Sri Lanka: Yalla Natural Park

One of the must-go of this travel is to visit natural parks. My choice was Yalla Natural Park, in the south, crossing from the mountains to the beach! A very good choice to observe Nature at its best with an extra experience in Kataragama. A surprising genuine and welcoming place that stayed in my hearts!

Kataragama, a welcoming surprise

Kataragama was the village I chose as a base to visit Yalla National Park. I had no expectations nor plans, just a logistic stop.

When arriving, I was welcomed by an elephant crossing the street in front of my car. The driver reduced speed and continued as nothing happened. And I realized I were entering a place that didn’t belong to us, with its own rules and rhythm. To observe, delightfully enjoy and leave untouched.

I stayed at basic bed&breakfast and were surprised by the hospitality of the owners and their availability to prepare us a meal while arranging the safari for the next day. All was set quickly for 4 am the next morning!

Discovering around

Leaving the B&B to discover around, without a plan, the first thing I crossed was a huge lizard … imposing and a bit scary, owning the place, doing its own life, crossing us as I were not there. That land is theirs, I am just observers, asked to remain quiet and not interfering.

Following the way, I arrived at the river – a magic place invading you with a sense of being an invisible presence to reality so far from my own. My eyes flew around, amazed, with difficulty to choose where to land your observation.

River of Life

    • A family having a bath. The father diving and swimming with the older boys, in bath-suits. The mother, all dressed, bathing the young child with the help of a bucket. When the mission was completed, she dives inside the river for a full dressed bath!
    • A woman in the middle of the river, using a big stone as a base to wash her clothes and then bathing herself, washing her teeth. All this at the pace of routine, as real-life taking place.
    • On the other riverbank, two-man give a refreshing bath to their elephant, helped by a big brush; the elephant diving and lying, taking pleasure from this indulgent moment, certainly a break from work. 
    • Up a few meters, a family having a picnic close to a streaked pattern formed by clothes drying on the floor and on top of bushes.
    • Continuing up the riverbank, some cows grazing and a big family of monkeys, enjoying the tree’s shadow, eating, playing and resting; they are not afraid of humans and let us take close pictures.
    • I suddenly realize I am the only white skin around, and locals are taking pictures of us amazed by the place: for them, I am the most strange thing around… I told: “I am the monkey 🙂 !!”

Religious ceremony shared

At night I went to a Buddhist ceremony, where families dressed in their best suits, mostly white – and I understood everyone is invited.

Starting from the beginning: leave your shoes on some dedicated shelves, and entering the place bare feet.

A lot of families, walking around with joy, entering the sacred places, insightful and respectful. Young women walking around with fruits to share, an army of women preparing the fruit to share. Children running and laughing.

Families and especially children like to be photographed and run to you to see themselves on your phone, feeling proud and happy. I wish I had a Polaroid to share the moment with them!

Safari @ Yalla National Park

Waking up @ four in the morning, still night, getting a quick breakfast and join the jeep that will drive us to the Park!

When the sun starts to push the night out, the sky colours are amazing. The light and shadow game make you feel blind from time to time.

Don’t expect animals to be exposed and waiting for you in each corner. You’re just an observer; the thing is not prepared for your joy of watching!

I was able to see lots of birds, which make it worth it. And small reptiles. Going deeper into the reserve, I could see a crocodile, like a statue… and one elephant, just one…on that, I wasn’t that lucky!

Some oxen taking a refreshing bath in the hot hour. A deer family having a meal while watching around suspicious as they know they might be the next meal for a carnivore passing by!

Besides the amazingly beautiful landscape and the animals, I felt the magic of being part of something real. Nature at its best and making us believe our fast-moving world can still be fixed!

Chesterton quote says: “The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he come to see”. When you step out of the conventional circuit and let yourself be embraced for what comes, you realize how true this is.

These two days were full of discovery, emotion and novelty, staying indelible in my heart and soul …

Don’t forget to check out the overview post about Sri Lanka.

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