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Tissamaharama

On safari in Yala National Park

sunny 33 °C

If you look at the map of my trip, you may think it was a long way to go out of the way for a 2hr (plus travel time from the hotel) game-spotting drive in the south-east of Sri Lanka. But this is Yala NP, and therefore not your run-of-the-mill safari. Yala is renowned for leopard sightings! The other special thing about Yala, well worth supporting, is that it is still in recovery from the tsunami.

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The park boundary goes right down to the sea, and the seawater came in at a number of places.

Soon after entering the park we spotted this croc cooling off by the side of a lagoon, followed by a number of excellent bird sightings. As I'm not very knowledgeable about birds, here's one that I was able to confidently identify.

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We also saw a few herds of deer, including some Bambis!

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But the highlight would have to have been another very special elephant encounter - I've been truly spoiled on this trip with elephants and elephant babies.

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At one point things got a little edgy when an adult elephant decided there were too many vehicles around, and started stamping its foot to protect the little one.

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We moved on to give them some peace.

Alas no (big) cats for me on this drive, but I did see a little dog - a jackal going about its business.

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Posted by Andrea R 17:41 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged wildlife nature national_park Comments (0)

Around Bentota Beach

Conserving turtles

sunny 32 °C

It occurred to me a while back that this is more of a wildlife/nature holiday than my previous forays into Asia, which have been more focused on culture. So it should not be a surprise that one of my favourite parts of the Bentota Beach stay was a visit to a turtle conservation project.

Upon arrival - for a few seconds - I was shocked at how many fatalities they have... until I realised it was just the hatchery.

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With eggs like the most delicate table tennis balls, it's no wonder the success rate for hatching in the wild is estimated to be only 20:80. The hatchlings are kept for 3 days before release, as it takes this long for their eyes to open and their belly buttons to close, giving them the best chance of survival. The first photo below shows a 1-day old, but the second photo is of a feisty pair from the 2-day tank.

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Of course, there are arguments for and against this type of conservation, and a balanced view needs to be taken.

Apart from the hatchlings, the project also cares for some long-term or lifetime residents, including those born with deformities and a few that were rescued with injuries from the tsunami like the little (35kg) fella below that lost its front fins in the disaster.

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And then there are those that are kept for their public relations value. This one doesn't mind being held, but not for too long.

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Posted by Andrea R 18:08 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged wildlife nature turtle conservation Comments (0)

Sri Lankan Gems

Two kinds of moonstone

sunny 32 °C

This is a little out of sequence but I thought it was interesting enough to include one final post for this blog. To break up the long drives, our tour leader would often stop to show us the work of trusted local artisans, and sometimes there was a demo of the process (think lace-making, tea production, wood-carving and so on). This is how we came to visit two lapidaries. No eye-rolling; there was rarely much pressure to buy!

Anyway, the second lapidary was interesting as it had a working mine in the back yard. They were still using very traditional methods to bring up the stones, and in this particular area, they were fortunate enough to be successfully mining two kinds of moonstone - white and the much more rare blue.

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The mud comes up from the shaft in a bucket, then it's taken over to a big puddle to be washed.

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On this occasion, we have both white and a few blue moonstones.

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And here is the day's haul, just laying around in the shed.

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The stones are cut and polished, then the gems are set by hand.

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Here's the lovely pink star sapphire ring that Silvia had made at the first lapidary, in Kandy.

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In actual fact there are probably three kinds on moonstone, because I learned at Polonnaruwa that a moonstone is also a semi-circular, carved stone doormat!

Posted by Andrea R 18:12 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged art nature gems Comments (0)

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