiar to European visitors, but a nice shot nonetheless we reckon, is this little egret looking for some lunch at the bustling Negombo fishing port.
Another bird shot – this time something called a black-capped night heron. Indeed birdlife was so bountiful around Kandy Lake that you could conveniently watch the impressive flocks of egrets, herons and cormorants while sitting with a G and T in the hotel bar!
This giant squirrel, amid the spectacular boulders of Sigiriya, was definitely on the look-out for some bananas. We omitted to include anything which would have put its size in perspective so you’ll just have to believe us when we say it was at least 4 foot, including the tail.
Something else which showed no fear and patiently posed for a bunch of photos was this magnificent sambur deer stag sitting by the roadside at the entrance to Horton Plains National Park.
Another spectacular sighting – and this was actually taken from our tuk-tuk as we returned to the hotel after lunch – is a grey langur mother and baby in Tangalle. Macaques are common in numerous urban areas in Asia but in our experience, these beautiful langurs are not!
The pair of young jackals in Udawalawe National Park was another spectacular and new sighting for us and again we’d remind you – no zoom! We are slightly at a loss to explain the relative accessibility and apparently healthy population levels of much of the country’s wildlife as Sri Lanka – along with most other Asian nations – has booming human population growth and a familiar problem of habitat loss. A lack of propensity to ‘eat anything that moves’ on the part of the local population – sadly common in certain other parts of the continent – clearly helps but Sri Lankan wildlife does seem to have developed a rare ability to adapt to living in close proximity with humans. (We’re not saying there aren’t problems but…)
Prehistoric looking monitor lizards – often of impressive sizes – are another common sighting both in national parks and city parks with the 2-metre water monitor sunbathing aside Kandy Lake being the largest we’ve ever come across in Asia. We’ll leave you with a final bird pic – this time the ubiquitous (endemic) and beautiful little green bee-eater – seen here posing aside a track in Udawalawe National Park.
All photos were taken on our recent Island of Serendipity, Sri Lanka tour. The upcoming February departure is full but plenty of availability for later in the year.