As with all our trips down south, we were up early in the morning and heading down the E1 highway to Galle. But unlike many of our trips down south, this time we were traveling as a pack. Together with my cousins and cousins in law, we were speeding long the highway in the wee hours of the morning with the hope of reaching the Galle Navy Base by 6:00 AM.
The Galle Navy base is situated in the vicinity of the commercial Galle Harbour. One of the most active ports in Sri Lanka, the Galle harbour is a natural harbour that has been recognized by the International yacht societies as one of the world’s best attractions for yachting. Galle harbour has been Sri Lanka’s most important harbour until the artificial harbour was built at Colombo in 1873. Along with the construction of the Galle Fort, the harbour was one of the major ports in the Indian Ocean for over 200 years.
As a kid who grew up in Colombo, going to the Zoo was definitely a highlight! I used to love going to the zoo and vividly remember being taken to the Dehiwela Zoo as part of the annual Grade 5 class trip. We spent the day roaming around the Zoo learning about the different animals. Of course at that age we were simply fascinated by seeing wild animals in real life and didn’t pay much attention to what was being taught to us! The day ended with the Elephant show followed by the Seal show.At that young age we had no idea of how depressing it must be for these animals to be caged up and put on display.
I’m fascinated by Elephants. Though I’m utterly afraid of them, I have a lot of love and respect towards these majestic creatures. And without question, I would jump at an opportunity to spend some time with them! If you’re up in Kandy and it’s not Perahara season, the best place to go see Elephants is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
The Asian Elephant is smaller than the African elephant. But, it’s still the largest land animal living in Asia. Given the scientific name Elephas Maximus, Elephants have been part and parcel of Sri Lankan culture and heritage. These gentle giants who roamed abundantly during the time of our ancient kings have now been listed as endangered on the Red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
If you live on the West Coast, it will take you quite a long time to get to Arugam Bay since you will have to cut across the breadth of Sri Lanka and end up on the East Coast. Irrespective of which mode of transport you take, it’ll take you somewhere around 8-12 hours or more to get to Arugam Bay from Colombo. If you’re travelling specifically to Arugam Bay, I suggest you leave out 2 days for travel (one day to get there, and another day to get back). From the perspective of travel time Arugam Bay may not be the ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
There are a few route options available when travelling to Arugam Bay. If you’re up for a long drive, and starting the journey from Colombo, you can take the rout through Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, UdaWalawa, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya to ArugamBay. From Kandy you can drive to Mahiyangana via the 18 hair-pin bends on to Bibile, Monaragala, Siyambalanduwa, Pottuvil Town and reach Arugam Bay. From the south, you can take the highway to Matara, and drive through Tissamaharama and Buttala via the Kataramaga road to Monaragala and continue to Arugam Bay. Of course you don’t HAVE to drive, when travelling in a group the best option is to hire a van or small bus based on the number of travellers in the group.
After spending a majority of the previous day travelling from Kandy to Katharagama, I wasn’t pleased with the prospect of waking at 4.00 a.m.the next morning. But none the less, on this cold October morning, I woke up excited for the main activity planned for the day! I packed my camera equipment and headed off to Tissamaharama where we rendezvoused with our Guide. From Tissa we drove our Safari jeep to the main entrance of the Yala National Park.
I remember the first time I visited Yala. It was during an annual company excursion. I remember it being a lot of fun because the colleagues who were in my group were all wildlife enthusiasts and we engaged in a very interesting and informative discussion with our Guide that included many stories based on his personal experiences. I also remember Yala being very dry, warm and dusty! I spent hours cleaning my camera after we got back to the Hotel. Sadly the only animals we were able to see were Wild Boars, lot of Peacocks,a couple of herds of Elephants and Deer, Crocodiles and a variety of Birds.
Growing up in an average middle class family, the idea of camping seemed to be somewhat farfetched. To be honest, when we were growing up, we didn’t have the opportunities or facilities available today for camping. As far as I know the only people who regularly went camping those days were the scouts. The family camping trips and father-son camping trips were “cool stuff” that happened in soaps and movies.
My first taste of camping was at Interact Youth Camp at Pedro Scout Camp, Nuwara Eliya. And boy that was one heck of an experience! Trekking through the forest on treasure hunts, having to face different physical challenges like crossing a river on a rope bridge and completing obstacle courses, learning how to build a fire and make ‘roti’ for dinner, sitting around a bonfire singing songs and spinning yarns were some of my most cherished memories. I honestly feel that youth camp changed me for the better! It took me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to rough it in the great outdoors!