Guide to UDAWALAWE

Whatever you like, you'll find it in Sri Lanka: Whether it's archeological sites, lush sceneries in the highlands, jungles, beaches - and animals, lots and lots of wild animals and endemic birds.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Elephant Safari Sri Lanka
In Udawalawe, the animals let you get really close.

The best way to see these beautiful creatures practically undisturbed in their natural habitat, you go on a Safari at of the national parks. To enjoy an idyllic and intimate experience, I opted for Udawalawe - and I was not disappointed.

Most visitors will come to Udawalawe for just one day: They go on a safari and leave again. As a matter of fact, this is enough. If you have very little time, it's even possible to come here on a day trip.

Since I tried to avoid too much racing from place to place, I opted for a one-night stay.

Like I wrote in the main post, don't worry too much how to get from A to B before you get to Sri Lanka. On the internet, it all sounds so complicated and even impossible. Once you are there, it's a piece of cake.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Picking a good tour operator is key.

My hosts in Nureliya told me to go by bus to Thanamalwila and from there, I'll get in one hour by another bus to Uduwalawe, and they were absolutely right.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Elephant Safari Sri Lanka
It was another very exciting bus ride - but you learn to have faith in a country where Buddha seems to be watching over you.

Hence, I arrived around noon, awed at my tastefully decorated noon, hopped on a bike - free for hotel guests - chew on that one, Anuradhapura Heritage Hotel - and cycled the sugar cane fields behind the hotel.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Elephant Safari Sri Lanka
Peaceful landscape: Sugarcane behind the Tusker Hotel

In the afternoon, the hotel arranged a tuk-tuk that - no pun intended - took me to the elephant orphanage where I and a bunch of other tourists witnessed baby elephants being fed milk.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Baby elephants being fed milk through a funnel.....

Why are they orphans? Well, maybe their mummy had an accident with a train. Or mummy trampled on some fields and the farmer had it with her and shot her; which is illegal and a terrible thing to do.
But who are we non-farmers to judge someone who sees his crop being trampled down and eaten by an elephant?!


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
....and practicing how to feast on leaves.

Anyway, the entrance fee to the orphanage is 500 LKR and I paid the tuk-tuk driver another 600 LKR for the roundtrip including waiting time.

I've heard really bad things about the orphanage in Pinniwala and saw some very disturbing pictures of animals being chained.

I would like to emphasize that in Udawalawe, I didn't witness anything that was disturbing or suspicious.

The visitors were seated on a stand and at no point invited to pose or even get close to the elephants. My research on the internet confirms my impression that the animals are treated in an adequate manner, seem to be very well and not neurotic or stressed at all.
There are also decent information displays where you can learn a lot about these beautiful pachyderms.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Like all other children, after dinner, they go to sleep.

The safari - what can I say?! It is a mesmerizing experience.

Admittedly, it starts a bit annoying: After getting up at 5 a. m., the jeep picked me up at 5.40. As we got to the park entrance about ten minutes later, there was already a long line of jeeps at the gate, waiting for the park to open.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
You rather be as Zen as Buddha or else you freak out over the check-in process.

I was lucky that the good people at my hotel had supplied me with a nice breakfast box including different fruits and a big club sandwich. They even gave me a big bottle of water to take with me.

People who were less lucky with their accommodation had the chance to buy snacks and coffee from some mobile vendors while waiting.

As the gates open, the drivers buy the tickets - about 3500 to 5000 LKR per person - I didn't figure out why there were different prices. In addition to that, you also have to pay for the jeep.

Once the driver has the tickets and you went to the bathroom for the last time, off you go into the wilderness. It's such a trivial thing, but I really recommend you go to the bathroom since you'll be in the jeep for around three hours without a chance to get off; and the road is very bumpy, which can be an even bigger challenge for your blatter.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
The scenery is amazing - with or without creatures big and small.

The park is just paradisiac, the trees and bushes in the early morning sunlight - so peaceful.
Since this park is smaller and less popular as for instance the Yalla national park, there are much fewer jeeps so that everyone goes into a different direction. You are not going in a convoy from tree to tree.
At least our jeep didn't.

But I must also emphasize having been extremely lucky with my driver and especially with the guide Ruwan.

I believe it's crucial having a driver as well as a guide. One has his eyes on the road and the other one.... everywhere.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
First, he was not that easy to spot way up high between the branches.

Many other visitors had only a driver sitting in the driver's seat in the cabin while they were outside on the high observation seats. I wonder how the driver was able to point out, explain, and answer their questions; and how he was able to spot something with his eyes on the road.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Waterbird in a yoga pose.

