After leaving Ella, we continued heading south, down through the winding country roads and into Udawalawa, a two hour drive away. We had booked a quick overnight stay here in preparation for our Safari trip at Udawalawe National Park the next morning, which was one of the things we were most looking forward to at the start of the trip.
The two things that have surprised and impressed me most about Sri Lanka are both the vast range of things to do here and the distinct identity that each place we’ve been to has. Our next two locations were very different from the places we’d been to previously and proved to be the highlight of our Sri Lankan visit.
It’s funny how your experience with the local people can help shape one’s overall impression of a place. Our hosts in Udawalawa were fantastic, arguably the nicest family we’ve met not only in Sri Lanka but anywhere else in the world.
In addition to being given a nice looking lodge to spend the night, our hosts cooked us a fantastic evening meal; which we were able to use to get to know them better.
Our host, Uppal, worked full time in the education sector and ran the two guest-rooms in his spare time for a bit of pocket money and to meet new people. He shared the hosting efforts with his sister, Lakhmi a student, who was also a fantastic cook with a shy but warm personality. Our hosts didn’t stop smiling the whole time which was very infectious!
After a good start to our new location, we awoke the following morning at 5am ready for our Safari. We were told that early starts are the best times to get to the Safari, as between 6 – 9am it is a bit cooler so more animals would be out and about.
On our safari we saw at least fifty elephants, some of them came right up close to our Safari jeep! We also saw plenty of Buffalo, a jackal, crocodiles, peacock’s and many other exotic birds during our half day excursion into the massive Udawalawe National Park.
With a life changing experience now ticket off the bucket list, we continued South onto the coast to the beach town of Mirissa. We were planning to get a car there as we couldn’t find a direct bus, but Uppal told us that there was a direct bus heading straight there from the end of the road for 1% of the price of a driver! Not only did he save us a lot of money by telling us this, he also walked us to the bus station and waited with us until we were safely on board and heading to our next destination. What a legend.
After two weeks of culture and hiking, we were craving some beach time, so a few days in Mirissa was exactly what the doctor ordered. Mirissa is a one of the most popular places on the South Coast, with a beautiful sandy beach cove being sandwiched by two spectacular arches on either side.
Mirissa is the sort of place you could bring your family to for a week every year, and pleasingly, it still remains a fairly well kept secret amongst international tourists. Along the beach, there are a long line of restaurants and bars, whose relaxed nature helped to avoid the feel of the area being too touristy. The water was warm and the waves were large and strong.
The area is known for its whale-watching but after two weeks of tours and excursions, we were more than happy to give that a miss on this occasion and instead have three great days of swimming and sunbathing before heading to Galle.