Frightening experiences with elephants at Lahugala

by Lal Anthonis

Lahugala is a magic word that never fails to stir a tingle of excitement and bring a thrill to all those who know and love our jungles and their denizens. It is a little village with two fairly large wewas or tanks, one known as Kitulana and the other by the name of the village itself. It is situated 14 miles inland from the little town of Arugam Bay in the south-east coast of Sri Lanka. Both these tanks are overgrown with a kind of grass, now known as Lahugala grass. It is referred to in Sinhala as beru, which reaches well up to the height of an elephant.

As for me, Lahugala tank holds a special, precious memory. It is now over 50 years since, yet I remember it as if it were only yesterday. I stood on the verandah of that dilapidated circuit bungalow at the edge of the tank, with my parents at my side and with a pair of over-sized binoculars in my seven-year old hands. I gazed across the grass of Lahugala at my first pair of wild elephants.

It was at that moment that the ‘jungle bug’ first bit me and the feelings grew in me like a spreading illness. Many are the jungle jaunts I have done and many are the occasions I have visited Lahugala tank since then. Yet on that day long ago I never ever imagined that Lahugala tank was to give me some of the finest moments with wild elephants.

Midway in the afternoon one day in August 1974, Mervyn Gunasekera and Chandima Karunaratne, two of my friends and I arrived at the Lahugala lodge for a three day stay. At about 4 pm the first herd of elephants broke cover across the tank, almost at the very same spot that I had seen my first wild elephants many years earlier.

The bungalow keeper Samuel, who was called Sam for short, and I decided to approach the elephants by jeep. Leaving my friends in the lodge and keeping as close as possible to the edge of the jungle, we drove up slowly on the pockmarked lunar-like surface of the dried tank bed.

About a quarter mile from the lodge, the edge of the jungle goes round a bend and when we drove up to this point the sight that met our eyes was unbelievable. The entire area from the water’s edge to the jungle was a mass of elephants. The next moment they heard or saw us, and they all made off into the jungle in a swirling cloud of dust.

I switched off the engine and waited quietly. A few minutes later they came out again, all 87 of them. We watched them at very close quarters until the late evening light started to play tricks with our vision. In the greying dusk, the elephants moved like spectres against the darkening undergrowth of the forest.

A close call

It was on the second day at Lahugala that I had one of the most frightening experiences in the wilds. It was a warm but breezy noon and we were about to sit for a chilled refresher when I spotted an elephant on the bund some distance away. Very soon there were five of them and as they were some distance off, I decided to approach them on foot to do some photography.

Sam and I set off along the bund. The breeze was in our favour and we were confident that we could approach the animals without being detected. By the time we were within 50 yards of the elephants, the entire herd (about 60 of them) came out into the open and was feeding on both sides of the bund.

It has been a habit of mine when doing photography in the jungle, to turn around every now and then to find out what was happening behind. This practice had prevented many a sticky situation for me. But on this day, fascinated by two young elephants playfully fighting, and another young one rubbing her giant bottom on the bund trying to get at an itchy point with an irritated look on her face, I entirely forgot about the rear. It was then that I thought I heard the familiar ‘flop’ of an elephant’s ear flapping behind us. I turned round slowly and looked down at the bund.

For 250 yards the bund stretched away and there was nothing on it. In the hot afternoon it looked desolate and little whirls of dust rose from it, like tiny ghosts rising from this dusty path to dissolve in the wispy breeze.

I could see the lodge far away and the figures of my two friends that seemed to float in the heat waves that raced across the wewa, as they stood on the rock in front of the lodge.

The only other signs of life were a few grey langurs that sat on the branches of a large tree that grew just below the bund. I turned back to the herd and was just beginning to enjoy the scene when I heard my name being called in a loud and clear voice, which was Mervyn’s. It was one short shout, but I noticed the tone of urgency in it. I whipped around, and there, barely 20 yards behind us, on the bund stood ‘jumbo’. He was a magnificent beast, a very large bull.

Sam’s bravery

He was looking our way, with his trunk half lifted and its prehensile tip drawing little designs in the air. His ears were outstretched. For a moment time seemed to stand still, and in the deadly silence, I could hear the drumming in my chest like the beat of an engine. The breeze caressed the nape of my neck and sent a chill down my spine, while my knees were feeling weak. After my initial shock, I whispered to Sam, who was still watching the herd, that there was an elephant behind us. In a moment he gathered the situation and making a gesture with his hand, he wanted me to follow him.

Watching Sam walk towards the bull with an air of confidence and absolutely no outward sign of fear took away that feeling of helplessness from me, yet it was with leaden feet and a sweaty brow that I followed him. The bull stood still with his ears still out. His trunk was now lowered, but its tip was still curved slightly upwards. It was a grand sight. He looked intently at Sam with a quizzical expression on his face. Then a deep rumble came from that cavernous belly, and he gave a throaty growl that seemed to shake the very bund that we stood on.

Not for a moment did Sam falter but kept walking towards the elephant. Then an ear-splitting squeal rent the air and the elephant gave way. He turned around, yet with that air of dignity these beasts possess and slowly walked down the bund. Then turning round again at the edge of the jungle, he watched us. At this point no more than fifteen feet separated the bull from the bund. Sam, that brave man, stood on it and wanted me to get past him. My involuntary quick strides brought trumpeting from the bull. I turned round expecting him to be coming after me, but Sam was behind me with a wide grin on his face.

It was with a sense of relief, now that our path of retreat to the lodge was once again clear, that we sat on the bund and waited for the bull to come out. Within minutes he obliged by coming on to the bund and walking towards the herd. He then got into the wewa and started to feed on the luscious grass. I noted then that I was thirsty, and once again looked into Sam’s grinning face. He then said, “Sir, your beer must be getting warm”.

Mock fight

There was another incident that was pleasing to watch as long as it lasted and then left delightful memories after it was over. Just after a 20-minute shower of rain that left as suddenly as it came and made the evening damp but sunny, two young bulls came on to the bund and started pushing each other and banging foreheads in a playful wrestling bout. This went on for some time till they got down from the bund and entered the jungle from where we could hear them. The din however was getting closer and we waited expectantly.

They broke cover just in front of the lodge, bursting out of the undergrowth, with one bull chasing after the other. The first one in a hurry did not notice the large pool in front of him, just below the anicut. Before he could stop himself his forelegs crumbled, and as if in slow motion, slithered head over heels into the water. He was up in a flash and stood watching his companion at the edge of the pool with a bewildered, almost human, expression on his face.

Largest herd

The climax of our stay at Lahugala came in the morning before we left. The enthusiastic voice of Mervyn woke me up, and was almost pleading with me to get up as I loathed to leave the comfort of my cozy camp bed and face the morning chill in order to see what he was looking at. When I responded I saw, right across the wewa, almost stretching across our entire field of vision, the largest gathering of elephants I had seen till then.

We gave up our count at 200, as the centre section of the herd had already started making their way into the jungle. By 8 am they were all back in the forest. Once the elephants had gone, an indescribable feeling of loneliness and desolation pervaded the place.

These incidents took place in 1974 and at that time Lahugala was not declared a national park. The lodge was leased from the Department of Irrigation and run by Wildlife and Nature Protection Society for its members. It was handed over to the Department of Wildlife once the place was declared a national park. Visitors were then not allowed to walk along the bund.

However, in the 1980’s when I was Honorary Secretary of the Society and consultant and adviser to the then Director of Wildlife, I had the privilege of traversing the bund, when I had some excellent experiences with elephants. I also had some exciting footage from the bund when filming for national television.

In 1974, when I did not have much experience in the wilds, the incident on the bund as related here, was terrifying. In the 1980’s, when I worked extensively in the field in an honorary capacity for the Director of Wildlife, I had more nerve-racking experiences, but I still consider the incident on the bund a ‘sticky moment’.

Chandima Karunaratne and Mervyn Gunasekera made many more jungle trips with me and shared many an exciting event. Sadly in 1996 Mervyn passed away. Though no longer with us, his memory, like that of the herd at Lahugala, will always remain with us. The bungalow keeper Samuel was employed by the Society, and when the bungalow was handed over to the Department of Wildlife, he left the Society and I have completely lost contact with him.

