A welcome return to Wilpattu – Sri Lanka’s largest national park

A welcome return to Wilpattu – Sri Lanka’s largest national park

I have not been out in the jungles for a while due to an uncommonly rainy spell, so when Wilpattu, Sri Lanka’s largest national park, was reopeaned t the public I had to get my jungle dose. The lovely Anawila bungalow was going to be our base for 3 days. I had heard great things about this bungalow, which is only 1 km from the park entrance, and was really looking forward to staying here.

We planned to leave Colombo by dawn, but as usual things did not turn out the way we planned. One of my friends had overslept and we had to wake up the whole neighbourhood to get her to open the door. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Annavilundawa wetland, bought a few village vegetables on the way hoping that we could ask our bungalow keeper to make is an authentic Sri Lankan village curry, and it was about 1pm by the time we reached Aniwila.

We were quite beat after the long drive but all any complaining vanished the moment we walked in to the bungalow. It reminds one of a typical wildlife bungalow you have inside the parks but much more tastefully done and luxurious. There was a scramble to get the best sleeping beds in the top floor veranda where you can sit on your mattress and watch tree tops all around you. There is a lovely bedroom as well with an attached bathroom which is perfect for those who are not as keen about sleeping too close to nature. We spent the rest of the day resting and watching and photographing the wildlife all around. The next day we planned a full-day safari in the national park. Since it is such an expansive park, a full day inside the park is the best way to see and enjoy the wilds.

The rain did not stay away throughout the day and the ‘Villus’ in the park were over flowing as we drove through the park by jeep. Our tracker Dinesh, who has been in the park for over 11 years, showed us all the historical sites, old bungalows and spotted many birds for us to photograph. There were short spells of sunshine which gave us all some hope. Sadly we missed all the big game, but we did see very fresh pug marks of a leopard which had walked along the wet sand seconds earlier. There were also large herds of Spotted Deer all around the park and it was refreshing to see so many animals in this park after so long.

We also visited Kudiramale Point, known as the place where King Vijaya arrived in Sri Lanka in 432 BC. He then named the place ‘Thambapanni, which translated to ‘copper sand’ as the soil here has a distinctive colouration found nowhere in the island. We had to cross two main roads which have been cut through the park. One hopes that the beauty of this park and its wildlife will not be affected by unnecessary development.

We returned to Anavila for an early dinner and truly enjoyed a well cooked Sri Lankan rice and curry. The next morning, reluctant to leave, we were allowed to stay around until till late afternoon. Despite the return of the rain, we had a great weekend. Going back to Wilpattu was absolutely wonderful and staying at Anavila was an excellent way to relax and enjoy the wilds of Lanka.

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