Short, fun nature tour to the East coast. Day 1

You can probably tell from other posts on the Banana Blog, that we love getting over to the East Coast.  The moment we get to the bridge just outside of Arugam Bay (above) excitement builds about A) The Surf-if it's High Season. B) The amazing animals we'll see..and C) getting to wake up with the sunrise at the beach.  Every time we go there's something new to see, and the feeling of adventure remains the same. 

We usually arrive on time to see the sun rising over the Bay, but unfortunately this time we had a slightly longer route.  Just a short drive along the road cutting through the outskirts of Yala National Park, at around 3am, we were flagged down by a lorry approaching us.  The driver told us a bridge was down (we were lucky to know at this point as it turns out it was a lot further into the park!) and that we needed to turn around and take another route.  This is a great part of the journey usually because we tend to see lots of animals beside the road, so we continued along until we saw a few elephants then made a U-turn and headed back towards Katharagama, adding another hour or so onto the journey (but worth it for the elephant sightings!) Just after the sun came up we stopped outside a military station and refreshed with tea and rotti.

From Arugam bay we drove into Kumana national Park where between stretches of dry tangled jungle you have these incredible views where the open spaces stretch on, alive with so many different types of bird and, as we had this time, elephants grazing close to the road.  Amazing!

The feeling of spotting elephants so close, in their own environment is totally awesome.  These two were relaxed amongst the marshy waters and we couldn't believe how beautiful the scenery was.  As I have stated on other posts, you must remember that these elephants are WILD.  That means staying safe and observing them from a safe distance-you don't stand much chance of out-running an elephant, even though they look so large and placid, they can reach a great speed.  We always remain close to our vehicle and do our best not to disturb them or cause them any stress.  After seasons of living close to them, Amila knows how to behave and what warning signs to look for.  That being said, this is a great experience for any elephant-lover visiting the island..seeing them unchained and relaxed!

After our sighting, we drove further into the park to Kudumbigala Monastery Complex, the serene, peaceful temple surrounded by jungle.

I'm not going to lie, the walk to the top of the rock here is pretty tiring first thing in the morning.  However, it's not to be missed as once you get to the dagoba at the top, the view is spectacular, without a hotel or highway in sight.  It's not hard to see why this has been a Buddhist hermitage for over 2,000 years.   

After the walk back down through the winding pathways of the monastery complex, it's always nice to freshen up at the hand-pumps at the bottom.  We often see groups of monkeys here and large monitor lizards, especially on a quiet day when we are the only visitors.

Breakfast was the delicious coconut rotti and Onion Sambal in Okanda.  Baked the traditional way, over a wood fire, this is a must-eat if you come here to explore or surf.

We used to camp out in Okanda but didn't have the chance this time so we headed to Peanut Farm where the High Seasons surf was just beginning right on our doorstep (camp-step?).  This was our base for the two nights stay.  They are currently re-building the cabanas there and so far they look amazing so watch this space! 

Day 2's blog post to follow...