(To be continued)

(Excerpted from Jungle Journeys in Sri Lanka edited by C.G. Uragoda)

Captivating new TV series searches for Drive to Survive impact on surfing

Make or Break’s behind-the-scenes look at the World Surf League engages fans and non-fans alike even if some hard questions remain ignored

Seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore features in the new Apple TV+ series Make or Break. Photograph: Tony Heff/Apple TV

There is a moment early in the first episode of Make or Break, a new series from Apple TV+ about the World Surf League, when Tyler Wright neatly encapsulates the tension at the heart of professional surfing. “We come from a sport of, ‘aww we’re hippies’,” says the Australian surfer, a two-time WSL champion. “We’re not. We’re competitive little assholes.”

Surfing has long grappled with this bipolar identity; a sport initially beloved by the counter-culture movement that grew popular, some would say too popular, on the back of booming commercial and competitive success. Make or Break, an entertaining seven-part series, is the latest attempt by the surfing elite to capitalize on its popularity. Given the show has already been renewed for a second season – before it even went to air – they will most likely succeed.

It seems that no high-performance sport can flourish in the modern era without its own behind-the-scenes show on one or other of the rapidly-multiplying streaming platforms. Drive to Survive, the Netflix hit about Formula One, is perhaps the best example – now into its fourth season, the show has expanded the ranks of motorsport fans, including in the lucrative American market. Even before Drive to Survive, English football teams and US sporting franchises were experimenting with access-all-areas docu-series.

The success of these shows has sparked a content gold rush. In recent months, Drive to Survive equivalents have been announced for tennis, golf and the Tour de France. Surfing is already on the wave, with this new series developed by Drive to Survive producers James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin (the former is also known for his sporting classics Senna and Maradona).

Make or Break is captivating television. Professional surfing is a director’s dream – the WSL sends a small crew of male and female surfers around the world to compete at idyllic surfing locations. The editors have made liberal use of high-definition competition footage, as surfers charge heavy barrels and pull off gravity-defying aerial maneuvers against beautiful coastal backdrops. There is eye-candy galore.

But the show’s real triumph is its ability to engage surfing fans and non-fans alike with well-told stories. Make or Break gently explains and explores the complexity of professional surfing in a manner that makes it accessible for non-surfers, without alienating long-time WSL watchers. The show is unafraid to explore the gritty reality of life on tour, with heartfelt and revealing interviews.

“I’m tired to be on the road – I just want to be home,” admits an emotional Filipe Toledo. Another episode charts the challenges faced by the rookies, who live a precarious existence seeking to consolidate their WSL ranking and bank balance. “It’s only once you get results on the tour that you start earning the bucks,” says one. (Professional surfing is a top-heavy sport – the big stars sign million-dollar endorsement deals, while a few bad results can spell competitive and financial doom for others). Now-retired Australian surfing icon Mick Fanning, presented as some kind of wise owl of the surfing world, adds moments of levity throughout the series.

Drive to Survive has been criticised for glossing over Formula One’s shortcomings – its history of sportswashing, gender inequality and significant climate impact. Given Make or Break was produced in partnership with the WSL, it is surprising that the first season engages more fully with some of surfing’s own pitfalls. The first episode is particularly gripping, as the WSL confronts a longstanding inequality that has historically seen the women compete at Maui, while the men surfed at the more consequential and iconic Pipeline, on the Hawaiian leg of the tour.

“Surfing is sexist,” says a no-nonsense Wright. But a shark attack at Maui during last season’s event saw the women forced to finish the event at Pipeline, a famously-heavy wave. “It would be a moment in women’s surfing history … but at the same time, farrkkk it’s Pipe,” laughs Wright while weighing up the switch (she ultimately won the event). Pipeline now permanently hosts both the men’s and women’s competition, a positive development – albeit the sport’s lingering gender inequality remains evident in Make or Break, which focuses disproportionately on the men’s competition across the series.

Jack Robinson walks along the beach in one of Make or Break’s stunning surf locations.

Jack Robinson walks along the beach in one of Make or Break’s stunning surf locations. Photograph: Tony Heff/Apple TVAdvertisement

Make or Break may well elevate surfing to new heights. The sport’s inclusion in the Olympics last year was another step towards the mainstream; Wright’s brother, Owen, won bronze for Australia. By humanising the world’s best surfers (the frequent expletives suggest unfiltered footage), and accessibly explaining the sport’s vagaries, Make or Break will attract a wider audience to the WSL, just as Drive to Survive has done for Formula One. From the WSL’s perspective, the partnership will likely prove a shrewd commercial decision. In the new sporting era, content is king.

But it does leave a wider question unanswered – at what cost? What does commercial success and greater popular recognition, propelled by a new international TV series released by one of the world’s biggest technology companies, mean for the soul of surfing? Is the sport’s growing mass-appeal an unalloyed positive?

Midway through Make or Break, the WSL season heads to inland California, for an event at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, a wave pool. This artificial competition setting is depicted as a pure test of surfing ability. “There’s nowhere to hide,” says one observer of the format, in which surfers compete individually on identical waves, ranked against the whole field, rather than in heat-by-heat contests subject to the whims of the ocean. Left unremarked is the profound philosophical shift prompted by wave pool surfing for a sport and past-time founded on a deep, even spiritual connection to the sea.

It may be too much to expect a glossy streaming series to explore such existential questions. The evolution of the sport, from its hippy roots to wave-pool competition broadcast around the globe, continues unabated. Make or Break will only give this trend greater momentum. But, at the very least, it is compelling viewing.

Make or Break premieres on 29 April on Apple TV+

Israeli film crew in SL to shoot ‘Arugam Bay’

Visiting Israeli film crew at Bandaranaike International Airport with Frames TV & Film Productions and Sri Lanka Tourism officials

  • Feature film is expected to be screened in Israel and over 50 countries across Europe  
  • UCM, Sri Lanka Tourism and Frames TV & Film Productions to co-produce film
  • SLTPB says project is a great opportunity to promote destination SL and mitigate ‘current negative publicity’ towards country

Israeli film production house United Channel Movies (UCM) is currently in Sri Lanka to shoot its latest feature film ‘Arugam Bay’ in the eastern region of the island nation.  


The filming will start on May 3 and is expected to wrap up by May 22, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) said in a statement to the media yesterday.

The main filming will be taking place in Arugam Bay, Colombo as well as in Tel Aviv – Israel.  This film is expected to be screened in Israel and over 50 countries across Europe.


“I have been travelling to Sri Lanka for over 15 years and it is like a second home to me. The current situation facing Sri Lanka did not stop my return to the island and undertaking this film.  We are happy to be back in Sri Lanka and I’m confident this film ‘Arugam Bay’ will gain greater success,” said Film Director Marco Camal while sharing his thoughts on filming in Sri Lanka.


While creating a greater promotion for the destination of Sri Lanka as well as the Eastern province as an unforgettable beach destination, with many adventure and leisure activities, the SLTPB said the Arugam Bay project expects to generate foreign revenue for the country’s economy. 


The statement highlighted that the project is a great opportunity for Sri Lankan international film industry as well as for the inbound film tourism industry.  


The film is about a young Israeli group travelling to Sri Lanka for surfing and life experiences. The film will also highlight the warm hospitality of Sri Lankan and the genuine love and care offered to foreigners in general, the SLTPB said.


Sri Lanka-based international film production company Frames TV & Film Productions will be joining hands with UCM Productions, Israel Film Commission and Sri Lanka Tourism to produce the film.


Sri Lanka Tourism and the partnering organisations expressed confidence in the popularity generated via this film helping to mitigate the ‘current negative publicity’ towards Sri Lanka and inspire more international productions to select the island nation as the most preferred tropical film destination. 


The SLTPB said it supported the destination promotional film production as part of the ongoing International Film Tourism Promotions and expects to further promote the island as one of the leading film location destinations in South Asia.