My guide Ruwan must have been an eagle in his former life; and eagles were not the only birds he pointed out to me.

He saw all these birds, no matter how tiny, before everyone else - and was able to tell their names, explain in which state of molt they were by the color of their feathers.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
There is a large number of gorgeous peacocks at the park.

This man puts Dr. Doolittle to shame!
He pointed out the most incredible nests and explained exactly how they were built.
All this in a great, perfectly understandable English.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Here, I, obviously, zoomed in. From afar, this fellow looks like a branch.

He impressed me the most by making the driver back up to a tree we had passed: between the brownish-grey branches was a brownish-grey lizard, maybe six inches long; Ruwan had spotted him....literally by the way!


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Bee-eaters: Like they say - birds of a feather....

Since I'm no eagle-eye and look around in nature pretty much like a blind woman, Ruwan was so patient and pointed a dozen times at the same spot.
Eventually, he took my camera, zoomed in, showed me on the picture where the huge bird's nest was - and voilà, now even I saw it way up there in the crown of the highest tree.
Super-nice and super-ingenious.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Even the pigeons are colorful and pretty.

I assume without this man, I would have seen a beautiful landscape with many trees, something flying around....and possibly an elephant since they are not that difficult to spot.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
While females roam in groups - like here a mother with a newborn baby - ....

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
....male elephants prefer to walk alone.

Of course, we saw elephants, but also buffalos, deer, crocodiles and much more. And I'm sure that thanks to Ruwan we saw probably triple of what the other visitors spotted.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Buffaloes - reflecting....on so many levels.

Of course, it's possible to hire just the next jeep that comes your way. And maybe you even save a dollar or two. But your experience will never be like mine.
Nothing works like the concept of two people focusing on their respective job.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
You are not allowed to leave the jeep for a reason.

Another factor is the vehicle itself. Fortunately, we did not meet too often with other jeeps in one spot. But when we did, there were these cars that made so much noise that the animals chose to walk off.
So also the quality of the jeep and a more silent motor should optimize your experience.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
The elephants come really close to the jeeps - if you don't disturb them.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
If you do, they just walk away.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Obviously, very happy with my tour.

Best jeep to book:

I went with the fantastic people from lakpura. Not only was the communication beforehand quick, precise, and understandable. They were also very punctual and reliable - and like I said, they have the best staff to guide you around. So if you choose to go on a safari in Udawalawe - and I urge you to do so - you should definitely check with them. You can book directly or as an Airbnb-experience.

Best place to sleep:

I was very happy staying at the very charming, tastefully decorated Royal Tusker Hotel - pretty far from the town center and pretty close to the park's entrance. They have also a restaurant. However, since I didn't have the time for a proper breakfast, they were so kind to pack me a wonderful breakfast box - I didn't see anyone else with this kind of treat on my tour. Guests can also use their bicycles for free, which is an absolutely great service.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Safari
Everything is elephant-themed in Udawalawe - even towels come in the shape of elephants instead of swans.

Jungle fever at the bathroom.

Get more details, check out availability and the Royal Tusker Hotel's rates. *


Best place to eat:

As I was cycling around, I did feel a bit hungry. Bummer, I didn't have much cash left.
On the road, I spotted a big, posh hotel, the Centauria Wild - what a name!? - advertising to have a restaurant.
I looked like a bum in my dusty jeans shorts, but I was hungry and the guy at the reception assured they accept credit cards.

They had this really great buffet - soup, various salads and starters, a complete Chinese buffet with different main courses as well as a complete Sri Lankan buffet and a good choice of desserts....for about 1500 LKR, which is a lot of money in Sri Lanka, but as a matter of fact about 8 bucks.
I was enchanted - and at the end pretty full.

The only downside was my glass of orange juice for 600 LKR - my fault, I just ordered without asking - which is outrages.

So, apart from their orange juice, I can highly recommend the buffet at the Centauria Wild from the bottom of my stomach.


Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I've visited in Sri Lanka? Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Elephant Safari Sri Lanka


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Elephant Safari Sri Lanka


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Udawalawe Elephant Safari Sri Lanka


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Disclaimer: I appreciate that lakpura LLC supported my blogger trip by taking me on one of their jeep tours. However, all opinions on these services are mine and weren't by any means influenced by my cooperation partner. I do not get any commission from putting links to their site but do it as a service to my readers.

* I paid for my stay at the Royal Tusker Hotel their standard price, so this recommendation comes truly from the heart. However, if you book using this link, I'll get a small commission from booking.com.

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