I arrived in Sri Lanka in the afternoon and Manori was at the airport to meet me. We had an hour long drive through traffic to the other side of town to her parent’s home where I was given a very warm welcome. Afternoon tea is a tradition here, just as in Kenya, and so I immediately felt at home!
That evening we were invited to Lalith and Ayanthie Seneviratne’s home for a dinner gathering with many of the friends Petter and I had made during our visit to Sri Lanka in 2003. A special surprise guest was Mohamed who had accompanied us on the safari we took around the national parks. Mohamed, who has an extraordinary connection with elephants was then warden of Yala East National Park and we learned so much from him.
The evening was very jolly – a guitar appeared and we ate a delicious meal prepared by Ayanthie.
ElephantVoices visits Yala East National Park on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast in 2003. We had a fantastic experience there thanks to our friend Lalith Seneviratne (right) and our extraordinary host, R. Myunideen Mohamed then Park Warden. The parks had just been reopened following two decades of civil unrest, but was hard hit by the Tsunami in December 2004. Mohamed’s family were among the many who lost everything but their lives. All the Park’s staff saved themselves, some by running side by side with water buffaloes. The elephants had left for higher ground earlier. The park’s new headquarters was submerged in five feet of water, but a miracle saved them from major damage.
This morning Manori and I got up early and drove to the northern side of Colombo to meet with the Director of Wildlife, Mr. Wijaysooryie. We had a very useful hour long meeting during which we discussed a variety of elephant issues including human elephant conflict, elephant habitat and what to do about elephants being hit by trains. Then we continued on our way north toward Minneriya. The drive was long and the traffic heavy, and I was really feeling jet-lagged. My system is very confused having come from Washington by way of Norway! Stops along the way for fresh passion fruit juice and samosas made me feel I was back in the tropics!
Manori is still looking for a place to set up our base and meanwhile the Hotel Sigiriya has generously given us two beautiful rooms free of charge. So I am writing this having been given a frangipani flower for my hair, a refreshing fruit drink, a cooled and scented face towel, a cup of tea and having done 10 laps in the pool. All this while being entertained by macaques stealing our sugar and langurs knocking over the furniture.
Stay tuned for the next installment…..