After the elephant charge, exploring the parks around Arugam Bay

by Dianthi S. U. Wijeratne

(Continued from last week)

The following morning looked gloomy with an overcast sky. The sounds of the birds were the same as on any other day. The river looked quite full. Most probably it had rained upstream, since the water looked like chocolate milk. Fortunately we had taken drinking water, which was used for cooking purposes. We had to be satisfied with the river water to wash ourselves. After a quick breakfast, the damage caused by the elephant was inspected. It was small wonder that nothing had happened to either engine. The mechanic who was brought from the village confirmed this, much to our relief.

It rained almost the entire day. It was miserable being in the campsite. In addition to all we had gone through, I found a garuda, which is a giant-sized centipede about six inches in length, crawling on our tent. It had rained so hard that some of the tents were falling apart as the earth to which they were tethered with spikes was soft and the roof of the tents was heavy with collected water. One tent was so full of water that certain personal belongings were floating inside. Even though it was miserable being at the campsite we had no choice but to wait till the police report regarding the accident was taken for insurance purposes.

The following day we decided to pack up and return home one day earlier. The police officers had told my husband that our vehicle had been about the twenty-fifth that had been damaged by elephants. We were later informed that the elephant, which damaged our vehicle, was being referred to as “Mitsubishi”, after the make of our pick-up.

After that fateful day I decided never to go to Wasgamuwa again, and none of us has been there since. Having nightmares about elephants chasing me is nothing new since that day. I doubt my ever wanting to go there again. With the experience we had, I personally think it would be a good idea for park officials to hand over flares to trackers to be used in an emergency.

National Parks around Arugam Bay

Having checked the maps for a couple of days and after consulting others, a decision was made to go to Arugam Bay through Tanamalwila. Though it was a longer route, the drive was supposed to be easier than via Belihul Oya. Seventeen of us, including three children, set off in three vehicles just before 3.30 am on our long journey on July 20, 2002. Traveling to these war-torn areas, which were out of bounds for 20 years, was made possible as a result of the on-going peace process.

On reaching Udawalawe we stopped at the causeway to watch a herd of elephants in the National Park grazing in the morning sun. Later on, as it became warmer, the herd gradually retreated into the jungle. Having broken journey and flexing our muscles at Udawalawe, we proceeded to our destination, of course breaking journey several times in between. There were people in our party who had never been to Arugam Bay all their lives. I was told that I had been to the place at a very young age but have no memories of it.

Lahugala

Eight miles before Potuvil is Lahugala National Park. I have visited the place as a child with my parents and brother. At the time I remember having stayed in the bungalow overlooking Lahugala tank. There were two rooms in the bungalow, one of which my elder brother and I shared. I also remember my brother waking me up early morning to show me elephants, which usually feed on beru grass. I was so sleepy that I found it difficult to keep my eyes open, but somehow managed to keep awake.

We were too scared to walk to the other room to wake our parents. We, therefore, kept an eye on the elephants, for which the tank was famous, till the sun came out. Lo and behold, was I not angry with my brother for having woken me up early and having kept me awake for so long, only to find that we had been staring at some huge rocks!

On our recent trip in July 2002, we learned that this bungalow had been demolished during the height of the war, with a few walls remaining. The rocks that were visible many years ago, were all covered with large trees that were growing around them. An army camp had been set up by the main road nearby. On our visit there were no barricades on the access road, but I am sure a couple of years ago no vehicles would have been allowed to pass the camp without permission, and hardly anyone would have dared to go that way either.

We were lucky to see quite a large herd of elephants in the far corner of Lahugala tank. At Kitulana tank, the other reservoir close by, we again managed to spot a few elephants feeding on the same type of grass.

By lunchtime we reached Arugam Bay which has been internationally selected as one of the best places in the world for wind surfing. There were quite a number of tourists who were surfing and it was a welcome sight after all these years of hardship and war. The view of the beach was really enticing, and a sea bath in the bay is a must.

Magul Maha Vihare

After lunch at the hotel, where we were served the largest prawns I have ever seen, we again visited Lahugala National Park. Having watched a few elephants at Lahugala, we visited the nearby Magul Maha Vihare. A Buddhist monk explained to us that this was the place where King Kavantissa had married Vihara Maha Devi. Its very name, magul implies a marriage. Apparently the princess had been floated alone in a boat at sea by her father, the king, at Kelaniya in order to safeguard his capital from the wrath of the gods.

The princess survived the trip. King Kavantissa had been informed that a princess was drifting round Kirinda near Yala. On hearing this the king had gone to a village and asked the villagers ko Kumari?, which meant, “where is the princess?” That village was hence referred to as Komari and the name has survived to this day. The king then went to Sangamankanda, which was the village next to Komari, whence he could access the beach. There he was told that the princess had drifted away and was in ara gamey, meaning “that village”. Hence the name Arugam was coined. Sangamankanda is only 10 miles away from Arugam Bay.

The monk also showed us the unique moonstone found there, which had a mahout etched on every other elephant. According to him there is no other moonstone in the country which shows a mahout on elephant back.

Likewise, he said that another unique factor was the stone border seen around the magul maduwa where the king and princess were married. Generally, such borders depict figures with large protruding abdomens, known as bahirawayas, but this one had a lion alternating with a punkalasa, which is a pot with coconut flowers. This is considered a sign of prosperity. The entire magul maduwa is of stone.

There is another place that carries the same name and the same legend that King Kavantissa was married there. It is situated on the track that runs from Yala to the temple at Situlpahuwa. Like the temple near Lahugala, this monument too is in thick jungle, where once we saw a large elephant feeding a few yards from the monastery.

However, this Magul Maha Vihare has no significant archaeological remains. There is a rock cave with a drip ledge above, which signifies an ancient monastery, the refuge of monks who lived a spartan life led by meditation. The priest at the temple near Lahugala told us that his Magul Maha Vihare was the real one.

Kudimbigala hermitage

The next morning we set off through Panama to Kumana, which is about 23 miles away. There were vast paddy fields on either side of the road before and after crossing the bridge over Hada Oya. Then one enters the thick jungle. The route we took was a seasonal pilgrim path from Potuvil to Kataragama. The pilgrims cross Kumbukkan Oya at Kumana, and entering Block 2 of Ruhuna National Park, reach Kataragama during the season.

On the way, we visited the famous Kudimbigala hermitage. It was a fair climb to the top. On the way, in rock caves, there were a couple of small rooms known as kuti used by individual monks to meditate. There were ponds, dagabas, and a few other ruins to be seen. The monk who met us said that terrorists had blasted the library and destroyed all the books that were in it. The three dagabas on three different rocks had been broken into and treasures stolen by vandals within 100 days of the start of the peace process.

The same vandals had poured coconut oil, which had been kept there for pilgrims to light lamps with, on a limestone Buddha statue. This act of theirs had destroyed the appearance of the statue but not the faith. An unusual finding was the presence of a fresh water well on top of the mountain.

Hanging on a tree was a bell made of a hollow log. A strip of wood about two inches wide and three to four feet long, fashioned out of a hollow log, lay by the side of the path. While we were on top of the mountain with the priest, it was time for the monks’ lunch. One of the monks thumped a similar bell that was hung in a comer with a piece of wood in a slow motion and gradually increased the tempo, followed by a decreasing sound. This was an indication to the rest of the monks who were meditating that it was time for alms. That was also an indication for us to take our leave.

Kumana

We passed Okanda Murugan temple. There were hundreds of devotees seen at this temple. They were cooking their own food in very large pots and pans.

We came across the famous Bagura plains near Kumana. It was a vast extent of land which had been famous for deer, but we did not have the pleasure of seeing a single. The drought was so severe that very little water was seen anywhere. In the party that accompanied me, only my father had been to Kumana before, and therefore only he knew what was where. Kumana was famous for birds, but we saw only a few of them.

The road was in a pretty poor condition, and this made the journey very tiring. We finally came to the former Kumana campsite. We were surprised to see two buildings namely a kovil or Hindu temple built on the bank of Kumbukkan Oya and a sales outlet nearby, which had not been there some years ago.

