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Wildlife in Sri Lanka

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Jan 9th, 2013, 08:52 AM
  #1
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Wildlife in Sri Lanka

Hi all,

A fr and I are planning on visiting SL just for wildlife. In specific, for me its photography. Leopards and elephants are my favs. We can go only for about 3-4 days from South India. I understand that it takes about 5 hrs from Colombo to Yala.

R there any reasonably priced accommodation inside Yala park? We don't want fancy ones. Decent ones are fine. We would like to stay out in the park from dawn to dusk and hence won't be using much of the facilities at the lodge or camp.

BTW - Is Mohammed out there??

Thanks,
Senthil
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Jan 9th, 2013, 10:29 PM
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Hey Hi!

I was just at Wilpattu park last week and had some nice sightings do have a look at pics at http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

If you are planning on visiting for just 3 or 4 days, suggest you visit Yala only and I will be happy to suggest some accomodation options depending on your budget. I can also hook you up with a good jeep hire/driver.
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Jan 10th, 2013, 06:07 AM
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Hey Mohammed, is it true operators are no longer allowed to set up camps in the national parks?
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Jan 11th, 2013, 05:16 AM
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Hi again Senthil,

Suggest you contact one of he below jeep drivers which I know are good and will guide you well at Yala. They can also help you find low budget accommodation near the park.

1. Ajith - +94 77 518 1372 he is a very good driver/guide, small time operator who owns and runs his own jeep.

2. Mr Hinni - +94 77 791 8896 he is a jeep operator who has a few vehicles and runs a jeep hire service at Yala. I have used his services many occasions myself in the past.

3. Mr Sugathe - +94 77 673 2858 another good jeep operator at Yala.

Regards
Mohammed
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Jan 13th, 2013, 03:08 AM
  #5
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Yes it's true that the tour operators are no longer allowed to set up their camps (tents) inside the parks. However, I know that they have been able to just outside the boundries of Yala. In Wilpattu, which I had the pleasure of visiting in late Nov/beginnign of Dec, they have bungalows inside the park. They are basic and my tour operator was able to rent one and set up all of their stuff at the bungalow. Personally, having visited both parks, Wilpattu is amazing, we saw six different leopards and the park beauty wise was better than Yala, but you probably will have a better chance of seeing leopards and elephants in Yala. Wilpattu has a denser forest. Also, it will depend on when you go.

Mohammed I just took a look at your photos. Is that the bungalow that you stayed in? I recognize it because it's the one we wanted because there is a young male leopard that hangs out in that territory. We saw him twice near that bungalow. We also unfortunately seen plastic where there shouldn't have been any, what a shame.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 02:05 PM
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Personally, having visited both parks, Wilpattu is amazing, we saw six different leopards and the park beauty wise was better than Yala, but you probably will have a better chance of seeing leopards and elephants in Yala. Wilpattu has a denser forest. Also, it will depend on when you go.>>

Peg - how lucky to see 6 leopards, or indeed any leopards at all. we went to Yala in October and unfortunately saw none; i felt that that was unsurprising given the number of vehicles charging around. we instructed our driver and guide NOT to chase anything but simply to drive round and see what we could. Once they got used to the idea, it worked very well.

when we asked the guide how many times he'd seen a leopard, he said that in over 3 years working there, he'd seen one approx 20 times, which didn't seem to me to be very good odds.

Wilpattu sounds like a much better bet especially if, as i surmise, there are fewer visitors.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 04:16 PM
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I loved the feel of Wilpattu and would like to return to spend more time. I would also like to revisit Yala because of the density and diversity of the wildlife we saw, but would only return to either with a specialist guide.
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Jan 14th, 2013, 12:37 PM
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Hmmm... you are making me think of returning to Sri Lanka. Those of you who have been to Wilpattu, how many days did you spend (and was it the right length of time), and where did you stay? I was reading on the BSL website and the info on Wilpattu hasn't been updated for some time, but I read one operator who said they saet up the tents inside the park, which is what we would be most interested in.
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Jan 14th, 2013, 07:14 PM
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I would like to go back and spend 3-4 days doing drives in Wilpattu. Last time I was only able to spend a day- it had just re-opened and the agent didn't think there would be much wildlife to see.

One challenge has been finding somewhere to stay in the region. A camp within the park was one option (I did this with Leopard Safaris in Yala). I'd really like to stay at Ulagalla and do day trips to Wilpattu and Polonaruwa, but have been told this is inadvisable because of the distances.
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Jan 15th, 2013, 07:42 AM
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Thanks, Femi. We are seriously considering a return to Sri Lanka in November. I'll have to ask BSL about options for staying in the park.
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Jan 16th, 2013, 08:02 AM
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I have been in correspondence with BSL. There are no options for staying in the park right now, and apparently no options for camping right outside the park. The agent recommended that we "stay in Anuradhapura and do an excursion to Wilpattu."

