So we left Mirissa, and lucky for us the owner of the apartment was happy to give us a lift to Matara Bus station (it is pronounced maaaatra, I kept staying it incorrectly) which was about 15-20 minutes tuk tuk ride away. So this helped us big time as his apartment was in the middle of no where, although very lovely surroundings.
So from Matara you take the number 11 bus to Embilipitiya, this takes about 2.5 hours, and it is one of the older style buses, windows open, small seats and a lot of people. We really crammed in with our luggage, but you can place your bags on the section near the driver if there is space, although you need to keep a watchful eye, which is quite hard for a long journey. The journey is very bumpy, with sudden braking and swerving around vehicles and corners. So trying to sleep is a challenge. Once you arrive in Embilipitiya you take a bus to Udawalawe, which takes about 35 minutes, although on the way back the driver decided to drive at 20mph for most of the route.
The owner of the guest house that we were going to stay with, Lessa Villa picked us up at the Police station, again this place was in the middle of no where so it was very much appreciated. Now this little place was a lovely place to stay in Udawalawe, there is not a lot to do in this town or is it a village? Well either way the main reason people come here is for the National Park, to see Elephants!!
Our host told us about the Elephant transit home, where baby elephants are looked after, and told us he could give us a free ride.We took him up on his offer and spent about 30 minutes watching baby elephants being fed milk. It was nice to see lots of elephants. It was 500LKR (£2.50) to get in per adult, so wasn’t too much and there were lots of people there.
The next day was safari time, they have two options 5:30am or 2:30pm, for some reason a lot of people think early morning is the best time to go, but the locals actually say 2:30pm is best so we opted for this, which works for us as who wants to wake up early. The entrance fee for 2 people is just under 7000LKR (£34) but you also have to hire a jeep, our host charged 3000LKR but then dropped it to 2500LKR (£12).
2pm comes around and the RAIN started, heavily!! The other guests were going to join us which would have made the price cheaper for the Jeep but they got scared off and we ended up going alone. The journey in the Jeep was wet and windy because the guy drove fast and it was open in the seating area. The drive was pretty fun though, you go along the road next to the national park and see the big lake, there was one elephant just hanging around and people were stopping to take photos.
It actually only rained for about 30 minutes of the safari, and we were lucky enough to see lots of elephants within 5 minutes of entering the park. They got really close to us, no touching allowed though and we had to keep ourselves strapped into the Jeep.
It was great to see these beautiful elephants just casually grazing and roaming around, although I am sure they are very used to seeing Jeeps all day every day.
Now we managed to see crocodiles, monkeys, foxes, a lot of peacocks, different birds, water buffalo, cows and of course elephants. We didn’t get to meet a leopard though, apparently they are the hardest to find.
It is not just the animals that make the national park so amazing, it is the awesome landscape, so many interesting trees and the mountains in the far distance, big lakes and vast amount of land. It really is a great experience and I can see why so many people venture to Udawalawe.
So overall the experience in the park is pretty amazing, especially as I have not been on a safari, although the actual ride through the park is very bumpy, so if you get travel sick easily you may want to take some anti sickness tablets.