thomas m wilson

Udawalawe National Park

February 18th, 2014

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A herd of wild buffalo relax in a waterhole as the sun came up yesterday morning in Udawalawe National Park, southern Sri Lanka.  They lolled, snorted and sighed, huge horns glistening in the sun.  In the centre and slightly to the left of this photo a lone jackal cruises looking for an unprotected calf.

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Udawalawe National Park is a large national park south of Sri Lanka’s central highlands, covered in savannah.  We arrived there about seven yesterday morning, and within minutes a herd of wild elephants were spotted quietly munching on their breakfast.

I’d always wondered if going ‘on safari’ was really such a life changing experience.  I can now see that witnessing large megafauna at peace in their natural habitat, without reference to humans, is salutary.  Its the first time I’d been in such a landscape.  There is a frisson of otherness and mystery from having such large animals around, from wandering through a savannah knowing that any minute something a lot bigger and stronger than you could come padding through the grass.  Its a feeling humans have mostly lost as they have exterminated the megafauna of the world (its a long time since we removed the moa from New Zealand, the marsupial lion from Australia and the woolly mammoth from America, but not so long since we took tigers out of much of south-east Asia).  Being in Udawalawe is like going back before these extinctions took place, to a time when then world still had beasts in that had power to inspire awe in us.

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Hornbills taking off from a dead tree.

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A kingfisher taking a break from some fishing.

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Painted Storks (Mycteria leucocephala) just minding their own business.

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A couple of bee-eaters didn’t mind me coming within a few metres of them.

Udawalawe has so many bird species living within it.  From what I’ve heard it is probably the best place in the world to go on a wildlife safari outside Kenya and Tanzania.


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