We traveled a little further down Kumbukkan Oya and had our lunch. The water in the river was stationary as in a lake, for its mouth (moya kata) had been blocked with sand due to the drought. It was a serene sight, with the thick jungle on either side and the blue sky reflected off the still waters.

One could just imagine how the campers of days gone by would have enjoyed their stay here. Of course, the water that remained was too stagnant for a bath, though it was most inviting to wash off one’s tiredness. After lunch we turned back to return to Arugam Bay. On the way at dusk we saw around ten jackals in a pack running back and forth across the road, probably looking for food. I managed to spot five elephants during the entire trip. My father informed me later that he had been to Kumana on several occasions, but he had never seen an elephant. I was quite pleased with myself on hearing this.

We noticed farmers burning logs on the side of the road near the paddy fields. These fields cover a large area and extend as far as the eye could see. I understand that a group of owners get together and light similar fires right round the paddy field in order to prevent elephants from destroying the crop.

I did a more recent trip to Kumana in the latter part of December 2002. While returning at night, I noticed a tusker feeding in a paddy field, while the house in which the owners lived was quite close by.

This was just outside Arugam Bay. When questioned why she did not chase away the elephant, the woman in the house mentioned that in that case the tusker would pull down her hut. Fortunately for her, the elephant was disturbed by our vehicles, and he jumped over the barbed wire fence and left the field.

(To be continued)

source:
https://island.lk/after-the-elephant-charge-exploring-the-parks-around-arugam-bay/

Exploring Gal Oya National Park and Yala after expansion

FEATURES

Published 1 day ago 

on 2022/04/24

by Dianthi S.U. Wijeratne

The following morning we left for Gal Oya from Arugam Bay through Siyambalanduwa. While traveling we saw Govinda Hela, a mountain which the British called Westminster Abbey. Further away was another mountain, known as Vadinagala, which was seen even from the campsite in Gal Oya National Park.

After a drive through scenic country, we arrived at Inginiyagala in the Gal Oya valley. Here we stopped to have a look at Senanayake Samudra. The meaning of Samudra is “sea”. It most probably would have looked like a sea had it been full of water. Unfortunately the water level was well below average due to the drought that was prevailing at the time. Most of the rocks at the bottom of the tank too were exposed.

I have seen pictures of myself as a small child going with my parents and brother in a launch on Senanayake Samudra. I have my doubts that this facility is still available considering the security factor. This has been the first reservoir to be built after independence by D.S.Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of the country.

The vegetation within the park was quite green unlike that in Yala, Udawalawe and Kumana. One reason for this greenery may be the availability of water in Senanayake Samudra, which is in the centre of the park. The place was quite damp and cool.

In all probability there was only one motorable road within the park and there were no bungalows. After a drive of about two miles, we reached the campsite. While we were relaxing at the campsite I spotted two elephants with two babies in the far distance. After a short while we proceeded to Ampara. The heat was unbearable as it was 38 degrees C. On the way to Akkaraipattu we visited Deegavapiya Chaitya, which is said to have been built by King Saddhatissa 400 years after Lord Buddha’s demise.

In Sri Lanka there are supposed to be six medicinal troughs (beheth oruwa). A cavity in the shape of a human being is carved out of one piece of solid rock. In ancient times this cavity was filled with medicinal fluids, such as oils, milk and herbal mixtures, and the patient was immersed in it. One of the oldest medicinal troughs had been found in Deegavapiya.

My father was very keen on seeing it, but what we saw was something we never expected. It was lying as a heap of broken stone fragments in a corner of the temple. According to the chief monk, this trough was located about a quarter mile from the temple, and he had decided to relocate it in the museum at the temple premises. He had been in the process of getting ready to have it transported, when this historical piece of artwork had been blasted into several pieces with the use of explosives by some persons, whose identity was known to him.

We came back to Arugam Bay via Akkaraipattu, and on the way we passed through Sinharamuthuvaran, where a very attractive cadjan-roofed resthouse once stood, as well as Komari of Kavantissa fame. We returned to Colombo the next day.

Yala Block two

Block two of the Ruhuna National Park, which was seen across Kumbukkan Oya at Kumana, could be entered from Yala. I remember travelling this way in May 1992. When our Land Rover was being taken across Menik Ganga at Nana Thotupola, the vehicle stalled in the middle of the river due to its wheels getting stuck in the sand. Every effort was made to pull it out the vehicle with the help of the accompanying four-wheel drive pick-up,’ as well as that of about 25 men who were bathing in the river at the time, but to no avail.

Finally success was achieved with the help of the Land Rover’s winch, which was hooked on to the back of the stationary pick-up. Having thus entered Block two, we then proceeded a short distance till we came to Katupila Ara, which too had to be forded. I remember my brother-in-law wading across to check the path the vehicles should take.

Having safely crossed over, we came across a small water-hole where we saw a remarkable sight which was never before witnessed by any of us present. Though there were people in the party who were highly experienced in the ways of the jungle, this sight was unique to them too. There were over a hundred crocodiles of all sizes sun bathing all round the water-hole. They all crawled hurriedly into the water on the approach of the vehicle, and there was not even a ripple on the surface of the water to show that there were so many crocodiles in that small water-hole.

If a small animal, such as a deer, ventured there for a sip of water it would no doubt have been an easy prey. Having witnessed this scene, we realized that my brother-in-law had faced much danger from crocodiles in wading across Katupila Ara.

Further on, we came to Pottana where we saw a fresh water well built with masonry. It was an unusual sight in a jungle without human habitation. My father told us that it was a well that was built for the use of pilgrims on their way to Kataragama from Potuvil. This has been the path where a man-eating leopard had been lying in wait many years ago to attack sick and decrepit pilgrims.

In 2002 we repeated the trip. The water level in Menik Ganga was quite low and it was smooth sailing for the three pick-ups to cross over to the other side. On this occasion no one dared to test Katupila Ara before the vehicles crossed. The water was almost up to the bonnets and the windscreens did get washed in the process. We saw a huge bull elephant and a lot of buffalo grazing not too far from us. The road to Pottana was really bad. At a certain point I thought that each vehicle would topple on to its side.

Pottana Pitiya was a vast dry plain with thin vegetation. Beyond this was the lagoon and then the sea. We met a couple of visitors with a tracker cooking their lunch near the sea. They were kind enough to offer us some fried prawns as a snack. Unlike on the previous occasion we did not come across the small water-holes or the well of fresh water. Most probably we would have taken a parallel route.

On our return journey, we found that the water level in Katupila Ara was higher than in the morning. We crossed it with difficulty, the engine just escaping being flooded by the depth of water. On the other side of the Ara, we found a jeep which had been immobilized by water getting into the engine.

They had brought a mechanic from Tissamaharama to repair it. It was quite late in the evening and there was no sign of getting the engine started. Later we heard that the jeep had been towed the next morning for a major repair.

It was late in the evening when we reached Menik Ganga. We were so glad to see Block two after a lapse of 10 years.

In February 2004, while camping at Yala, we once again entered Block two. Proceeding northwards, we forded Katupila Ara, Pottana Ara and finally the broad Kumbukkan Oya, to reach Kumana. After visiting Kumana villu, we returned to Yala the same evening. It was a memorable journey, having passed through perhaps the most extensive plains I have seen.

Yala Blocks three, four and five

The North Intermediate Zone was absorbed into the Ruhuna National Park. This step was taken when the government in 1964 banned the issue of licenses to shoot animals, thereby making the presence of Intermediate Zones where shooting was allowed, meaningless. This annexure was divided into Blocks three, four and five. The Department of Wildlife Conservation built a bungalow in Dambakotte in Block four, which was reached by travelling along the Buttala – Kataragama highway.

We left Colombo on December 21, 1996 and reached Dambakotte bungalow, where we were to stay three nights. The bungalow, which was about a kilometre from the road, was surrounded by tall jungle trees, while underneath them was a carpet of beautiful grass which was of a special green. About a kilometre further into the jungle was a tank, which we visited several times during our stay, but failed to see any significant wildlife except several varieties of water birds.

This area was said to be rich in bear population though we did not see any. However, we heard the loud mating call of a bear quite close to the bungalow at about 11 o’clock in the night. The noise faded away into the distance in a few minutes.

