Clean Up Sri Lanka: Say NO to plastic bags

Have you noticed the litter around our beautiful homeland while you travel here? The plastic bags flapping on trees and floating in the wevas? Come join us at Clean Up Sri Lanka and help us spread the word on how to stop this:
NO to Litter
NO to Plastic Bags (Please use Reusable bags)
NO to Plastic water bottles
Clean up a mess if you see one!

Our Kick off event is at Independence Square on Saturday 25th from 8.30am to 6.30pm. Come down and see how you can help keep our country beautiful.


Kung Fu Kite (Bundala 01/22/2010)

Did you do it!

Everybody who has spent time in the rural parts of Sri Lanka is accustomed to the Red-Wattled Lapwing’s accusatory call which you can hear at all times of the day and even night.

Of course the rather bewildered juvenile Brahminy Kite still looked a bit taken aback as the screaming Lapwing couple thundered in as he sat somnambulant on a branch by the tank we had parked at. We hadn’t seen any of the drama that had unfolded before. Perhaps the innocent look the Kite had on was a ruse and he had been busted trying to raid the Lapwing’s nest a few moments ago.

But the Lapwings certainly were giving it to the Kite, dive-bombing him fearlessly. The Kite responded with his best Kung Fu moves before eventually deciding discretion was the better part of valour and departing post haste.


Battling Buffalo (Bundala & Yala 01/22/2010)

It was obviously breeding season for the buffalo as all over Bundala and Yala there were grappling males and females with newly minted young, fresh and gleaming. The Sri Lankan water buffalo, though not as formidable as the African version is still quite a large and bulky beast. Having stood a few meters away from a pissed off looking wild buffalo many moons ago, I can still attest to the raw fear that one feels when looking one of these creatures eye to eye, a fear that hasn’t been dulled by time.


In the parks though the majority off the buff you see are the domestic creatures that have gone feral. Though by no means dainty, the truly massive and impressive specimens are the descendants of the true wild buffalo, Kulu-harak as these are euphemistically called in Sinhala. As to whether there are any genetically pure wild buff left in the wild is unlikely but you can see the flashes of the old, untamed beasts in some at Yala (for a rather fascinatin discussion on the wild vs. feral buffalo issue click here).

The first pair of wrestling beasts we saw in Bundala was relatively tame. They seemed to be more of the Greek wrestling tradition than anything rather more extravagant and spent most of their time seemingly rubbing heads with each other in a half-hearted manner. To be fair though it was pretty early in the morning so perhaps they hadn’t had their morning coffee just yet.


The next pair of dueling buff we saw in Yala were however quite impressive. Coming to an open plain we initially spotted two buffalo staring each other down. These were big guys as well, with a much larger curved span of horns than the ones we had seen in Bundala plus muscular, barrel like bodies.


There was a spurt of dust as one of the buffaloes started its run in. I was torn trying to decide what was more impressive; the buffalo running in, ludicrously nimble considering its bulk or the other one that just stood there, impassive as a rock while a couple of hundred weight of bovine fury galloped at it full tilt.


We could hear the impact from many meters away. A dull, meaty thud as the dust flared and horns locked. After a brief skirmish the pair separated and the buffalo who had run in went back to take his mark.


Once again the run and hit was repeated with a briefer skirmish. The buffalo that had stood his ground was obviously a notch above as when the pair separated for the second time, the runner decided enough was enough and he wandered off...possibly on the look out for an ice pack.



She’s a beauty (Yala 05/06/2010)

The jeep screeched to a halt as she materialized as if from nowhere. It had been a fruitless, dusty day in the park exacerbated by the fact that our only leopard sighting had been in the midst of a traffic jam that would have put Colombo to shame. As dusk descended over the dry wilderness we headed out of the park, jolting along as thoughts of a warm shower and the delicious bread at Tissa View occupied our thoughts.

I think Sumudhu was the most surprised out of all of us as she materialized as we passed Diganwalla. Possibly close to a year old (but then I’m no expert in aging leopards) she sat there looking mildly affronted at our hasty stop. She stared at us for awhile before getting up, stretching lithely and heading down to the water to drink.

At the water’s edge she put on what could only be described as a performance for us. Delicately, as though she didn’t want her pristine paws soiled by the mud she paced up and down and snarled at imagined threats in the water repeatedly until settling down to rapidly lap at the water.

What had seemed like a lost day suddenly turned into a perfect one, as the stunningly beautiful young leopard locked eyes with us. May she have many years of life as the supreme predator of Yala ahead of her.

Lap, lap, lapThe eyes have it


King Gemunu (Yala 05/06/2010)

As announcing sightings goes, Suren’s was a bit of a mix of anticlimax and irony, as a he turned towards us with a thoughtful expression on his face and announced he could have sworn he had just seen a tusker approaching through the bush as we whizzed past. Sumudhu and the tracker seemed a bit nonplussed by this casual announcement but we nonetheless backed up quickly to investigate.

The King

The heat hadn’t gotten to Suren’s head as he had indeed spotted a rather magnificent tusker coming towards the road. Silently one of the Kings of Yala emerged from the brush onto the road. Along with the leopard and bear, the tuskers of Yala are another iconic animal for the wildlife enthusiast. I was brought up on pictures, stories and very occasional sightings of the famous tuskers of the park such as the now dead (mostly from being killed for their ivory) behomeths such as Kublai Kahn and the Podi and Loku Pootuwas (cross-tuskers). This particular tusker was Gemunu, not a tusker with the most impressive tusks that I have seen, but an absolutely massive male with a breathtaking presence about him.

Silently and confidently he walked down the dusty, red road. The afternoon light glowed around him as we stared in awe. We appeared to far to lowly for him to take any interest in us and even when he came level and we started the engine to go forward he didn’t take much notice except to step off the road. We stared at him in awe as he walked around the road for another ten minutes before taking leave of us and stepping back into the bush.


Roadside Repairs (Yala 05/06/2010)


It was a disconcerting sound that echoed like a gunshot as the Defender 110 went over the pothole. The old jeep rattled to a stop, seemingly fatally wounded. Sumudhu turned to us and rather nonchalantly announced that the axle had broken. This seemed the worst possible news as our run of the park had just started and a broken axle seemed something that would require a tow out of the park.

Sumudhu repairing the jeep

Casually Sumudhu reached over for his phone and called Sugathe, his father, the wily old veteran jeep driver of Yala. Shortly afterwards, Sugathe came up in his Defender 110. And that’s when things became a bit surreal.

Axle for repair; Sugathe, our guardian angel in heavy disguise leaves

Casually, as if this was an everyday kind of repair, Sugathe passed Sumudhu a spare axle which was casually slotted in as if the jeep was made out of lego building blocks. The broken axle was placed in the back for repairs in Tissa, a quick wash of hands for Sumudhu and we were off!

Sumudhu cleaning up before we head off