Apologies for the lack of posts this past week! A hectic schedule pre- and during the TBC Asia conference combined with sub-par WiFi connections made it hard to publish the articles I meant to share with you, but I hope I’ll be back to a normal posting schedule next week. You might remember that I came to Sri Lanka for the TBC Asia Travel Bloggers Conference (I talked about it a little bit here), and my first week here was packed with a pre-conference tour of some of the main sights of the country (Cinnamon Hotels, the hosts of the conference, put together a great video of that which you can watch here) plus the conference itself, which was excellent. I will talk about it in more detail in my monthly round-up next week.
To be honest, I had the hardest time to pick a highlight of the week, because one highlight chased the next! As for Sri Lanka in general, I have to admit that I didn’t think I’d love the country so much. It reminds me a lot of Southern India, which I really liked, but with even nicer beaches, some Buddhist culture thrown in, a tad less craziness on the trains, and more wildlife – including these beautiful elephants, which I got to see on a safari in Kaudulla National Park in Central Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s elephant population was cut in half over the last three generations, leaving only about 6,000 of them. Elephants in Sri Lanka have been hunted and killed for many centuries, starting with the British rulers who killed them mainly to get trophies (one British army major alone is said to have killed more than 1,500 elephants!) up to the civil war in the late 20th/ early 21st century, during which hundreds of elephants were killed by landmines or simply shot. Up until 2006, when Sri Lankan elephants were listed as an endangered species, there were still about 100 of them killed every year. Since then, the Sri Lankan government has finally started to pay attention to preserving this majestic animal.
This was my first time ever seeing elephants in the wild (the only other time I came close to elephants was in an elephant sanctuary in Thailand), and because I am a huge fan of elephants, I was in awe from the moment the first elephant came into sight in the National Park.
I was lucky enough to see not only a few, but several dozens of them during the big elephant migration that takes place in Sri Lanka every fall. Over a couple of months, elephant herds, including many babies, make their way to a big reservoir which fills up with rain water during the monsoon season. The sight of the herds marching across the wide open green space towards the water is breathtaking. Our safari jeeps stopped in several places so that we could watch different families interact, babies play with each other and some of the bulls putting up little fights. I could have spent the entire day at the National Park. I hope I will get to see elephants in the wild again – and my chances are pretty good, since I will be visiting Yala National Park next week, where there are also leopards! Fingers crossed for many more wildlife sightings 🙂