Bundala National Park, Sri Lanka
Leaving beautiful Mirissa was sad, as we loved the chilled out beach and lovely Homestay. Nevertheless we were getting more and more keen to see some elephants so off we went. We had read about both Yala and Bundala national parks, and knew that the small town of Tissamaharama was a good base to visit either of them. We got the bus directly from Mirissa into Tissamaharama bus station and tried to get our bearings whilst being asked by a gaggle of touts where we were staying and when we wanted to go on safari. We had a quick look around to find somewhere to get a drink and plan where we wanted to go, and went not the first place we saw - a bakery, allegedly. I asked for tea with milk, they had no milk. We asked for water, they had no water. We asked what they had, they had coke. We had a coke (I love coke, so this was no hardship).
After a few minutes it was quite clear that my shorts and t shirt, whilst perfectly acceptable in Mirissa, was drawing more than a few looks so we took the opportunity to get a tuk tuk to the River Face Inn in Debarawewa (just outside Tissa, and disconcertingly going back on ourselves). We were greeted by 2 smiling men who immediately to.d us to sit down and took our backpacks. They had a fan room for 2500, our cheapest yet. I was in no mood to haggle so we went straight up to find our most spacious room yet - beautifully clean, with fresh towels and a hammock and rocking chairs in the verandah-ish space outside our room. There are 2 rooms upstairs, and no one was in the other room so it was completely private and I loved it. Two fresh welcome papaya juices later, and I pretty much never wanted to leave. We booked our trip to Bundala for the next morning, and opted for a take away breakfast - alarm set for 5am. Before bed, we had a yummy (very early) dinner of fried rice, which was delicious and perfectly presented.
The next morning, we woke up at FIVE AM. IN THE MORNING. Yep, that happened. Anyway, once I'd got over the shock of a disgustingly early wake up call, we headed downstairs for some tea, and to pick up our breakfast - which Thilini had prepared for us. We headed off with our lovely driver who seemed to have eagle eyes and pointed out stacks of birds, and a crocodile even before we'd got into the park. At the entrance, a 'volunteer guide' joined us (tips on this later). Less than five minutes into the park, whilst spying a peacock in a tree, our driver pointed out an elephant to our left, attempting to cross the road. It was soooo close and absolutely huge! We were chuffed to see one so early - particularly given that Bundala only has a small amount of elephants (particularly compared to Yala). We had a leisurely trip round, and Oli became quite the bird watching fanatic.
Although I think he was testing the zoom on his camera out.....
We had a great time at Bundala, but Lonely Planet misses quite a few things out so we though we'd share our top tips:
Go in the evening.
Whilst the morning trip was nice, our guide told us that more of the animals come out to drink (at one of the many lakes) in the evenings.
Ask your guesthouse to make you a packed lunch/breakfast and wait to eat it at the beach. I think most of the jeeps take a scenic trip down to the beach to show you the turtles (only in the eve again) and its a great spot to have your lunch and watch the view.
you tip everyone in Sri Lanka, so it's worth factoring that into your trip budget. Also remember that a volunteer guide will jump in, and expect a tip at the end (ours just told us to 'give him something'). Lonely Planet suggests you don't need one (as the drivers are excellent at spotting wildlife, which we agree with), but we think this is a bit naive, as our guide knew the park inside out and where the animals had been spotted or were likely to be.
Finally, we would wholeheartedly recommend staying at the River Face Inn. It's a little bit of luxury for budget prices (we paid 2500 for a ginormous double with a verandah). Thilini and his staff are great and happy to accommodate anything you need, even making curry with NO chilli in for the douche bag guests (who comes to Sri Lanka and wants no chilli??). The food is excellent, the service beyond friendly and we would definitely stay again. Shame about the town.
Off to Uda Walawe to meet 500 elephants tomorrow.
If you liked this post, please consider sharing on social media (using the cheeky little icons just below the text) and make sure you subscribe to the blog, so you never miss a post again!