My first visit to Srilanka
Perhaps December January is the best time to visit Srilanka. We were fortunate to have perfect weather throughout our stay bar one day. Two days were spent in Colombo with friends and feasting on bird watching around Kawdana East and Bellanwila Park. The abundance of birds in Srilanka, as I was told by my friend, in contrast to our birdwatching in Chiang Mai was amazing.
We headed for the mountains in Haputale, from where the best tea is distributed to the world. Beautiful sunrise greeted us on the first morning from the balcony of our Abnb bungalow looking down the valley. Ceylon hanging-parrots were feasting on the flowers on a nearby tree. Early morning walk was most refreshing with beautiful views of the mountains around and the plains below.
Next morning, we drove to the famous Haputale Lipton's tea-estate. Memories flashed back of my school days in Western Himalayas (Palampur) where I had spent my childhood playing in the tea gardens with friends. After a considerable climb up the road, with several hairpin bends, the top of the mountain revealed a breathtaking view. The famous Lipton was seated in his chair and the face of the statue showed great satisfaction with his cuppa. A small tea shop run by Tamil Srilankans served us with authentic local tea, Vades and Smosas, a typical South Indian snack.
We spent a day in Nuwara Eliya district, walked around the Golf Club (founded in 1889 by British tea planters) and the magnificent Grand Hotel and the post office buildings. After a Thali of Indian food at Araliya Greencity food court for lunch, we drove to Lake Gregory. The weather was not so welcoming but we still enjoyed the scenery.
Next was the Yala National Park which we were all waiting to visit. On our way to the park from Hapulate we enjoyed the magnificent Diyaluma Falls and were lucky to see a Giant Rock Squirrel crossing the road.
Yala National Park was amazing with pea fowls in abundance. Spotted deer, mongoose, land monitor lizards, hare, sambar deer, wild boar, water and wild buffaloes, langurs and rhesus monkeys were commonly sighted.
Most exciting of course was the Leopard. We were lucky to site three different leopards on our two safari drives on the same day. And a number of sightings of elephants on all the safaris. We hadn't seen the Sloth Bear on our runs, but the bear graced us by walking past our bungalow on the last day.
A number of birds were seen all around the park. Most common the Pea Fowl, painted stork, bee eaters (blue-tailed, green and chestnut headed), kingfishers, many water birds, birds of prey. (please see the birds sighted under the bird-watching section).
Last two days were spent visiting the famous fort of Galle and the local markets. Of course, we did not miss the Galle Cricket ground.
All along our stay we were spoilt by the delicious Srilankan cuisine. Apams, kiribath with sambal and coconut chutneys will be remembered always.