Alden Boon

Bundala National Park, Sri Lanka, Has a Diverse Ecosystem That Offers Much to See

29/07/2018

After winding stretches of road flanked by bushes, shrubs and trees on both sides, the path bent eastwards and opened to a vast clearing. Even before the driver made a complete turn, an elephant lumbered towards us, its elongated tusks aimed sharply at us. The waterhole was his, and trumpeting he let us know it. The driver immediately killed the engine. Seeing this gesture as a white flag, the elephant stayed his advance, though he was ever on guard, gaze fixed on us, ready to charge should we decide to trespass any further. We would be foolish to. Size advantage the behemoth had. Speed belied that sheer size too: If he gained momentum he would certainly outpace us, us mere humans in our undoing hubris would panic and make fatal errors. The jeep’s windscreen would have little protective effect against his tusks coveted and long hunted for.

Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka

Perhaps realising that we were no more than a fly he could effortlessly swat, the guardian relented his vigilance, now perambulating along the perimeter of its prized waterhole. “There is a white blotch on his neck,” said the wildlife ranger, as the elephant turned his back towards us. Whether it was remains left by the elephant’s winged counterparts, or that of blood from a gunshot wound he could only venture a guess. It seemed that our territorial friend had a penchant for exploration. Often he would leave the safety of the park to forage for food, playing now the part of persona non grata, pillaging nearby farms for rice, plants and fruits.

Now the elephant was enjoying his spoils, stopping to throw sand – his form of sunscreen – over his massive back. When he finally had his fill of water, he ambled along before dwindling into the shroud of green, giving us leave to enter his realm. As my journey continued, the sights vacillated between the bizarre and heart-warming.

A crocodile, lying in plain sight and just a few paces from a small herd of water buffaloes. “Do the water buffaloes know their peril?” I thought. It seemed to me that in this moment alone, they were just existing harmoniously. The water buffalo nearest to the crocodile approached it, and using its hoof playfully nudged it. At that, the crocodile started and recoiled, then quickly crawled back to the safety of the water, and receded.

A troop of tufted grey langurs, standing in single file formation like field soldiers. They, like the elephant, were on guard for incoming threats. And then, later again, poised on a branch, a young monkey embracing its parent.

Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka

But elephants and crocodiles and monkeys were not the reason why I was come to Bundala National Park. Boasting a diverse ecosystem, the park is also home to over one hundred and ninety-five migratory birds. There are over one thousand greater flamingos to be seen, though I spotted none. The wetlands were teeming with painted storks, characterised by their heavy yellow beak, white plumage and black as well as pink tertial feathers. Parrots and pelicans there were also.

On this sweltering Wednesday afternoon, there was no other jeep in sight save ours (most people perhaps flock to Yala National Park in search of the elusive leopard), so I enjoyed the exclusivity and quietude. Just as we were about to leave the park, both the wildlife ranger and my driver shouted out: “Eagle!”. As a diehard Tolkien fan, the mention of the word “eagles” of course evokes sentimentality and a rush of excitement. There it stood, high and mighty amongst the trees, the white-bellied sea eagle, its body of white contrasting with its slate-grey wings. Far into the vast horizon it looked, buoyed by the vantage point, perhaps searching with its eyes its next meal.

Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.

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