My trip to Yala and Bundala was basically meant for the photography of Sri Lanka birds, but after a short time you are bound to get photographs of many special animals as well.
I had read about Jetwing Eco Holidays in a wildlife magazine where they recommended Jetwing Eco as a tour organizer. I can do the same too as the trip was far better than I could imagine beforehand. You are met by a special guide at the airport and transported to the hotel you are staying at ,in my case near the Yala Nat. Park. The hotel was The Elephant Reach and they had very nice food and service. My guide’s name was Karmil and he did an excellent job from start to finish. This also applied to our driver for the whole week.
To Yala or Bundala you go out in a special Land Rover or Mitsubishi which are open on all sides. You go out early at 05.00 hours in the morning ,back to the hotel at 10.00 and then out again for the 2d. session at 14.00 hours.
Driving into Yala first time was a great experience and after some hours I had seen and photographed Painted Stork,Adjuthants,Bee-eaters,Indian Roller,Egrets(Big,Little and Cattle Egrets),King Fisher, Spotted Deer and Mugger Crocodile to mention some. Also many Fish Eagles were seen both at Yala and Bundala. Very often the next days we saw playing Peacocks in the road. As I am a professional photographer I was pleased I could have my tripod on the floor of the Land Rover when I used my telezoom-lens(100-400mm)securing me sharp photographs. If you dont want to bring a tripod I would recommend a lens with stabilizer (or camera with that). You are not allowded to leave the car when driving inside the parks and that is a very good rule as both birds and animals see no danger in the cars. During the next days we saw Wild Elephants,Jackals, Mongoose(known for eating snakes),flocks of Deer,Hoopoe,a very special bird Great Hornbill, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black-headed Ibis, Wooly-necked Stork and a lot of waders and other birds. In Bundala we came across a Hawk-Eagle eating on a Monkey it had just killed. Driving around in Yala and Bundala is almost like beeing in a European forest ,but suddenly you see a Crocodile or a Elephant and realize this is a Asian wilderness. A lot of Wild Buffalos(often bathing),and flocks of Wild Boars too. But most of all big flocks of Spotted Deer which also supply food for the most famous animal in Yala;
namely the Sri Lanka Leopard. I had not expected to see or photograph a wild Leopard because that is not an animal you can make an appointment with….. My guide Karmil and our driver and me included looked for it every day of course with no result. But then on the last day a Leopard was seen crossing a road early in the morning. We waited ,but it did not return. All that day we were on the move and approx. 1 hour before dark we suddenly spotted a sleeping Leopard high on a rock. I could not believe what I saw and photographed… a big male Leopard
relaxed,beautiful and sleepy….After approx. 10 minutes the big cat disappeared into the forest behind the rock. Most of the animals and birds I photographed and saw on this trip was first sights for me(seen some in Thailand/Cambodia and even if I had not seen a Leopard it was very much worth coming to Yala and Bundala Nat. Park.
I will not hesitate to come back to the 2 parks or Sri Lanka and a big thanks to Jetwing Eco Holidays.
Bjoern D. Huseby Chiang Mai/ Thailand 9/2-2011.