I received what I, in my suspicious way, considered at least one more ‘expression of interest’ from the rather creepy staff member: he hung around me whilst I was sitting outside my room, took a seat unnecessarily close to me and at one point squeezed between my chair and a wall, stroking my head as he did so. I remained polite but increasingly curt until he went away. Call me a party-pooper or a paranoid old fart, but I did put the bolt on my door! Maybe it’s pay back time for smiling winningly at pretty women.
I didn’t sleep particularly well, but I don’t think that was due to worries about losing my honour so much as the increasing amount of rice and curry clogging up my system. Suffice it to say I was awake in plenty of time for my six o’clock start this morning.
The driver / guide was called Siri, the very guy so well rated on Trip Advisor and Booking.com and I was the only passenger.
I’ll admit to having wondered if Bundala would match up to last year’s Yala trip, but I needn’t have worried. It was different – a wetland landscape, rather than the more arid Yala – but teeming with birds. I don’t think of myself as a twitcher, but this was great: waders by the welly-load, Kingfishers, Ospreys, hundreds of wee chaps and their mates preparing for the journey to Northern Europe and some quirky little parrots that seem to nest upside down in hollow trees.
Elephants were a possibility today so when we turned a corner and saw a beast coming down the track towards us I picked my camera and the jeep came to a stop. Siri was just explaining this was the only “tusker” (“king elephant”) resident in the park when it broke into a leisurely jog rather than its erstwhile carefree amble. A large elephant trundling at you is an awesome, not to say alarming, sight and Siri threw the jeep into reverse and we covered a couple of hundred yards at quite a lick until we reached a fork in the path which would allow us an escape route. Apparently this beast is well known for being on the aggressive side of peaceable and later Siri showed me some mobile phone footage of it scaring a couple of girls in his jeep witless and another clip of it overturning a jeep it took a dislike to. Before I saw this, though, we ran cautiously back to a bend in the track to try to spot the beast and found it standing half on the path, half in the bushes ponderously pulling branches off a tree and eating them. We watched it – nervously on my part – for a while until it seemed to notice us; perhaps it heard my heart beating. When it came back out of the bushes and headed our way, Siri put his foot down and we drove off.
We saw another male later, but this one was apparently lower down the elephantine pecking order and had no tusks so we were quite safe. I also learned the local word for ‘elephant penis’, available on request if you think it might come on handy.
I’d booked a whole day trip, but had been pre-warned that there would be a break midday due to the heat. This interlude started on the beach where we both went for a swim. After that we drove into a dappled area of tree cover and had lunch – rice and curry, surprise, surprise. We both dozed for a while in the jeep before more safariing.
All in all, the day was great: oodles of birds, a couple of elephants, some crocs, tortoises, deery things, wild boar and various common-or-garden land monitors, a mongoose, monkeys by the score etc. It perhaps lacked the wow factor of Yala, but it was a very enjoyable day.
Just after we left the Park, we came across a troop of nigh on 100 monkeys moonlighting at the side of the road and we watched them for some time. It was an extended family group with several babies and mischievous young as wee as parents, grandparents and so on. Whilst they were clearly aware of ys as the sat on verge or scrambled in the shrubbery, they paid us scant attention: no hassling us for food, stealing from us or dancing on the jeep roof. Just the way it should be.
I got a few poor photos, mostly with my point-and-shoot camera, but some with my mobile phone. You’ll have to wait for the former.