Wednesday, 27 November 2013

On safari - Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka

Wilpattu National Park (Willu-pattu; Land of Lakes) is a park located on the island of Sri Lanka. The unique feature of this park is the existence of "Willus" (Natural lakes) - Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater.

Located in the Northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka. The park is located 30 km west Anuradhapura and located 26 km north of Puttalam (approximately 180 km north of Colombo). The park is 131, 693 hectares and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Nearly sixty lakes (Willu) and tanks are found spread throughout Wilpattu.

Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka. Wilpattu is among the top national parks world renowned for its Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) population. The Leopard population in Wilpattu is still not yet known. Closed for 19 years due to the civil war it has only re-opened in 2010.

The first safari starts at 6am at the Park's front gate.  The previous night's heavy rain has made the tracks wet and slippery as well as erasing any animals tracks.  Early morning is very dull & overcast, but it brings out the bird life - Crested Serpent Eagles, Fish Eagles, Green Bee-eaters, hundreds of water birds.

We travel across the Park & stop at the coast near the volcanic rocks formations that caused Sri Lanks to separate from the Indian sub continent.

Leopards still remain elusive and despite following a fresh set of tracks, we eventually admit defeat.
 Porcupine (top) : Leopard (bottom)
On the way home, we come across a lone bull elephant happily eating his way through the warerplants in a nearby lake.

Our second safari starts in bright hot sunlight.  It changes the whole jungle with most animals seeking the cool to escape the heat.

We try a more northern approach and fresh leopard and bear tracks are frequently located but still no sign of either.

On on track we encounter a lone elephant happily munching his way through the leaves.

Late afternoon brings a heavy rain storm and most every animal except the waterbirds & Spotted Deer seek the shelter of the jungle.  We decide to end the safari early and head back towards the entrance.

About 20kms short of the entrance, we encounter a pair of Golden Jackals, who pose for us before leaving.

A short distance up the track, truck passes us and immediately our driver & tracker take off up the road.  Success !!!!.....just ahead is a Sloth Bear....he certainly doesn't appreciate having his meals interrupted and quickly show a fast set of heels, but not before we manage some video & photos.

We are elated as we had really wanted to see a Sloth Bear to top of our Sri Lanka Wildlife List. This is our first and only Sloth Bear

Back at Teal Cottage ( )  we are happily greeted by Sisi who will be our driver and companion for the rest of our stay in Sri Lanka.  A couple of beers, dinner and ealy to bed for any early morning 197km drive to the northern most city of Jaffna.

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