Block 3

We traveled to Galge, which was about five km from Dambakotte. About 200 yards away from the quarters and offices of the Department of Wildlife Conservation was an extensive slab of rock where there was a large natural water-hole or kema, which probably never ran dry during the drought. The employees used to draw their regular supply of water from this water-hole. On our way to this water-hole, a large wild boar accompanied us, and we thought it was a pet of the men working there. Little did we realize the danger we were in till we were told that it had attacked a police inspector a few days earlier and he was still being treated in hospital at the time.

The water-hole had caved into the rock sideways to form a very large cavity, while the opening into the exterior remained comparatively small. By these means only a small area of water was exposed to the sun, thereby reducing the amount of water that would evaporate. This contrivance probably accounted for the failure of the drought to dry the water-hole.

The impressive Ireson tower stood on a rock some distance from the water-hole. We reached it by shuffling along the narrow stony ledge of the water-hole with difficulty. This tower was an outstanding memorial to J P Ireson, who died of diarrhoea in 1922 at Monaragala, where he was planting. He was president of the Wildlife Society at the time, and it built this memorial to him at Galge, which could only be reached on foot or horseback at the time.

Ireson was an inveterate hunter, who used to come down frequently from Monaragala to hunt around Galge, which therefore was selected as the site for the memorial. However, on questioning the average man there, the answer would invariably be that it was a monument to an Englishman killed by an elephant at that spot.

From Galge we went through thick jungle, along the only available jeep track in Block three. In view of the many obstacles that greeted us, this track had not been used for a long time. We reached a large rock known as Paskema (five water-holes). Its surface had several water-holes of different sizes, some with beautiful lotus flowers, but it probably received its name from the fact that there were five significant water-holes in it. On climbing the rock we could see the jungle far and wide, the trees being festooned with flowers, young leaves turning crimson and woody creepers hanging heavily on branches.

Malwarikema

Continuing the journey, we came to Malwariweva which was a tank that had been renovated a short time earlier. We walked along the bund and saw pits on it which were produced by elephants whose feet had sunken into the earth as they descended into the water.

Further on, we came to Malwarikema that had, as its name implied, a water-hole which appeared beautiful with blossoming lotus. This was apparently an old monastic site. An unusual finding on it was the presence of two cone-shaped pits, several yards apart from each other. Each measured about eight inches in diameter and six inches in depth, and they were exactly circular and the walls perfectly smooth. The tracker who accompanied us explained that they were pits in which treasures were hidden in the olden days, and that treasure hunters had raided them and removed the contents.

It was difficult to believe this story. The pits were not large enough to hide such treasures, and it was unlikely that rainwater would be prevented from seeping in. It is a moot point how treasure hunters would have located them once the contents had been sealed off by the owners centuries ago.

Block five

The Buttala – Kataragama highway does not exactly follow the old jeep track, as it deviated about a hundred yards at certain points. The jungle that lies between this highway and the Menik Ganga is Block five. We had a bath in the river at a place at which two tributaries joined to form the main river. This was the point at which the elephants from Handapangala crossed the river when they were driven into Block four by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The wisdom of this man oeuvre is open to question, for several elephants died subsequently.

Indikolaweva was a tank in Block five which had been recently renovated. On the bund was an elongated piece of dung, which the tracker identified as that of a crocodile. He mentioned that it was rather poisonous to the skin, for blisters may form when trod on. On the other side of the long bund, we saw an elephant, while a tall tree nearby was crowded with hornbills. We did not see any other animals of significance, and this was true of all these Blocks. One reason for this scarcity of animals was probably the presence of tall jungle trees in the areas we visited.

(concluded)

(Excerpted from Jungle Journeys in Sri Lanka edited by CG Uragoda)

Top surfing spots … best waves …

JOSEPH RICHARD FRANCISLonely Planet Writer

Sri Lanka is one of the up-and-coming surf gems of South Asia. Everything from crumbly beginner breaks to rippable points is on the menu, and there are tangy eggplant curries and mist-shrouded tea fields to get stuck into when you’re finished.

With one coast facing the open Indian Ocean and the other peering into the Bay of Bengal, Sri Lanka has a seriously enviable location for hitting the waves. Both sides of the island work at different times of the year – the southwest in the winter, the east in the summer. On top of that, the vibe is mega chilled, with reggae-surf bars dotting the shorelines and boho surf camps welcoming all levels.

Wondering where to surf in Sri Lanka? Look no further than this guide, which scours both halves of the Teardrop for the eight top spots.

(Extract. AbaY relevant ) :

Arugam Bay: the place to surf from May to October

Arugam Bay is the surf town of choice during the south-western monsoon. That brings rough ocean currents and loads of rain to pretty much all the other places on this list between May and October. All the while, the east coast of the island where A-Bay – as it’s come to be known – makes its home gets blessed by regular groundswells and sun-filled days.

There’s a whole string of breaks on the menu here. Closest to the town, the right-hander of Main Point is a cruisy ride of up to 150m (492ft) on the best days. To the south, there’s Peanut Farm, the beginner’s choice, followed by the punchy points of Okanda for the pros.

Arugam Bay has developed into a pretty hefty resort town in the last couple of decades. The road behind the beach is now riddled with curry houses and beer bars, which can become pretty lively in the peak of the summer. SAFA Surf Camp is probably the best-known tuition provider, with packages for all levels.

Getting to Arugam Bay: A taxi from the airport to Arugam Bay takes about 5 hours and costs about 18,000-25,000?
Air con Bus Colombo to AbaY:
Rs./ 2,000

source:
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/best-surfing-in-sri-lanka



surfing is suitable for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is gifted with some of the best beaches in Asia as well as in the world that is wholesome in every aspect to name as great. It is also the reason that Sri Lanka has become one of the major travelling destinations for foreigners who are seeking to get some sunshine basking on a beautiful beach.

As a result more and more visitors are flowing to these Sri Lankan shores every year and many of them are surfers. The attraction and arrival of these foreign surfing communities are one of the main reasons behind owning a growing surf culture in Sri Lanka. The major reason for the success of the industry is the specific beaches that Sri Lanka has which are extremely suitable and popular as surfing destinations across the globe like Arugam Bay, Weligama, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa. Having more beautiful geological, archaeological and natural surroundings across the country also has been an extra benefit for Sri Lanka when we talk about tourist attractions to the island nation.

The next reason behind the success is the excitement created around the topic of surfing recently and which has been influential to create a buzz among the foreign crowd and locals. The establishment of the Surf Federation and the launch of the National surfing contest and some government involvements also have been the major reasons behind this success.

Although the private sector has not paid much attention to surfing, Red Bull fired the first shot through their Red Bull Ride My Wave. The Red Bull energy drink company has come as light in a tunnel that barely gets light and the Red Bull company is making a tremendous effort to increase the level of quality and make surfing in Sri Lanka more enjoyable and competitive. For the last six seasons Red Bull has proved that the event is successful and its importance for the sport to move forward and that is one of the major reasons that upheld the success in the sport in the country.

Sri Lanka is blessed with pristine beaches and perfect conditions in the ocean to create waves. Sri Lanka is more popular for its small wave surfing and this is great to attract every level of surfers from starter in the sport to the pros. The Southwest of Sri Lanka offers mellow beach breaks that create the vibe suitable for beginners like Weligama and Dewata. These small waves are pretty easy to manage and safe to ride for beginners and one of the best places to start as a surfer. This reason has been helpful to establish more surfing schools around the coastal line. Moreover surfers can surf Sri Lanka throughout the year depending on the time period of the year. The southwest season runs from November through to April while the northeast season runs from April to October.

The southwest of Sri Lanka also offers punchy A-Frame reef breaks such as the Hikkaduwa main reef, Kabalana The Rock and Madiha left. Surfing on the East coast, especially in Arugam Bay it is all about leg-burning long right-hand point breaks, every surfer’s dream. More experienced and fun-seeking people are flocking towards Arugam Bay every year and recently it was recognized as an international level surfing point where a lot of international fame has been floated towards.

