A wild afternoon at Kumana

A wild afternoon at Kumana

This leoparda??s expression reminded me of that famous line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: a??Jesus, who are those guys?a?? (Our drivers scared the daylights out of this young male as he was sunning himself on aA?rock).

a??Have you guys ever done this before?a??

Thata??s the first thing I should have asked our drivers before we headed into Kumana National Park, A?about twenty miles south ofA?Arugam Bay on the east coast of SriA?Lanka.

I know how Robert Capa must have felt after seeing prints of the pictures he took on Omaha Beach on D-Day (June 6, 1944) in Normandy. We had happened upon a small herd of elephants when our drivers lost it and started excitedly yelling a??Aliya, aliya, aliyaa?? (the Sinhala word for elephant). The animals bolted, trumpeting indignantly (they were protecting at least two baby elephants). I just had enough time to capture a few blurred images before they disappeared into the jungle.

And yes, we had two drivers: the first guy was the one who drove us fromA?Arugam Bay to Panama in his three-wheeler scooter taxi, and the second guy was the one who drove us from Panama to Okande and Kumana in his jeep.A?They both sat upfront in the cab (Tyrone and I and the guide from the wildlife department were in back) and between them they managed to startle a leopard and spook a small herd of elephants.

The young bucka??s antlers are still in velvet. Kumanaa??s huge deer population keeps the parka??s leopards fat andA?happy.

Not that Ia??m complaining, mind you, because Tyrone and I had the greatest time (you really cana??t have a bad day in Kumana). Besides, the drivers are both good guys, and Ia??ll hire them again without hesitation the next timeA?Ia??m in Arugam Bay. So what if they were just learning the ropes of the safari business? At least they werena??t learning toA?drive.

Sir Samuel Baker hunted sambhur (Cervus unicolor) with hounds in Ceylon in the 1840s. Sambhur, often mistakenly called elk by 19th Century British sportsmen, are not as numerous as the spotted deer in Kumana.

Hey, ita??s Arugam Bay. If you want to be happy here, just let it happen.

Copyright A? David Graham
The person who probably knows this best is Manfred (Fred) Netzband-Miller, guiding spirit of theA?Arugam Surf Facebook page, who has tapped into this laidback vibe since he arrived here inA?1977.

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The marsh crocodiles, also known as mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) were bigger and more numerous at Kumana than they were at Yala National Park.

Our drivers outdid themselves when we spotted a leopard sunning itself on a rock. They wrenched open the doors of the jeep and burst out of the vehicle, excitedly yelling a??Diviya, diviyaa?? (leopard, leopard). The startled young male sprang to its feet and split, pausing once to look back with a wtf expression.

Sri Lanka has 492 species of birds. Seen here are a painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala) and black-headed Ibis, also known as the Oriental White Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus).

Richard Joseph, travel editor atA?Esquire magazine in the early 1970s, once wrote a feature article about the 400 species of birds at the Kumana Bird Sanctuary.

Birders can correct me if Ia??m wrong, but I believe this is a little green bee eater. We also saw a tree full of flycatchers.

AA?more recent account mentions 492 bird species in SriA?Lanka.

Hunted for sport in colonial times, the buffalo is now protected like the rest of Sri Lankaa??s fauna.

We also saw lots of wild buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). Tourists often mention how amazing it is to encounter so much wildlife just twenty miles from the surf spots at Arugam Bay.

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The aboveA?excursionA?took place in mid- February, 2012.
In the so-called Off-Season
by David and Tyrone Graham


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