Trip Report: Ninjas on Safari in Sri Lanka!

On 25 August 2018, Dive Ninjas ventured out on Safari! We spent an amazing 5 days exploring the wildlife and culture of beautiful Sri Lanka. Here’s Sze Wei’s trip report. This is part 1 of our 2-part series covering our recent visit to the Indian Ocean. Make sure to check out part 2 on diving in the Maldives here

When I heard that Dive Ninjas were planning to go on safari in Sri Lanka – I leapt at the opportunity to sign up!  I literally had visions of elephants and monkeys dancing around in my head, coupled with Indiana Jones like images of exploring ruined temples and palaces – and I got all that and more!  Let me tell all…

Where is Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is an island nation, in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean, just south of India.  With its lush tropical climate, it is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world, and has the highest biodiversity density in Asia!  I can certainly vouch for that, having the amazing opportunity to explore several of its National Parks – more on this later! The country has a rich cultural heritage, with over 3,000 years of documented history, and a wealth of historical temples, palaces and monuments all ready for exploration.

Sri Lanka Safari with Dive Ninja Expeditions & Aggressor Safari
Sri Lankan Palm Squirrel

Let’s Begin…

My trip started off with a day in Negombo, a beach resort town near the capital city of Colombo.  After a long haul flight from Europe, I was glad to get the chance for some rest and relaxation at a beachside hotel – and was happy and surprised to find out that my introduction to Sri Lankan wildlife would start immediately!  Within the hotel gardens, I was vastly entertained by sneaky little palm squirrels who were both cute and greedy, maneuvering themselves into every opportunity to grab some snacks – especially sugar sachets that they seem to be addicted to!  Reassured that the animals appeared to be friendly and not the least shy, I settled back to watch the most beautiful sunset over the beach, with the full colour palette of oranges, purples and pinks, before meeting the rest of the group for dinner.

To the Aggressor Tented Safari Lodge!

The next day, after a delicious Sri Lankan breakfast (curry for breakfast, it’s a thing!), we made our way to the Aggressor Tented Safari Lodge, which will be the base for our adventure.  It was a four hour drive north to Wilpattu, where the lodge was located – which gave us the opportunity to drive past towns, villages, temples, jungles, fields and generally observe daily life in this beautiful South Asian country.  

We got the Safari Lodge in time for lunch, and started exploring – and it is gorgeous!!  The lodge is a tented safari lodge, with each chalet made of canvas walls on a sturdy wooden frame.  It’s an amazing setup, and made me feel like I was getting the chance to camp in the middle of the jungle and be really close to the wildlife, while at the same time being super comfortable and secure, with air conditioning, beautiful furnishings, and all mod cons.  The lodge is tucked away in 6 acres of forest, with a river running right in front of our chalet, and nature trails and walks right outside the door!

Aggressor Tented Safari Lodge Sri lanka
Aggressor Tented Safari Lodge Sri lankaAggressor Tented Safari Lodge Sri lanka

Wilpattu Safari

After a delicious lunch, it was time for our first Safari!  A quick drive took us to Wilpattu National Park, where we got into our safari jeeps and hit the trails!  In no time we were spotting a whole variety of wildlife – from birds such as bee eaters, painted storks, and wild peacocks, to huge herds of spotted and sambar deer and wild buffaloes.  The jeep drivers happily paused while we ooh-ed and aah-ed to admire and photograph the animals. As the light faded, we came across a large sambar deer that stubbornly stood in the middle of the trail and refused to budge!  It was amusing to see the drivers scratch their heads to figure out what to do next, and reassuring to see that it’s the animals that rule the roost here.

Sigiriya – the Palace on the Rock

The next day we were up bright and early to make our way to Sigiriya, a 5th century palace complex and UNESCO world heritage site built on top of a 600 feet/200 metre extinct volcano.  As we approach the site, it was mind boggling to take it in – the rock rears up starkly from the jungle, and the thought of people hiking all the way to the top to build a palace without modern tools or machinery was hard to comprehend!  We spent the morning hiking up the rock, marvelling again at the ingenuity of builders, and admiring the beautiful sculptures, inscriptions and frescoes they have left behind. The last section of the climb feature a stairway framed by carvings of huge lion claws – just wow.  The Sri Lankans proudly claim this as the eighth wonder of the world, and having explored it, I find it hard to disagree.

Elephants!

After a morning at the rock, it was time for the highlight of the trip for me!  We made our way to Minneriya National Park – which is the home of the largest Asian elephant gathering on the planet!  Each year during the dry season, elephants congregate here to drink, play and snack on the lush grasses that have been exposed by the receding water.  And they were there in force! We saw herds of 50 elephants!! It was such a thrill to see them, from big mature tuskers, smaller teenagers, to mothers with calves!  I had a huge grin on my face the whole time!

We got close enough to them to hear the swishing sounds their trunks made as they grazed on the grass.  One mature female was curious enough to come up really close to us in the safari jeep, and I felt deeply privileged to have an amazing eye to eye encounter as we both silently looked at each other.  The elephants seemed extremely unconcerned and relaxed by our presence, with one couple being comfortable enough to go on to show us how baby elephants are made! Yes, we saw a mating!!

The baby elephants were a lot shyer and keep close to mom’s legs – almost tripping them up sometimes!  One little baby was only 2 months old, and it was sweet to see how protective the herd was around the little one, constantly shielding him from us strangers. I was definitely flying high on elephants after these encounters!

Elephants on Sri Lanka Safari with Dive Ninja Expeditions & Aggressor Safari