I'm not a big animal person. No, let's rephrase that: I'm not a big “oochie-cootchy oh that's so cute” animal person. I love watching nature documentaries and I'm fascinated by all sorts of wildlife. Actually, I'm way more fascinated by wildlife than by a puppy wearing a bow-tie. By the elephants at Kaudulla National Park in Sri Lanka, for example.
Kaudulla National Park
Only declared a Sri Lanka National Park in 2002, Kaudulla is Sri Lanka's newest wildlife reserve. With its 6.656 hectares of land, Kaudulla National Park is located on an elephant corridor between Somawathie Chaitiya and Minneriya National Parks.
The Kaudulla park is home to deer, leopards, and sloths, but its especially known for its elephant population. More than 200 elephants can be found at Kaudulla and we were hoping to spot at least a few of them.
Kaudulla National Park jeep safari
I'd only ever done one jeep safari and that was on Mallorca. Obviously, that safari wasn't aimed at spotting wildlife, but simply at cruising through the mountains of the island in a jeep. Honestly, I was traveling with three guys and they made me do it.
This safari was different in many ways. No dry mountain lands, but lush green plains. No occasional bird or mountain goat, but elephants. Well, hopefully. The one thing both safaris had in common was that they were bumpy.
We set out one jeep behind the other, excited about the prospect of spotting elephants. Yet two minutes after we'd left it started to rain. Say what?! Our open jeeps were closed up and we prayed to the weather gods, telling them we'd never be able to get good photos through the tiny jeep windows.
They listened and soon all that was left of the rain were the heavy, dark clouds hovering low above us. Not the ideal circumstances for photography, but that wasn't something to worry about just yet. We still had to see an animal! Some of us got impatient and started taking photographs of the only animal in sight.
After some more driving we finally reached a large man-made water reservoir, known as the Kaudulla Tank. It seemed like a great place for elephants to hang around and have a drink. At first we didn't see anything, but as we drove around the water reservoir, suddenly there they were: elephants! And not just 2 or 3, but at least 40 of them. I kid you not.
We were visiting Kaudulla National Park during The Gathering, that one moment each year in which the elephants of the park come together. It's a real event, especially because of all the baby elephants present.
Our guides urged us to stay calm and quiet as not to disturb the animals. They kept a safe distance at all times and – this should be obvious – nobody was allowed to leave their jeep.
The elephants in Kaudulla National Park are used to seeing people, but they're still wild animals and we were grateful that they let us join them for a while.
The respect that our guides demanded for the elephants isn't unusual in Sri Lanka. Elephants are considered sacred there and the punishment for killing an elephant intentionally is the death penalty.
This was pretty crazy. Everyone concluded that this was crazy. And also cool and amazing. And pretty awesome.
So we got our cameras out and do what travel bloggers do: we took photos. A lot of them. I know they're not the best (blame the weather!), but I do hope they give you some idea of the beauty of Kaudulla National Park and its inhabitants.
Kaudulla National Park lies 190 km from the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. It can be reached by the Colombo-Trincomalee main road and the entrance can be found 22 km north from Habanara. If you come by train, you should get off at Minneriya.
Best time to visit Kaudulla National Park would be from August until December, but you're likely to spot elephants there or at Minneriya National Park all year through. The Gathering usually first takes places in Minneriya National Park in September/October before the elephants move on and gather again at the Kaudulla Tank in Kaudulla National Park.
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