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Volume 17 - April 2021

Image 01 ElephantCub

Up to no good!

“That’s what my mama says when she sees me grinning.”

“But hey, these adults are so boring. They move slowly and they just stagnate in places for a long time. I mean, where’s the fun in just eating all day? I get it, we’re majestic Sri Lankan Elephants and we need to eat a lot, but dude, there’s more to life than that! But all is not lost. I just heard that there is a migration in the offing because our herd shuffles between Gal Oya National Park, which is where we are now, and Yala National Park. So the journey should be a lot of fun! Right, I think it's time now for a glorious mud bath and dust shower. It’s a lot of fun to do and it keeps the annoying parasites away!”

Fun Facts

“The Senanayake Samudra lake in Gal Oya National Park, is just littered with islands to explore and they’re all calling out my name. Getting to them is easy, just jump in the water, stick the trunk up in the air and swim away. My mum and the other adults do it all the time, but I’m not allowed to because mum says I’m too small. It’s the only time I feel like I want to grow up.”

Story of the photo

Photographer Gavin Sahabandu, a traveller and a wildlife photographer, took this cute picture of a mischievous-looking baby elephant at Gal Oya National Park, not too far from the Explorer by Mahoora campsite.

 Image 02

 

Being a good Salty 101 

“Good morning little crocodilians! Now, settle down, we’re about to begin class.”

“Right my little Saltwater Crocodile babies, first off, the basics. You can eat anything you want, but no matter what your parents say, just don’t eat humans. Yes, I know they’re dumb and stupid and easier to catch than Spotted Deer or Sambar, but they’re incredibly unhealthy creatures. Have you seen what they eat? Just stick to the delicious forest creatures and you’ll grow big and strong. Also, Fish. Don’t forget fish, lots of great nutrition there. What was that Mortimer? Tin cans and plastic? Heavens no! When I said eat anything I meant living things, not every bit of nonsense that comes floating down the river.”

Fun Facts

“Now, normally, communicating your feelings and putting your thoughts into words is a very good thing. But as the great crocodilian playwright William Saltyspear said, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’ and sometimes a few noises will be more than enough to communicate a whole lot of things. For example, if you little ones are in trouble, just give out some high pitched barking noises and we’ll be there to help you. As you grow older, you can threaten intruders by mimicking our cousins the Snakes and hissing so that the intruders will scuttle away. Stop hissing at your brother Mortimer. Now, when you become adults, you can learn to give out an attractive growl to attract potential mates. That’s enough Mortimer! Stop growling at me, I said adults, you can do it when you are an adult. Honestly this child will be the death of me.”

Story of the photo

This gorgeous photo was taken by Gavin at the estuary of the Kirindi Oya river, which is a short drive away from the Explorer by Mahoora campsite at Bundala National Park and prime territory for these fearsome giants.

 Image 03 hornbill

Best seen and not heard 

Meet the Malabar Pied Hornbill, a bird that’s got the looks but not the pipes.

Often found around the Mahoora Tented Safari Camp in Yala, the Malabar Pied Hornbill is a fantastic bird for photographers to track, as it gives incredible profile shots and is almost model-esque in its posing. The beautifully curved yellow bill stands out in stark contrast to the distinct black Casque and black plumage of the body, which makes for great pictures when shooting the bird against cerulean skies. But alas, being blessed with good looks meant shortcomings in other areas! Not much can be said about the call of this hornbill, except that it’s about as far as you can get from words like “Melodious”, “Chirpy” or “Silvery whistle” and is best described as a sound from product of an unholy union of a chicken and a donkey.

Fun Facts

Apart from being the coolest beak-mod of the avian world, the Casque has a practical use. Due to its hollow nature, it helps to amplify the Hornbills' unique call across dense jungle areas; no doubt startling many an animal from their peaceful reveries. The cool beak is also very practical in helping this omnivorous bird to indulge in a balanced diet of fruits, insects, small mammals and little lizards.

Story of the photo

While on a trek in the Weheragala area of the Yala National Park, Gavin came across the perfect spot to shoot this Hornbill. He opines that, even though they are commonly found throughout evergreen forests, a chance to capture them on camera should never be missed, because they give the most curious looks and the coolest poses. 

Image 04 Leopard

When the watcher becomes the watched - the silent thoughts of a Leopard

Someone’s stalking me. This is new. I wonder what I should do. Maybe I should run away.

“Keep calm. You may not be fully grown but you’re a Sri Lankan Leopard and a force to be reckoned with!”

But it’s a human! And, he’s pointing something at me!

“Relax, it’s one of those camera things. It doesn’t do anything. Just drink your water and go. Don’t panic.”

But what if he is trying to steal my kill. I know it’s only a small deer, but I think he wants it. I knew I should have hidden it better.

“He doesn’t want your food. He’s just staring. He’s just one of those weirdos that the older leopards warned you about. They just turn up in those noisy things and then stop and watch us.”

Fun Facts

I wonder what he tastes like. I can pretend to leave and then circle around and leap at his throat and take him out just like I did to that deer. He won’t see me coming!

“You will do no such thing. You just had half a deer.”

I can snuff him out with a whack of my mighty paw.

“You can’t. Not yet anyway. Not until you’re fully grown. Then... wait, I'm supposed to be the voice of reason. No attacking humans! Besides, if you kill a human, you’ll get a bad reputation. Also, stop staring back. It’s rude.”

Fine. It’s time for a nap anyway. But if he follows me and creepily stares at me while I nap on my tree, I’m going to be very cross.

“Just go into the bushes. Your spots will easily camouflage you and then head towards that tree close to the Mahoora Tented Safari Camp. Those people don’t bother anyone.”

Story of the photo

It was late evening at the end of a hotter-than-normal day at Yala National Park when this young leopard turned up for a refreshing sip of water. Gavin’s patience was rewarded when he got this gorgeous shot of the big cat, with what appears to be a paranoid expression on its face.

 

 

Much more than just a great place to stay

"Thanks to our guide Avinka we had five great safaris staying four nights just after reopening this February. The staff made us feel so very welcome during the entire stay.

The safaries are just wonderful, and having a great guide in your vehicle makes a big difference. Avinka can spot animals you would never see and we were even lucky enough to sight leopards on the trees, close to our vehicle, and also running through the field. The wildlife is so exciting that you will have a great experience even if you don‘t see any leopards. We also had a great driver, which is essential if you drive through difficult territory. You are being taken care of the entire time, so even for those who do safaris for the first time, you will always feel safe.

The camp itself is very comfortable, you get everything you can think of, and on top of the great food being served with so much attention and friendliness. You also get wonderful vegetarian and vegan options. They put on bonfires at night, which makes it unforgettable.
When booking and making plans, you get great support from the headquarters, even if it gets difficult since you have to change your plans.
The best thing what can happen to you at the end of a vacation is when you are a bit sad to leave the place, having experienced something to remember forever, and the team does everything for this to happen. Thank you so much"

Axel S wrote, Traveled with family
January 2021

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