In the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka to see the treasures of the ancient cities (three world heritage sites in three days), with a couple of elephant-based activities thrown in for fun, I never expected to be so torn. But in this little competition, Mother Nature has won me over.
Beginning on Tuesday afternoon we went on an elephant ride around the Habarana reservoir on Rani, a 27yo ‘single lady’ with a penchant for bananas. I think ‘single’ possibly means childless in this case. She was quite vocal before she met us, which made me a little nervous, but noticing that she went to the toilet before we set off on our adventure, I thought “Here’s a sensible woman”. She didn’t seem too embarrassed to overhear the mahout telling us that she does 15kg of kaka every day!
Along the way Rani would let us know when she was ready for another banana by raising her trunk and gently blowing warm air on us. I was sitting at the front, so I would touch the end of her trunk with the banana, and she would delicately kind of suction it out of my fingers, and lower it down to her mouth. Here is my lingering image of the gentle lady.
The only time things got a little hairy was at the halfway point, when Rani was allowed to take us into the water while she had a drink and turned around. If she had been just a fraction cheekier, we could have had a dunking.
The next day we had the option to take a late afternoon jeep safari onto Minneriya National Park, not far from Habarana. Our expectations were exceptionally well-managed, leaving us all completely blown away with the experience of getting up close and personal with herds of wild elephants. So close in fact that at one point we had to ask our driver to move us a bit further away, as the animals were getting so close. One particular herd that we spent quite a long time with had at least half a dozen babies, including one that was no more than 2-3 weeks old.
Even at such a young age, the wild elephants were learning how to take care of themselves. Although they are nursed by their mothers for quite some time, they were already mimicking the older elephants, pulling up clumps of grass and shaking them to get the sandy soil off the roots, ready to eat.
I’ve added some extra pics to my gallery, so take a look.