The peak of Arugam Bay fame was acquired when the first international competition was organized in Arugam Bay in 2018. Annually the Sri Lankan national championship is also held in Arugam Bay and all these reasons are buckled up to bring fame and attraction from the international surfing community to Sri Lanka.
Source:
http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2022/04/04/sports/why-surfing-suitable-sri-lanka-and-its-success

Sri Lanka set to come of age in surfing

Arugam Bay is getting ready.
For an awesome Surf Season!


Sri Lanka, known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is very much known for its versatile culture, customs and great range of spicy food as well for its shiny golden beaches. In the summer as well as in the winter Sri Lankan beaches are always filled with a humongous number of foreign visitors who come to encounter the hospitality of these astonishing shores.

Yet Sri Lanka was missing something in that its shores had to be picture perfect or simply missing surfing in a professional manner. But now eventually the sport has found its dimension in the country and all the materials are there to write down the success story of Sri Lankan surfing in the near future. First of all let’s have a flashback about the history of the sport in Sri Lanka.

Surfing was introduced to Sri Lanka around the 1960s where American surfer Rusty Miller and three of his friends made their mark on the shores of Ceylon for the first time when they went on a trip to surf on the west coast of the island.

Hikkaduwa hosted the first Sri Lankan surfing tournament in 1993. Channa Navaratne planned the event with the help of a group of Americans to exhibit local talent. Mambo, a local surfing legend from Hikkaduwa won the competition himself. But the sport found its feet properly only after the conclusion of the civil war in 2008. The absence of foreigners due to safety issues were a drawback while LTTE terror engulfed the beaches like Arugam Bay and Pasikudah created additional drawbacks and surfing was hidden behind the dark clouds in the 30 year long war.

But after Sri Lanka found the peace that it was looking for many years, surfing became an instant hit across the shores of this little island nation tailor-made for surfing and the air was clear for any person to access the sport freely. Arugam Bay, Hikkaduwa, and Weligama became the hot spots for the Sri Lankan surfing game right after the war was declared as officially over. Arugam Bay hosted the first major World Surf League qualification event. This made a major turnaround in surfing in Sri Lanka where more buzz was created in local communities as well as foreign communities about surfing in the island.

A much-needed accomplishment was achieved by the surfing community in Sri Lanka when the Sri Lankan Surf Federation was established in 2017 to encourage people to participate in this sport and the biggest achievement in the Sri Lankan surfing game was the National Surf Championship when its inaugural season was staged in 2018 and the winner going on to compete in the World Surf Games in Japan.

One of the proudest and foremost triumphs in the short history of Sri Lankan Surfing came in 2018 when the first Sri Lankan national team toured India where they finished second and third in the Cove-Long Point Surfing Championships in Chennai.


Three years later 2011 marked a proud moment when a first-ever Pro Surf League competition as part of the World Surf League took place that year at Arugam Bay. This marked the start of an era where the country was on the international stage for the first time and the locals were exposed to the possibilities of surfing as an international sport for the first time where in 2019 the second edition of the competition took place in what became the largest surfing event ever to be conducted in Sri Lanka called the So Sri Lankan Pro Surf Competition held as part of the World Surfing League Qualifying Series 3000 at Arugam Bay with a large number of international participants.

It’s a journey with a lot of ups and downs, but there is a long way to go. The surfing story of Sri Lanka is very promising with all the talent, attention and the awesome locations the country has that is tailor made for surfing.

The recent government involvement means there will be more backbone strength for the sport in the country and the sponsors are now sailing towards the national arena of Sri Lankan surfing. With all these positives it can be agreed that Sri Lanka is heading in the right direction to become a stronghold in the game of surfing.

source:
http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2022/03/13/sports/sri-lanka-set-come-age-surfing

AbaY Ladies Surf Club


‘When I surf I feel so strong’: Sri Lankan women’s quiet surfing revolution

Women and girls have challenged conservative attitudes in the hallowed surf spot of Arugam Bay

Shamali Sanjaya (centre) with members of the Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club. Photograph: Max

Growing up in a small fishing village along the east coast of Sri Lanka, Shamali Sanjaya would often sit on the beach and look out at the boisterous waves. She would watch in envy as others, including her father and brother, grabbed surfboards, paddled out into the sea and then rode those waves smoothly back to shore. “I longed for it in my heart,” she said.

But as a local woman, surfing was strictly out of bounds for her. In Sri Lanka’s conservative society, the place for women was at the home and it was only the men, or female tourists, who were allowed to ride the hallowed waves in Arugam Bay, considered Sri Lanka’s best surf spot.

Yet now, as a 34-year-old mother of two and with another baby on the way, Sanjaya is at the forefront of a quiet female surfing revolution that has swept not just her village but the whole country. In 2018, she helped set up Sri Lanka’s first all-female surf club in Arugam Bay and in 2020 competed in Sri Lanka’s first women-only category in a national surfing competition. At four months pregnant, she’s still hitting the waves several times a week, and plans to compete again after her baby is born.

Shamali Sanjaya helped set up Sri Lanka’s first all-female surf club in Arugam Bay in 2018. Photograph: Max Gifted

It began in 2011 with a knock from a neighbour. Tiffany Carothers, a surfing enthusiast and mother of two who had just moved in next door from her native California, asked Sanjaya if she wanted to come surfing. It didn’t matter that she’d only tried it once before, Carothers assured her, they’d lend her a board and give her some lessons.

Once she had a taste for the waves, Sanjaya could not be stopped. She proved to be a natural, taking after her father, who had once taught surfing, and her brother, who is a national surf champion.

“When I surf, it is such a happy feeling for me,” she said. “I am filled with this energy, I feel so strong. Life is full of all these headaches and problems, but as soon as I get into the water, I forget about it all.”

Yet she faced fierce disapproval, particularly from her brother. Their parents had died when she was seven and he was protective of his sisters, believing that their place was inside the home.

“My brother told me that it is not our culture for women to be surfing, that I should stay inside and do the cooking and cleaning,” said Sanjaya. Known for being headstrong, she decided to ignore him and would instead co-ordinate secret surf rendezvous, rushing to the beach at lunchtimes when her brother was eating or going out at the crack of dawn.

More local girls started to join the surfers after an event teaching them how to surf in 2015. Photograph: Max Gifted

In 2015, after interest from other women in the village, Carothers decided to set up an event to teach more local girls in Arugam Bay how to surf. She and Sanjaya went house to house, talking to women and their families to persuade them to come along.

Initially many parents were reluctant, fearful about safety and that surfing meant partying, drugs and alcohol, or that, in a society that still subscribes to outdated views of light skin equating to beauty, being out in the sun would darken their daughters’ skin. “We told them we never do anything that disrespects our culture,” said Sanjaya. “We don’t wear bikinis, we don’t drink, it is just about getting into the waves.”

The first event proved so popular that they decided to make it a weekly gathering. But as gossip and local disapproval began to swirl, Carothers was pulled in by the Sri Lanka tourist board. “They accused me of trying to change the culture, that girls in Sri Lanka don’t surf and if I wanted to help their families I should give them sewing machines,” she said. “They threatened to kick my family out of the country if they saw me teaching surf lessons to girls.”

The Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club has about a dozen core members, aged from 13 to 43. Photograph: Max Gifted

The police also began questioning the members, asking whether Carothers was giving them alcohol and drugs, and over half the girls stopped attending. But rather than stopping altogether, the remaining women took their club underground and would meet secretly on the beach and go on clandestine surf trips to other parts of the island.

Finally in 2017, after the Surfing Federation of Sri Lanka was set up, there was a pathway for their own official surf club and in August 2018 Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club was born.Advertisement

They now have about a dozen core members, ranging from ages 13 to 43. Though they have broken through many of the local taboos, many of the women still face a backlash from their families and communities. Nandini Kaneshlingam, a 43-year-old mother of four whose husband killed himself in 2011, said she suffered so much stigma over being a mother and widow in her 40s on a surfboard that she almost quit the club several times.

Nandini Kaneshlingam says after her husband died ‘surfing made me feel happy again’. Photograph: Max Gifted

But having persisted at the insistence of the other women, Kaneshlingam said that surfing had given her a new lease of life. “It was my children who came and pushed me on to waves,” she said. “After my husband died I was very sad and things were very difficult, but with surfing, it made me feel happy again.”

