Enjoy wildlife in Sri Lanka
The best news for any traveller to Sri Lanka is that wherever you are, you are never far away from an interesting national park, all of them open every day. However note that unlike in some major parks in Africa where you can drive with your own car, in Sri Lanka you will have to hire a jeep with a driver.
Park entrance tickets can be bought at park entrances and a tracker always accompanies you during your safari. The major attraction on land remains the leopard but your kids will also love spotting the youngest member of an elephant herd, sometimes as young as a month old and still bearing a rosy tan and sporting a straw-like trunk!
Visiting any natural park is kid’s play. You basically have four options:
1.Book your stay and trip in advance with a specialised lodge. The ambience here is typically safari-type right from the moment you step inside. This is an option for those who seek an Out of Africa experience. Jeeps are often very comfortable and equipped with high seats, air-conditioning, etc. Binoculars and other items are usually provided.
2.If you prefer to stay in any other type of hotel, you can book your expedition through an agent who specialises in safaris. A jeep, usually a very stylish and comfortable one, will come and pick you at your hotel and take you around the park.
3.If have not had the time to book a trip in advance. No need to panic. You can either ask your hotel to book it for you or just reach the park entrance and hop on to one of the many jeep always available just outside. This can workout as a good option as you will be able to adjust your schedule according to the weather, your tiredness if you have been visiting other places before or according to the mood of your children or partner. The jeeps are quite the rough type but can also be cheap (around Rs.5000).
4.You can book to stay INSIDE a park through the Department of Wildlife Conservation. But this is a tedious thing and their office at Colombo is quite far from the centre. Plus, you will have to pay for a two-day entrance ticket. Most lodgings are quite basic and expensive too unless you opt to camp. In this case, you pay a basic fee and pay for a two-day pass. For more information, call the Department of Wildlife Conservation at +94 11 288 8585 or mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just remember a few things prior to your trip:
1. All parks open at 6:30 am.
2. Closing time for all parks is at 6:30 pm which means you will have to be at the entrance a few hours before.
3. On top of the fee you pay for the jeep and the driver, you will have to pay for the entrance, depending if you are a local (Rs.60) or a foreigner (Rs.2000). Children pay Rs.1000.
When you add this to the the charge for a tracker that is provided at the entrance (it is billed as “service charge” in your ticket), a family of two foreign adults with two children will have to pay in the region of Rs.8200.
4. In all, a half-day expedition (jeep and entry fee) will be in the region of Rs.14000 for a family of four.
5. You have to stay in your jeep all the time.
6. Some trackers are quite good, while others will only point at things and mutter a few words of English. None of them speaks any other foreign languages, except a few words.
7. Remember to carry binoculars, hats, sunblock, cameras and water.