We had our final breakfast at the guest house and we really didn't want to leave. The family were so hospitable and friendly and the surrounding area is very nice, and we could have done a lot more activities if we had time.
After a quick picture together we got picked up in a car to take us 3.5 hours further South to Tissamaharama (known as 'Tissa'). You may be aware of the long names of places or people that the Sri Lankans love, a few years back I found out that a cricket player Chaminda Vaas' full name was actually 'Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas'.
The car was probably the smartest/cleanest vehicle we have travelled in, the driver spoke to us a little bit at the beginning of the journey but left us to our own devices for much of the drive. We passed more coastline, more Palm trees, and a place that the current President comes from called Mattala. He invested in a new international airport in 2013 (the only real place in and out before was Colombo), but they haven't attracted many airlines in so he's got a lot of stick for it. Most of the roads around it were new but not many cars either. At one point close to the end Tash pointed out the landscape looked a bit like England.
We got to the hotel, and had 20 minutes to check in, grab a drink and then head back out for our half day safari to Yala National Park. As with most attractions there are a lot of companies you can choose from, so you have to be careful which one you pick. Luckily whilst searching for the hotel we noticed it had really good comments about the safari, so we booked the room, transport to and from Unawatuna and the safari through the same place.
The vehicle was in good condition, we were the only two in the back but there were seats for another 5 people. Our driver had 14 years worth of experience in the park so we had a good feeling from the start. To get to the park gates took about 45 minutes, but just before the entrance a leaving vehicle pointed out driver to a spot where a lone male elephant stood, it was different from all the elephants of this trip (most of them had been female,) and its tusks crossed over its trunk (surprisingly known as a cross tusk elephant), the driver told us there were only 9 tusked elephants in the whole park (1268 km squared).
The tracks were quite bumpy, it felt like a roller coaster ride for a lot of the trip. The drivers all talk to each other as they pass so that they can point you in the direction of animals they have come across. We were in the park from about 2pm so we expected not to see too much, but there are lots of lakes so there was always a chance that you might see something getting a drink.
After the entrance, we quickly found another male elephant and went past plenty of water buffalo, wild boar and peacocks. We stopped at one patch of water and the driver pointed out a crocodile. We couldn't see it, but after about 2 minutes we finally noticed it was next to a tree (we thought that it was part of it). It became apparent that the drivers eyes were much sharper than ours, he was catching stuff out the corner of his eye that we didn't even notice.
We then came across a whole herd of elephants, including a few babies that had gone out to a nearby lake, our driver had the good idea to drive around to the other side of it so we could see better (they move so quick in the wild). He then noticed that they were on the move so we parked up by some trees thinking they might cross over in front of us. Some other vehicles joined us and for a while we heard the sound of foliage being crushed by the approaching elephants. A few of the herd then came into sight but were cautious of our presence. A male came onto the path and was looking straight at our jeep, and slowly started walking towards us as our driver started backing away. The elephant then stopped and made his way over to the other side of the path. Quite soon after a larger female elephant walked right up to the driver window of another jeep (she seemed agitated but I think she was just scoping them out), I did wonder if it was going to bulldoze them. You have to feel sorry for the animals, I'm sure they would be happier without us there.
Driving around a bit more we found a baby crocodile and then in another lake, a larger adult. (about 6 feet). It was good to watch it come out of the water and I found out why they lay with their mouths open (it's to release heat).
I thought we might have seen all we were going to, but the drivers phone rang and he got a tip off about a possible leopard (this is the parks main attraction). So we started racing towards the site with a convoy of other jeeps (he went really fast, much faster than any other part of the trip!). We got to a open patch of land and joined at least another 10 vehicles. I had some binoculars, and just as I was trying to focus, the driver and Tash saw a leopard move between some plants (although Tash said she wouldn't have known what it was if the driver didn't say).
After this it was nearly time to leave the park, on our way out we went past a sloth bear in the bushes (it moved away a bit when we first got there but then we watched it move around in the forest). Along with a jackal, mongoose, deer, monkeys and peacocks, we had ended up seeing all the animals in the park! It couldn't have gone any better for such a short trip, not sure I feel that good about the animals being stalked though.
The menu of the hotel wasn't that expansive but I had some devilled fish which was as nice as a few nights ago.
Bowls of rice; 57
Hours travelled; 106.5 (I didn't include the time going around the safari in this).