12 days in Sri Lanka – more elephants than you can shake a stick at

Day 10 – more animals: another early start! Probably not everyone’s idea of a holiday, but I wanted to make sure I made the most of my time in Sri Lanka and came back having seen as much as I could see in the 12 days available.

I was far less impressed with this safari, which was far more expensive, turned up 10 minutes later, presented an entirely unappetising breakfast and then drove nearly an hour from the hotel to the entrance to Yala in Tissamaharama instead of the Katagarama entrance near my hotel. We sat in a huge queue to buy tickets and get our guide before entering and then we just sat in a traffic jam of 4 x 4s processing around the park in a big queue. It wasn’t quite the magical experience I’d had the day before in an almost deserted park, people now outnumbered the animals considerably.

However, we saw a beautiful sunrise over the park and five or six elephants, which I hadn’t seen at all the day before. We had a nice pit stop on the beach for breakfast; it was nice to take in the scenery and have a break from driving. We saw many more birds and water buffalo and searched in vain for some leopards.

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Sunrise over Yala National Park

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One of the many elephants we saw on safari in Yala National Park

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A peacock looks out over Yala National Park

I was back at the hotel in time for breakfast, which was welcome after such an early start. I had a chance to shower off the dirt from the safari and gathered my belongings and it was time to hit the bus station. The bus to Galle left at 12:30pm…I decided not to wait for the ‘semi luxury’ bus to Colombo at 1pm.

We sped along with the windows open and the breeze billowing in through the windows. We made excellent, thanks in part to the driver’s creative pick up and set downs at bus stops, often just slowly to a crawl to let people in and out without coming to a complete stop. It took just 4 hours and 5 minutes to travel the 170 km from Kataragama to Galle. Lovely scenery again, but a bit less interesting having seen it all in reverse only two days previously! Sadly my bus also lacked the pizzazz of the Disney adorned bus from my first journey. There wasn’t even a TV blaring Sri Lankan soap operas, which was the usual source of entertainment for long bus journeys.

I finally arrived at Galle, once again sticky with sweat and exhausted from the long ride. A tuk tuk took me to my accommodation; Araliya Villa Fort Guest House. It was a lovely little place with attractive communal areas for breakfast and beautifully positioned bang in the middle of Galle Fort and walking distance to everything in the Fort area. After yet another shower (under the foot tap as I couldn’t work out how to use the shower and was too desperate to wait!) I headed out just in time to catch the sunset from the walls of the Fort with numerous other tourists and locals. I headed to the restaurant more or less next door to my guest house, Fortaleza for a delicious (and extremely welcome) coconut fish curry and a lion lager.

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Cloudy sunset over Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

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The sea and sunset over Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

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Lion Lager and a coconut fish curry for dinner at Fortaleza

My tips for this leg of the journey

I didn’t explore either Kataragama or Tissa, although it seems there are some temples of interested which might be worth a visit if you have slightly more time on your hands.

I couldn’t work out whether or not I needed to book a safari ahead of time to make sure I got on one; it didn’t appear to be necessary and in hindsight I probably could have spent less money on the two safaris had I booked them both once I’d arrived.

Once again the bus was a triumph of ease and relative comfort, don’t shy away from the bus when travelling in Sri Lanka, they work, they get you where you’re going as quick as anything else, and you get to watch all the scenery pass by.

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A crocodile chills in the sun in Yala National Park

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