We awoke at 5am after a warm night. A quick change into long pants as requested and then up to the waiting area where the jeeps would arrive. Last night the skies had opened up in a topical deluge and continued this morning. Whilst the rain was quite pleasant, the humidity was high making for a sticky, moist start to the day. There are some great things about this place but organisation and communication are not two of them. When we arrived at the meeting point, jeeps were turning up and those who had previously been on a morning game drive knew what they had to do. Those like us who didn’t know the drill stood round waiting to be told. Eventually we worked out that each group had their own personal jeep and it seems that for some reason we had scored the best jeep in the pack (as well as that the manager stated that he didn’t think our tent was big enough for us and would be moving us later that day hmm not sure if making the point yesterday had something to do with it but hey ok, no problems!)
Now the weather today is terrible, pouring with rain and not really conducive for animals to come out in the open. Both morning and afternoon drives lasted around three and a half hours but the later one had a naturalist ‘as promised’ (so the manager told me).
Now in terms in rain, it’s a bit of a joke that I’m called Captain Ahab of the Moby Dick story. Captain Ahab would sit at the front of the boat in all forms of weather and look out for his target, the whale. And so it is that generally I’m up front, in all forms of weather, ignoring the rain and focused upon the goal. Well this morning was no exception although ideally after realising that there were few animals, I would have liked to move to the back of the jeep except that I was so wet that the water would have run down from the wet parts of my clothing to the dry bits. In order to move, I would also have had to climb over to rows of seating, demonstrating that we may not see sloth bears or elephants in the park but that there would definitely be one in the jeep. Consequently, a wet ‘Captain Ahab’ remained in the front seat until we stopped for breakfast (about half way into the drive) which consisted of cold pancakes with maple syrup, a boiled egg and some fruit.
Whilst we didn’t see the big three – leopard, elephant or sloth bear, we did see a number of other creatures including deer, large stags, bison, crocodile, wild boar, copious peacocks and other birds, terrapin, monitor lizard… not exactly what we had hoped but in the denseness of the forest and needing to stay on the trails, this was better than what could have happened. It is also our first national park so we’re not too disappointed as we think that we may be able to see the animals at other parks (the sloth bear being the only one endemic to Wilapattu).
Upon returning from the second game drive, we were moved to a fancier and larger tent right next to the ‘relaxing area’ which was an undercover area with couches, coffee table and bean bags. Now when checking out whether we wanted to move, Claire and Philip went to also check out the relaxing area. When there they spotted a snake hanging from one of the upright poles. Now this would have been fine, except that the snake then fell from the pole and landed on the couch, scaring the ‘crap’ of two Aussies who were trying to look like they had it covered but were jumping around, looking everywhere and freaking out at the prospect of a ‘huge’ snake attacking them in an area that was supposed to be for relaxing…let’s just say the next time we went there, there was some looking under the couches, cushions and a whole lot of stomping going on before sitting down.
Once moved and sure there were no snakes in the tent, we went down to the dining area for dinner. Again it was buffet style but maybe not quite the same variety as yesterday. It’s funny how the little things in food become incredibly yummy. When we first arrived we had to hand in all our ‘stash’ of food or contraband as I called it. Therefore the only sweet things that were available was fruit for dessert and three kinds of biscuits which were on offer only after game drives – ginger biscuits, Marie biscuits and these lemon filled shortbread. Well in my book Marie biscuits are great for making hedgehog but generally aren’t biscuits to make a dash for…but yep we did that and well the lemon biscuits…hmm just like Tim Tams at a teacher’ morning tea – gone in an instant with very litter chance for seconds.
Lastly to end the was a night walk conducted by the naturalist. This went around the park and during it we spotted a wonderful looking green chameleon type lizard, sleeping birds, the snake Claire and Phil encounted earlier only this time he was sound asleep much to their delight, and a number of insects and other critters. It was a nice way to end an enjoyable day.