Jan. 25-Feb. 09 2007, Udawalawe - - -
First day back at the park. Whenever we roll through the gates, I can't help thinking "Welcome, to Jurassic Park…" On one side, civilization. On the other, elephants living their unhurried lives. Most other parks are unfenced, have several roads in, and an unassuming little office somewhere that issues tickets. Uda Walawe has a neatly swept sandy entry lot, where jeeps of tourists pull in. There's only one way in or out, electric fencing all around. The ticket office sits at the entry, connected by an aerial walkway to bathrooms and trackers' offices/quarters on the other side. Whole tree trunks form the pillars. A big lift-up gate and chain sits in the middle, barring the way. When you've bought your tickets, a tracker hops in, and off you go. Occasionally a big male lumbers past just behind the gates.
Early morning one day the mist over the dam and in the valley was so thick you couldn't see more than 10 meters. Flocks of swallows were in a dawn feeding-frenzy.
We enter. A crowd of rosy starlings noisily takes to the air. It's just past dawn. These days it's cool, the mist is just lifting and the sky is just turning light. We startle a little jackal, who leaps into the tall grass and disappears. Sleepy wild pigs are caught off guard, crossing the road. The peacocks are still in their roosts, calling in chorus from tree to tree. Nearby is a silhouetted male, his train a feathery waterfall cascading out of the branches of the tree. The sun is rising behind him, and as we pass by, he throws back his head and utters his mournful wail…