Have any of you done that? How was it?
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Jan 17th, 2013, 03:21 AM
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Hi Kathie,

Wilpattu is a beautiful park with more wooded forest and less scrub jungle compared to Yala. The natural lakes/basins called "villu's", the sandy banks of which one can drive around in a 4WD are a picturesque feature of the park. The density of wildlife and the frequency of sightings in Wilpattu is less compared to Yala. During the war years Wilpattu was out of bounds and badly ravaged by poachers, illegal loggers for the rich ebony and tamarind tress, marijuana growers etc, etc. The park has now been re opened and it is well regulated though still but a fraction of its original glory. In the days of lore Wilpattu was the most famous park for leopards. It is now bouncing back but wildlife sightings are relatively scarce. There are quite a few leopards but they are still very shy and difficult to see. Very few elephants are sighted too and the deer tend to be very skittish too. Birdlife is not as rich and diverse as Yala though one will find a good selection of migrating wetland waders during the northern winter months. Wilpattu is a much larger park and travelling times greater. From Anuradhapura to the park gate is an easy one hour drive and from the gate to the center of the park where one may see some wildlife is another 45 mins so a very early start is needed.

May I suggest you to take a look at Ulagala resort, it is ideally located with proximity for day trips to Anuradhapura and Wilpattu, Habarana, Sigiriya, Dambulla and the famous Aukana Buddha Statue is also just an hours drive from here. I spent a couple of beautiful days at Ulagala last year with my family and it is just gorgeous, luxuriously beautiful, and rustic too. The villas/cabins give a great sense of privacy and each has its own private jacuzzi where only monkeys and hornbills will peep at you from the tree tops. There is an excellent restaurant and wine cellar in the main building and they do room service too. Fantastic place to just stay a few days and really wind down and soak in the tropical beauty of Sri Lanka. Ulagala resort phone number is +94 25 5 671 000 and the GM Lalin de Mel is a fantastic guy.

The other option in proximity to Wilpattu is a Italian owned and operated hotel by the name of Palm Garden Village. I stayed there once for a single night on a day trip to Wilpattu when the park had just re opened. It is about 30 mins drive from the Wilpattu gate so it is closer and also a reasonable distance from Anuradhapura. The hotel has a large gardens and rooms which are are about 3 stars quality, nice pizza oven and Italian style buffet, phone +94 25 222 3961.

There are other cheaper places to stay nearer to Wilpattu but they are of a low quality and I cannot recommend them to you.

Wish you happy travels on your return to Sri Lanka.
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Jan 17th, 2013, 06:04 AM
  #13
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annhig I really find that hard to belive that a guide saw only 1 leopard in 20. We were in Yala Oct 2011, stayed in the park for three nights and saw 12 leopards. We had six game drives and only the first afternoon drive we did not see a leopard. A couple were in the distance, but still could see them.

Kathie, BLS probabaly wouldn't have any options, you would need to go directly to the tour operator. Our tour operator is very customer service oriented, was able to reserve one of the bungalows inside the park. Then they just set up their stuff in the bungalow. Only difference was it was a bungalow and not their tents. I must warn you we were told by our guide who was fanastic that we lucked out, not only seeing the leopards but the weather. November starts the rainy season, but we had beautiful skies for the three nights we were there last November. He said you can usually see a leopard once in three nights. I do not however recommend staying outside the park and driving in. It is a long ride once you get inside the gate just to the area's that the leopards have been spotted, and you have to be outside the park before dark. With that said there were some day trippers who did see leopards. The nice thing I did like was there were fewer visitors. At most there were 6 vehicles at one leopard sighting, but we didn't stay. Unlike Yala where at one point there were 10 vehicles.
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Jan 17th, 2013, 06:44 AM
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Mohammed, thank you so much for the recommendations. Ulagala sounds great. No wonder Femi wanted to stay there!

Peg, who was your tour operator who set up inside the park? (and this was at Wilpattu, right?) In the past, BSL set up a friend with a tour operator who set up tents either just inside or just outside Yala, so I assumed BSL could do the same for me if it was an option.

It sounds like the big advantage of Wilpattu is fewer visitors.

Other thoughts, anyone?
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Jan 17th, 2013, 02:20 PM
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annhig I really find that hard to belive that a guide saw only 1 leopard in 20. We were in Yala Oct 2011, stayed in the park for three nights and saw 12 leopards. We had six game drives and only the first afternoon drive we did not see a leopard. A couple were in the distance, but still could see them.>>

peg - perhaps he said that to make us feel better about not seeing them! I have to say that I saw little prospect of seeing a leopard with the numbers of jeeps chasing about the bit of Yala we were in - it wasn't quite as bad as the numbers chasing the elephants at Minneriya but close. I'm pleased that you had a better experience.
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Jan 18th, 2013, 04:15 PM
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That's good to hear about Ulagalla Mohammed, that means Sri Lanka is back in the game for me, except that now it'll be for 2015 because I've decided on a different trip for next year in the meantime.
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Jan 19th, 2013, 12:02 AM
  #17
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annhig that's what I liked about Wilpattu, not as many people. Although Yala has a higher consentration of leopards, thus the viewing is supposed to be better, the number of jeeps around one leopard sometimes was too much. For us we were really lucky we got to stay in the park so every morning we spotted a leopard before any other jeeps arrived.

Kathie, BLS arranged my first trip to Sri Lanka, although they were fine, I found it much better to go directly to the safari operator. I used the same one Femi mentions in his above post. I have used two different safari operators and Leoard Safari's wins hands down. Check out their website. Given you are not going until later this year, things may change again. It's all in the governments hands at this point.
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Jan 19th, 2013, 09:35 AM
  #18
 
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Thanks, Peg. BSL arranged our first trip to Sri Lanka. I know they work with Leopard Safaris, but I will check Leopard Safari's website as well.
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