Uda Walawe National Park, Sri Lanka
Uda Walawe is credited with having a considerable number of elephants. At the last count there were 560 within the confines of the park (roughly 300 square miles). This large elephant population means that a safari here is arguably one of the best places in the world to watch elephants in their natural habitat. In fact, if you take a safari here, you're more likely to see an elephant than you are to happen upon a pub walking around London! They are everywhere. Given that it cost about £35 for 2 of us, it's well worth the trip. We stayed in a lovely little guesthouse called Superson while in Udawalawa (the town closest to the park). The Superson Family Guesthouse offered up a double room for 1400 Rupees a night. Probably the cheapest we've had so far. The highlight however has to be the food. Rice and curry was served up for Lucy and I, but it felt like there was enough for a whole family! I like food, but seriously there was a lot! So much in fact that we offered some up to a lovely couple we had met earlier. Benoit and Zaira are a French-Canadian couple two-thirds of the way through their year-long trip. They had come from India, so gave us some great tips on where to stay and some great little ways to save money there. Their blog is here (in French and Spanish for the linguists out there!). On our second day we met a group of 3 travelling Germans who we shared our safari experience with. They had spent 2 weeks in Myanmar previously and were so knowledgeable on Myanmar (but also India).
Back to the elephants, because they are really the reason we came to Uda Walawe. We were very lucky to see around 70-80 elephants including a herd with a very small baby.
And a Tusker! Tuskers are very rare among Sri Lankan elephants (a sub species of Asian Elephants) and there are only a handful in Uda Walawe, so this was a real treat. It was this sighting that prompted our very knowledgable and incredibly eloquent guide to share stories of elephants in Musth, including one where he spent time in hospital after an bull charged the car he was in, and another where his friend was actually trampled to death by an angry male.
For those unaware of this Musth of which I speak, it is a period where male elephants' testosterone increases significantly so that it overwhelms the elephant's own brain. It is equivalent to when men walk into Infernos on a Friday night. The elephant thinks of nothing except mating with any female he comes across. The testosterone allows him to think he can fight any size elephant around. And of course, territory means the pick of the bunch.
A word of warning though - it is crowded. There are a lot of people wanting to see elephants, and as such when we got to the herd with the baby, it was all nearly ruined by an over-zealous driver who did his best to run over anything in his path to get his guests the best view. The mother and grandmother of the baby were not best pleased, and they all crowded round the baby, protecting it while having a bit of a showdown with said rogue driver.