After spending the first part of our Sri Lanka Wildlife & Birding Safari Photography tour in the three prominent national parks located in the country's southern province (Yala, Bundala and Udawela) --- which gave us some of the most incredible wildlife encounters we couldn't have imagined before we set foot in Sri Lanka, from Asian elephant to leopard (which were seen from the comfort of our safari jeep) and a wide variety of bird species such as intermediate egret and green bee-eater, we headed to the east province to visit the least explored national parks of Kumana, Galoya and Maduru Oya. These eastern national parks gave us pure, authentic Adventure Birding Safari Expedition experiences that we could not have dreamed of, where the wild remained wild, where we felt totally immersed into the wild environments without the disturbance of other jeep visitors. We were over the moon with our birding & scenery experiences. We spotted the incredibly scarce resident black-necked storks, a dozen of Malabar Pied hornbills that entirely occupied a succession of dead trees, wild golden jackal, leopard, passing by a sloth bear. As we had been camping inside these three National Parks (very basic facilities), we felt completely one with the wild with its smell, sound, atmosphere, every sunrise, every sunset which truly gave us the rarest opportunity to ride solo (without the presence of other visitors) in our Safari photography trip on dusty roads and being the first to have encountered some of the most elusive Sri Lanka wildlife and birding.
After being completely amazed our 1.5-week experiences in the far eastern national parks, we were excited to head north of this secretive Paradise Island which is Sri Lanka. As we are birdwatchers, Lionel did an incredible job in guiding us & creating our Adventure Birding Safari Expedition, which he actually "pushed" us to lose 2 days of transfer from Maduru Oya to Jaffna with an overnight stopover in Sigiriya --- which we didn't regret at all as doing so allow us to spot such amazing resident birds as Drongo Cuckoo, Jerdon's Nightjar, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, White Rumped Shama and many others --- so we could experience the rare beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage Site if Sigiriya (the Lion's Rock) as well as the Sigiriya Sanctuary & some cool sunset birdspot.
After a 5-hour road travel from Sigiriya, we finally arrived in Jaffna. There, our eyes met completely different sceneries than the other parts of Sri Lanka that we had been to. The landscapes were so diverse, from acres of farm land to palmyrah tree forests and stunning lagoons crossed by road at the sea level.
By the day's end, we got our gears ready and decided to stop by on one of the emerged roads located within a very close proximity with Jaffna. We were rewarded with astonishing sunset over the laguna spot. The people of Jaffna were walking and/or running individually or in a group while the fishermen were half-body immersed in the water, repairing their fishing nets. It almost like getting a close glimpse of Jaffna's everyday cultures. Simply incredible. Then, the positive vibe of the moment was amplified when we saw a good number of migratory birds that, as we discovered, were often present in the area and were absolutely undisturbed by human presence and activity: lone-ranger birds like the beautiful Goliath Heron, Red-Billed Tropicbird as well as some huge flocks of Lesser Sand Plover, Little Stint and many more that were living their lives in an undisturbed, pure and peaceful environment, away from any predators.
The next few Days, we ventured by van and on foot. This was made very possible by the fact that the northern part of Sri Lanka is set up by multiple peninsular, all connected by good roads.
Early in the following morning, Tharindu led the direction of the group, we continued to the north side of the Kayt Island. Traveling on the main road, the drive was slow, we looked left and right in hopes of spotting as many different types of birds as possible. Believe me, I went nuts (as any bird lovers would) about the number and the diversity of the bird species one could easily spot in the area. On top of all this, what made our Adventure Birding Safari Expedition entire experience more rewarding and fun was the chance to get off the van multiple times to walk across flooded land surrounded by the tall, elegant palmyrah trees, see a colorful Tamil temple, and take superb shots of some birds with a fantastic background. We saw dozens of black-headed ibis, painted storks, Eurasian spoonbill, glossy ibis, cormorans, hundred of barn swallows, Ceylon swallows, curlew sandpipers and numerous individual birds such as Brahminy Kite, Lesser Pied Kingfisher, Black Drongo, to name a few.
The following day of our Sri Lanka Wildlife & Birding Safari photography tour, we started as early as 5am, for a very good reason: we got news that big flocks of Pink flamingoes were establishing themselves in one remote area of Karainagar island. So we optimized our journey to get to the spot before sunrise. After an hour of driving (the road condition was not that good), we reached the island and looked with our eyes wide opened, in all directions, very excited, looking for the beautiful pink flamingoes.
We looked left and right, and on multiple occasions, we got off the van and walked in sandy/dusty roads, still in search of the pink flamingoes. Along the way, we encountered hundred of little & intermediate egrets mingling with purple herons, Indian pond herons, yellow bitterns and so. Without a doubt, we were happy but still, something was missing... Where are the Flamingoes?
We got to the Ponnalli Khadu where low tides resulted in the emergence of a huge sand bank which offered a free food sanctuary for birds. After walking 30 minutes, we finally reached this little estuary and what we saw were hundred of Greater Flamingoes roaming around, enjoying their afternoon meal. After looking for them for so long we were overjoyed and spent 2 hours sitting quietly on the bank, watching those flamingoes, taking countless photos of them (and other birds such as spot-billed pelicans, Indian spot-billed ducks, comb ducks, Oriental plovers, etc) with was one of the highlight of our Safari photography tour. Then, from behind us, coming out of the bush were Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Red-Vented Bulbul, Indian Roller, Rose-Ringed Paraket. The experience on that day was definitely a highlight!
Our Adventure Birding Safari Expedition was definitely filled with as unique memories by our encounters with a great number of different birds species, but also by traveling off the main road, passing by Sri Lankan natives who were going about their daily activities, stopping by remote temples, visiting the main fish market where egrets surrounded the market boats and the people, in full readiness to collect whatever leftovers.
After such an incredible Safari photography tour, this evening we decided to chill out and enjoy some amazing paratha, pakora & cheese kottu in Mango Restaurant, a very simple restaurant but an entity widely known all around Sri Lanka for its food.
Th next day, we continued our journey to Wilpattu. It was unfortunate that we didn't have the time to explore the remote Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary where we would certainly have more unique experience of Sri Lanka Wildlife & Birding. Well, a great reason to come back and make it happen soon.
Leaving Jaffna, we couldn't help but think that our Sri Lanka Wildlife & Birding couldn't have been complete if we hadn't come to Jaffna. It was like the cherry on the top of our Safari photography tour cake. We, with much anticipation, can't wait to come back and see for ourselves the wonders of Wilpattu.
Until next time.
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