Ammu Anadarasa, 14, one of the club’s youngest members, said she had been mercilessly teased at school. “My friends at school used to fight with me about it, they’d say ‘Why are you doing surfing?’ and call me a boy,” she said. But when she showed her friends photos in a local newspaper of her surfing, they were impressed. “Now they know I am a good surfer,” she said. “I just wish more girls would do surfing.”

A cleanup operation on a beach covered in nurdles in May

But having persisted at the insistence of the other women, Kaneshlingam said that surfing had given her a new lease of life. “It was my children who came and pushed me on to waves,” she said. “After my husband died I was very sad and things were very difficult, but with surfing, it made me feel happy again.”

Ammu Anadarasa, 14, one of the club’s youngest members, said she had been mercilessly teased at school. “My friends at school used to fight with me about it, they’d say ‘Why are you doing surfing?’ and call me a boy,” she said. But when she showed her friends photos in a local newspaper of her surfing, they were impressed. “Now they know I am a good surfer,” she said. “I just wish more girls would do surfing.”

Most of the women said they had learned to brush off the criticism, and had seen their husbands, family members and communities won over. Mona Nadya Pulanthiram, 35, a mother of two, had been terrified of the sea after her mother died in the 2004 tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka. But after giving birth to her second child, friends persuaded her to give surfing a try, and she was amazed to feel her fear gradually disappear. Now she’s regularly out chasing the big waves, sometimes with her daughter in tow.

“People are always questioning my husband, asking why I don’t just stay at home and be a quiet, nice mum,” she said. “To those people I say: I am already a mum, surfing does not change that. When I am in the ocean, I don’t think about anything except catching the perfect wave.”

For Sanjaya, her greatest triumph was winning her brother’s approval. At Main Point, where waves are often two metres high, the pair can often be spotted out surfing together.

ost of the women said they had learned to brush off the criticism, and had seen their husbands, family members and communities won over. Mona Nadya Pulanthiram, 35, a mother of two, had been terrified of the sea after her mother died in the 2004 tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka. But after giving birth to her second child, friends persuaded her to give surfing a try, and she was amazed to feel her fear gradually disappear. Now she’s regularly out chasing the big waves, sometimes with her daughter in tow.

“People are always questioning my husband, asking why I don’t just stay at home and be a quiet, nice mum,” she said. “To those people I say: I am already a mum, surfing does not change that. When I am in the ocean, I don’t think about anything except catching the perfect wave.”

For Sanjaya, her greatest triumph was winning her brother’s approval. At Main Point, where waves are often two metres high, the pair can often be spotted out surfing together.

Source:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/05/when-i-surf-i-feel-so-strong-sri-lankan-womens-quiet-surfing-revolution

Food and lodging to stranded Ukrainians

By Easwaran Rutnam  

There is an outpouring of support for Ukrainians stranded in Sri Lanka, with free accommodation and food being offered by several Sri Lankans and others. 

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told Daily Mirror that the Cabinet will decide today if to offer free visa extensions for the stranded Ukrainians or if they will need to pay a fee.

Ukrainians stranded in Sri Lanka as a result of the invasion of their country by Russian troops, have appealed for lodging until the fighting ends and flights to Ukraine resume.
…….

The Danish Villa in Arugam Bay has also posted a message offering free accommodation to all stranded Ukrainians in Sri Lanka.

Several individuals around the country have also posted messages on Facebook offering food and lodging to Ukrainians stranded in Sri Lanka.

When contacted by Daily Mirror, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said that the Government has so far not decided on offering accommodation to the stranded Ukrainians.

source:
https://colombogazette.com/2022/02/28/sri-lankans-offer-food-and-lodging-to-stranded-ukrainians/

Power to .. the People

Spare Tourism Zones from power cuts – Progressive Hon. Minister


Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has appealed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to spare Tourism Zones across the county from the daily countrywide power outages.

The Minister said that power cuts may risk the revival of tourism in Sri Lanka during this peak winter season, just as tourists have begun to return since the pandemic. The Minister has appealed to the President to consider many requests made by stakeholders in the industry to spare all Tourism Zones from the scheduled power cuts.

He said that Solar Power, Wind and Hydro Power Generation Projects Development State Minister Duminda Dissanayake who attended the last Cabinet meeting in the absence of the Power and Energy Minister Gamini Lokuge had agreed to discuss this matter with the Ceylon Electrify Board and to take further actions.

There are sixteen tourism zones including Nilaveli, Madhu river,
Arugam Bay,
Trincomalee, Kalkudah, Pinnawala, Dedduwa, Bentota, Kuchchaveli, Kalpitiya, Unawatuna, Negombo, Beruwala, Mount Lavinia, Yala and Ella in Sri Lanka at present and possibilities are seeking at least to spare theses zone from the daily power cuts,” the Minister added.

Lahugala and bold leopards

Lahugala is just 25km due West of AbaY

BY H A I Katugaha

One morning in the 1950’s we had gone across into Yala Block 2 and our destination was Walaskema in search of the famous crossed tusker, so named because of the crossing of the tusks in front. We had Block 2 all to ourselves. Parking the jeep, we began our walk to Walaskema. There were four of us in the party, namely Uncle Sam, Upali, our tracker and myself.

We saw a leopard sitting under a tree. He got up and started walking towards us. This was most unusual. We shouted at him but he took no notice at all. He growled at us and kept getting closer. Shouting at him we walked backwards and even threw stones at him. One thrown by the tracker hit him on his head, but he kept on coming.

Having reached the jeep, Upali raced the engine and sped towards him. The leopard then ran off into the jungle. Leopards usually run off at the sight of man, and the difficulty is to get close to one. Uncle Sam was of the opinion that this one may well have been used to humans since the Kataragama pilgrims passed this way every year. Maybe he even had a taste of human flesh by eating the corpse of a pilgrim that had died during the walk across Kumbukkan Oya to Menik Ganga. It was a large male animal in the prime of his life.

We reached Walaskema, which was a water-hole, and though we waited till evening the famous tusker did not come to drink water. On our way back we did see a herd of elephants across the Pilinnawa plains.

Years later while camping out at Kosgasmankada in Yala Block 1, one night I noticed some movement under one of the lanterns that we had hung around the camp to keep animals away. Using my torch I discovered that it was a leopard that sat right under the lantern and watched our camp. Soon several torches were focused on it and we had a good look at this fine male leopard. One member of our party then turned the vehicle and put on the headlights. There he was in all his glory watching us with apparent delight.

Next morning we reported this unusual behavior to the park office and were told that this was a bold leopard that had even attacked a labourer attached to the department while walking along at the campsite. The rule is that a leopard will run off at the sight of man unless man has wounded him. It is always best to remember that there are exceptions to every rule.

Land of the gentle giants

At dawn, in the early 1960’s, I lay stretched out on a mat in the verandah of the old Irrigation Department bungalow at Lahugala. A regular swish-swish close by informed me that an elephant, perhaps two, were feeding on the luscious beru grass close to the sluice. It was still very dark. The first vocalists for the morning were a pair of magpies. Their whistling calls were welcome indeed. Next a shama gave vent to his repertoire of vocal renderings. Then the pair of brown fish owls that was always to be found near the sluice finished their serenade with a short burst of hoo hoo.

As darkness gave way to light that misty morning, I watched the dark shape of an elephant slowly moving up to the rock in front of the bungalow. He stood still, probably enjoying the cool breeze that was blowing across the tank. After about 15 minutes he came down and walked towards the well.

Sammy, the Department’s watcher at the bungalow, kindly brought me a hot cup of tea and whispered, “Sir, be careful when you go for a wash, there is an elephant by the well.” I thanked him for his concern.

By the time my friends and I finished our tea, the elephant left the well and moved off into the jungle to our right. We could now see that there were two elephants feeding by the sluice. About 7 am they slowly walked up the bend of the tank and faded away to the left of us.

