Today we awoke for a 7am departure from the hotel to Male airport for our 9:25 pm flight to Sri Lanka with Sri Lankan air. The transfer to the airport went off without a hitch and we made it there with plenty of time to spare. Now in the international airport, one must go through the departure gates and have luggage scanned before actually going to the desk to check in and get boarding passes. Once ticked off then through passport control to hand in our departure cards and into the transfer section which surprisingly had quite an extensive duty free section. We figured out that this was the case as they want you to spend the last of your Maldivian money given that it’s useless once you leave the country. We did have some money spare as very little is needed here – really everything is able to be paid on credit card or American dollars.
Having cashed in our money we headed down the steps to our gate. As we did so, a gasp from Claire and a sign that has become synonymous with a happy traveller (Claire) appeared. Yep Swensons ice cream, normally only seen in Singapore and Thailand was downstairs in Male airport. Now the range wasn’t great but that didn’t concern Claire – it was still Swensons. So there we were 8am in the morning, three Aussies chomping down on ice cream – but hey with Claire any time is ice cream time!
Once again we walked onto the Tarmac to get onto our plane; an unexpectedly large plane code shared with Etihad, Oman and Malaysian. The plane itself was extremely new and in very good condition which turned out to be a bit of a surprise. Therefore the one hour ten minute flight was enjoyable both in its duration and also comfort.
We met Keeth and our driver and proceeded to take off on a four hour drive to Wilapattu National Park. Now driving in Sri Lanka isn’t as bad as driving in India but let’s just say it’s not a place my dad would enjoy driving in. Toot, toot! Tuk Tuks and crazy motor bike drivers. Speed limit no greater than 70 km or you’re fined – think this is so that if the inevitable happens and you hit someone, you don’t hit them too hard.
Philip was getting a little queasy with the stop start nature of the trip and was thrilled when Keeth decided to pull in at a ‘Ceylon approved’ rest stop for lunch. Yep curry and rice or rice and curry??
Well let’s just say that Philip ditched the curry option and stuck with rice and papadums. Claire and I not wanting to seem impolite gave most things a go and boy did it have a kicker!! Now there isn’t a plate with a bit of rice and some curry…oh no, there’s the whole buffet- chicken curry, Dahl, vegetable curry, beans, lentils, aubergine, tomato and coconut. Yep on our table, plenty of water!!! Luckily fruit salad finished the meal and the fruit here is really good – straight from the tree almost.
After our first Sri Lankan lunch we continued on reaching Big game safari lodge around 4pm. At first glance the place didn’t look like that espoused in all the documentation and web sites. You drove into an open area with the canopy containing a few movie director style chairs and images of what creatures may be able to seen. The manager of the place then advised us that we were going to go on a game drive tomorrow as we had arrived too late to do one today. I didn’t think this was overly correct as we had arrived on the scheduled flight and then been guided by Keeth in terms of arrival time. Our tour had planned for the game drive today and another tomorrow and we had also paid for it. Therefore I guess one could say that I made my thoughts known.
With plans sorted out we made our way through the bush to our two night stay. The tent was equipped with three single beds joined together and a separate bathroom space with toilet, sink and shower. There was power, a fan and lighting and outside the tent two seats and a small table. Whilst not exotic, it was definitely something different in the ‘places we’ve stayed’ category.
After settling in, Claire went for a 5km run down a ricketedly old road and I did a small walk checking out the scenery including the sunset. We then headed down to the dining area for dinner. We had been told that with the large number of guests tonight there would be a buffet BBQ (oh how disappointing) which sounded ok given possible options.
The dining area was done up beautifully when we got there and just built on from the last two nights of private dining on the beach. Each group had their own outdoor tables complete with lanterns and table lights. The tables created a circular amphitheatre and in the centre was a large open wood fire burning. There was a large BBQ going with chicken and pork being cooked. An open tented area then held a number of galoshes complete with mushroom soup, garlic bread, different vegetables, pasta shells, plain noodles, lentils, chicken, pork, coleslaw salad, and some sauces. Luckily for us not too much of it had been given the Sri Lanka seasoning accompaniment and so was quite tasty and surprisingly fresh and tame in flavour – we did get told by the staff that they ‘tame’ it down!!!
After that back to the tent following a series of lit lanterns illuminating the forested pathway. Time for bed early tonight as we need to be awake at 5am tomorrow for our morning game drive.