In second grade, my class was assigned with the task of writing a report on our favorite animals. At the time, I had a million “favorite” animals. That was back when I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. Didn’t everyone? After much deliberation and a few cartons of chocolate milk, I made the difficult decision to write about elephants.
Now, believe it or not, this was a time before the wonderful world of Google. Dial-up internet wasn’t even an option. We had to research our animals using these strange devices called encyclopedias and books.
Ever since that report (I received an A+, by the way), I’ve been obsessed with elephants. I love how an animal so huge and gray and wrinkly could also be so ridiculously cute. Those ears though!
When I discovered that our trip to Sri Lanka was going to include an elephant safari, I nearly lost my peanuts. Seeing these animals in the wild is one of my favorite things (aside from cheese) and something I haven’t done since our Serengeti safari back in 2008.
Kaudulla National Park is located in the heart of Sri Lanka and is home to a slew of unique creatures. Wild boar, sloth bears (these sound both cute and terrifying), and Sri Lankan axis deer abound, but the true royalty of Kaudulla are its 200+ Asian elephants that migrate to the park in early September in search of food and-more importantly-water.
With the help and organization of our friends at Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts, as soon as our SriLankan Airlines flight touched down in Colombo we found ourselves on a bus and bound to Kaudulla National Park. Did you know that one of the best ways to avoid jet lag is to see elephants in the wild? It’s scientific fact. Trust me, I was almost a vet.
As soon as we reached Kaudulla we loaded ourselves into open air jeeps and hit the open plain. Our jeep just happened to be bursting with travel blogging talent. We rode dirty (quite literally, at times) with our good friend Brock from Backpack With Brock, the lovely Erin from Travel with Bender, Craig, the current president of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association and owner of Indie Travel Podcast, and adventurous Nellie from Wild Junket.
We bounced through the park and took in the scenery. I’m sure our guides knew exactly where the elephants were, but they gave us a little teaser by pointing out certain trees, driving through questionable looking mud puddles, and pretending that huge rocks were elephants. They got me every time. However, after a lot of patience delivered by yours truly, they finally rounded a bend and watched as our entire jeep leapt with glee.
Before us was a bonafide herd of hundreds of elephants.
Commonly referred to as “The Gathering”, the meeting of elephants is due to their search for water during the country’s dry season (July to November). Did you know that most elephants need around 200+ liters of water every day? Kaudulla is in ideal place to quench their thirst as the park is home to a large lake.
One of my favorite parts of our visit to Kaudulla was the adorable babies that seemed to be everywhere. Given that their mother’s undergo the longest pregnancy ever (seriously, 22 months! I’d be like, Get.It.Out.), you would expect them to be the cutest animals on the entire planet. They had all of those extra months to really develop, after all. And you know what? They don’t disappoint. I even caught one adorable little baby sucking on his trunk like a human baby would on its thumb.
One of the most memorable moments? When a family of elephants was momentarily frightened and all of the vigilant matriarchs formed a protective ring around the babies. It was easy to see how tight knit each family was and how they literally rallied around their loved ones.
Did you know that elephants have no natural predators? In fact, the number one threat to these magnificent creatures are people. That’s us. Due to poaching (guys, I heard a rumor that the possession of illegal ivory causes one’s face to literally melt off. Trust me, I was almost a vet) and changes to their habitats, more elephants are dying at the hands of humans. In a world where seeing animals in their natural habitat is an experience few and far between, we’re thrilled that places like Kaudulla exist. Somewhere where we can watch from a respectable distance.
A trip to Kaudulla is a wonderful way to appreciate these beautiful creatures in the wild. And like my report all those years ago, I give this experience an A+.