Across the tank, felled logs of the majestic trees that they once were, stood out in the early morning sun. It happened to be the depot of the State Timber Corporation and quite an eyesore in such a wonderful setting. Birds that were resting by the tank, such as painted storks, pelicans, teal, open-billed storks and a few white-necked storks, took off to look for breakfast. Four adjutant storks began their stately walk in search of food.

It was a typical morning at Lahugala. As we walked up to the rock a solitary pied kingfisher hovered momentarily, dived and came up with a fish. He flew to his perch, flicked the fish up and expertly swallowed it head first. The purple herons and the coots were active in the grass, while the beautiful jacanas were flitting over the lotus leaves looking for food.

Lahugala was then only a forest reserve and not a national park. The tank was managed by the Irrigation Department and Sammy was its watcher that looked after the sluice. Later Lahugala became an elephant reserve. Elephants were the chief attraction and they were to be seen throughout the year, but during the dry season from July to September, they congregated in large numbers. During this period, the herds gathered here for water and for the beru grass that they loved so much. There was always a resident population of elephants numbering about twenty. It was not till the 1970’s that it finally became a national park. Though it was only five square miles in extent it was a haven for elephants.

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Best Surf : AbaY!

EXOTIC TROPICAL PARADISE


This is what makes Sri Lanka a perfect exotic tropical paradise

Sri Lanka, with its gorgeous palm-fringed beaches, verdant jungles, towering mountains, ancient temples and several UNESCO World Heritage sites, makes for a perfect tropical paradise. Shaped like a teardrop, this pretty island nation enjoys 8 hours of sunshine almost every day! Those looking for their next beach destination for holidays, Sri Lanka is the best place to be for them!

Let’s checkout the reasons that make Sri Lanka a perfect tropical paradise


Arugam Bay, a surfer’s heaven


This is the best spot for surfing in Sri Lanka. Surfers from across the globe visit Arugam Bay to enjoy and practice surfing. This beautiful and secluded beach is home to some lovely guesthouses, where people can stay and relax. The lush green countryside is packed with national parks and mangroves.

The above is an East Coast related extract from this original article:
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/travel/destinations/where-to-go-for-a-great-trip-this-march/photostory/89590776.cms

20 Year Anniversary

arugam.info
Launched and first published in 2002.
This page has been online ever since.
Happy Anniversary, arugam.info!

100% Privately funded – without any donations or support.
This page is the very first Tourist Information web site Sri Lanka ever had.
However:
During the past few days we encountered an unforeseen issue and our sites went off line.
Hosting, web space etc. has to be paid abroad – and our few Sri Lankan Rupees are no longer valuable to be changed into Euro it seems.
Therefore we are a bit stuck and ask for the advice or assistance herewith.
Also, the creator of this page is 72+ now.
And we are looking for a new, more dynamic and modern
Web Master /Web Mistress or administrator.
Please respond by email to:
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or
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Kumana Park – Today –

Kumana National Park.
Is also Known as 
Yala East.
It’s just South of AbaY and  totally unspoiled.
Still a true Paradise.

Today dear Mr. HANSA spotted Leopards and took a lot of photos.
Here are just three of them.

Mid November 2022

Through the wilds of Kumana

A visit to the East is not complete without a trip to Kumana. Enter the solitude of the wilderness where the untamed reign, remember that you are only a guest on a brief visit.

Before we left Okanda, we visited the famed Ukanthamalai Murugan Kovil also called Okanda Devalaya, dedicated to God Murugan and Valli Amma, and lying on a massive rock boulder just outside the main entrance of the Kumana National Park, which we featured in the Sunday Observer last week.

Nestled in the South-East coast of the Eastern Province, 12km from Arugam Bay and spanning an area of 18,149 hectares, the Kumana National Park is well known as an important bird nesting and breeding ground in the country.

Our regular trip to Kumana occurs every year not really during the ‘season’. This time, however, the visit was not only to see the animals, but also to venture along untrodden tracks to discover hidden wonders of the ancient civilisation dotted here and there in the jungle. However, last year, we couldn’t visit the park due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Galamuna campsite

In the previous trips, we visited several ancient places, but left out a few sites which were inaccessible due to damaged tracks in the park. This time, we intended to see many of the sites that were left out previously. Every time we went into the jungles, we stayed in the park bungalows. But this time, we decided to put up at a campsite as it was more adventurous and chose the Galamuna campsite to spend the night. During our two-day visit, we planned to see a few archaeological sites and spend a few hours in Kumbukkan Oya.

As usual, we entered the Kumana National Park with our guide. We passed the Yoda Lipa and drove further into the jungle. From the well-trodden road, we turned into a side path. The recent rains had washed away the roads, leaving large dips and dives. The jeep skid and slid as we entered the muddy plain.

We did not spot many animals except a couple of hawk eagles on the dried up trees, may be because it was late morning. We had travelled for nearly one hour when our jeep stopped and our guide got down. We had apparently arrival at Kiripokunahela, the first site on our itinerary.

We kept our food parcels under the seats of the jeep and closed the doors, as we had been warned that food left outside would be a happy feast for the monkeys.

There was a footpath leading to a rocky outcrop across the muddy plain, with a massive rock boulder looming over us.

We climbed over the boulder and stepped into the cave. The floor was smooth, perhaps due to sloth bears or leopards seeking refuge in the caves.

The face of the rock massif had grooves etched round it to prevent rain water from flowing into the cave. Under the rock massif, a line of Brahmi inscription carved out of the rock was visible on the rock surface.

Drip-ledged cave

After an hour’s drive across the plains, lagoons and mangrove swamps, we arrived at Bambaragastalawa, a massive rocky boulder with drip-ledged cave.

There was a footpath leading up to the small hillock. Overgrown with green shrubs and with rocks as footholds, we climbed up and passing a thick brick wall, entered a large open cave where we found a resplendent reclining Buddha statue.

From Bambaragastalawa, we set off to our campsite, Galamuna along the Kumbukkan Oya. As we drove along the banks of the Kumbukkan Oya, we came across massive mud holes on the road and survived due to our 4×4 drive. We camped one night on the banks of the Kumbukkan Oya, sleeping under the stars after a hearty meal cooked by our friends.

At Galamuna, one can see a set of huge stones laid across the Kumbukkan Oya. It is said, in ancient times, the villagers of Kumana diverted the waters of the Kumbukkan Oya to irrigate their paddy fields.

The stone dam across the Oya is still visible in Galamuna where the Wildlife Department has set up a campsite for visitors to the park.

On the way to Galamuna, we observed the Kumana village through the Kumana Villu which was dried up due to drought. Nothing much remained of the village except for coconut trees.

The second day we dedicated to see the animals. We first visited the most revered Kuda Kebilitta Devala, lying on the banks of the Kumbukkan Oya.

A small shrine had been built for God Kataragama. The shrine lay without the Kapurala (custodian). We worshipped for blessings and a safe journey. Most visitors to Kumana spend a little time here to get divine blessings from God Kataragama while they tour Kumana.

Wildlife and migratory birds

Kumana is also well known for its wildlife and migratory birds. As we returned to the road it seemed as if the jungle had finally awoken on our second day.

Herds of wild buffaloes dipped in the lagoons, deer seemed to be everywhere, and lonely elephant sprayed water in the water holes. Suddenly, we spotted a crocodile basking in the sun, which retreated quickly into the water on our approach.

We were fortunate to see a rare Black Necked Stork and Painted Storks, Whistling Ducks, Egrets, Godwits, Pelicans, Ibis and many more in their great numbers, creating a picturesque setting.

The Green Bee Eaters were flying everywhere, while Malabar pie hornbills sang rhythmically as they moved from branch to branch on dead branches of the tree tops.

Our attention was suddenly drawn to a massive tusker, which one of our members had spotted and shouted to us to halt. Although we have visited National Parks several times before, it is the first time that we spotted such a big tasker. Though Kumana bears and leopards evaded us, we were happy that we had been able to see many animals during our journey.

As dusk began to fall, we reached the gates, barely making it before the closing time of six along with some fellow nature lovers to bid adieu for yet another exciting adventure.

Source:
Sunday Observer 2