Nature tour part 2: the night we camped where leopards live.

Following on from our last post..The day continued to be full of opportunities to spot some amazing wildlife! From the fishing village we took a jungle walk, following the road outside of the Kumana National Park entrance. You get a great view of the temple from here, and there's an ideal fishing spot close to the road.

We didn't walk far before coming across a large group of deer grazing, and one of the most striking things- trees full of Malabar pied hornbills, which looked pre-historic, perched above the lake. Due to their unfortunate decline in number, these amazing birds are listed as Near Threatened, so it is pretty incredible to see them in such numbers!

We piled into the van next as the temperature was cooling off and we knew the elephants would be coming out of the jungle and closer to the road to feed.  It didn't take us long before we spotted a pregnant elephant, and stopped to watch her, quietly and safely in the bushes.  You have to take care when close to wild elephants as they are not only powerful but unpredictable.  We always encourage our guests to be respectful and cautious-you don't have to look far to find news about the damage these beautiful creatures can cause!!

That night we cooked up the fresh fish which was caught that day, with noodles and of course washed down with a healthy measure of arrack which we brought to share with the fishermen. We climbed onto a nearby rock for our feast and watched as the sun set and the stars formed a stunning pattern overhead, listening to the sounds of the jungle.  The rocks were still hot from the sun beating down on them all day, and warmed our backs as we lay on them star gazing before our friends started singing local songs.  The question was asked as to whether there are any leopards in the park..the reply was that there is a cave very close to where we were sitting that one lived in! No sightings during our time there but a wild boar crossed paths with our guest on his way to the van!

The next morning, before it got too hot to walk barefoot, we left Okanda and drove to Kudumbigala Monastery Complex.

Walking through the shady walkways, we were informed that a strange smell we had noticed was a sign that a bear had recently been there, although we didn't see more than a glimpse of one ourselves unfortunately.  We reached the first of a series of cave temples-built in the second century-and took in the surroundings.

It is no exaggeration to say that the view from the top of the highest rock is breathtaking and well worth the climb.  Standing next to the red-brick Dagoba, you get the most incredible view of the surrounding area-stretching out to the sea and the national park.  There is no highway, hotel or high-rise in sight-the only sign of human habitation is the odd farmers hut and the few dirt roads that snake through the park.  The below (iphone) images don't do it justice at all!

Once again, more to follow with our final part of this tour where we headed to the awesome Peanut Farm..!