Yala is the place to be!

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Today started with us boarding our bright pink bus and heading to the Yala area for a wildlife safari.  We ate an excellent breakfast at our hotel, and then loaded up and moved on out.
The breakfast was pretty standard fare- eggs, bacon, a few Sri Lankan items, crossants…but after the somewhat “meh” dinner we were all excited to find the breakfast extra delicious.

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The bus ride up was slow going.  We stopped briefly in front of Fort Galle, which was  left by the Dutch a gajillion years ago (take or give- the details are a bit fuzzy in my tired brain.)  and took some photos.

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We also saw fishermen along the way!  We passed areas choked with fishing boats, took some pictures of a bunch of men pulling in a fishing net, and paid a pole fisherman 200 rupees to take a picture of him fishing on the pole.

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Since we have Sri Lankans on the trip with us, we have gotten to see some of the differences in how they treat natives v. tourists.  We stopped to use the restrooms at a small toursist shop and cafe, and the tourists were charged a small fee to use the bathroom.  The Sri Lankans were not.  There are also different rates in what the tours cost Sri Lankans and tourists.  It sort of reminds Kirk and I of Hawaii.  We saw several places where people who actually lived on the island were given a discount price. 🙂  The extra fees have not been too outrageous, but we found it interesting.

The highlight of the trip today was the safari tour of Yala National Park.  After a pizza lunch at a local restaraunt, we all piled into jeeps and bounced our way to Yala.

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It was a hot, bouncy, very dusty ride, but it was worth it to see the wildlife!  If you go, be sure to keep some Dramamine around.  The roads are not great, and the drivers are sort of insane.  There was a leopard spotted, and every jeep in the area descended, cramming themselves in wherever they could get.

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We ended up not seeing the leopard, but other members of our tour group were able to see it. There were plenty of other wildlife to be seen: water buffalo, parakeets, spoonbill birds, mongooses (mongeese?), deer, crocodiles, kingfisher birds, pelicans, pretty iridescent green bee eater birds, etc. Here are pictures of some:

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The best part though had to be elephants. At first, we only saw an elephant’s rear, but then we came upon a group of two female elephants and a baby elephant. We have a video of the baby elephant nursing.

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After we left the park at dusk, we came upon a bull elephant right on the side of the road. About 3 more jeeps pulled along side and our driver thought that it was getting too agressive, so we went on. We have some video of that encounter that goes sideways halfway through, so again, Kirk’s cameramanship continues to win awards.

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