After our little adventure in the Knuckles forest, we headed back on the tourist trail. Destination: Ella. We first had an overnight stop in Nuwara Eliya. Although quaint, the town, which is named “little England” because of its misty weather and English style-cottages, is not worth spending more than a half day.
Ella, on the other hand, is definitely a gem of the hill country. It is also, one of the busiest, most touristy towns we had encountered yet. Leo was a bit ill on the day and we had a busy schedule for our last two days in the country, so we only stopped for a couple of hours in Ella. We went to see the Nine Arches Bridge, which can be reached on the way to Little Adam’s Peak – I recommend going there to see the train going through the tracks.
We then walked along the rail tracks back to Ella, and went for a quick drink at 98 Acres, an incredible hotel overlooking Ella’s Rock and little Adam’s peak. We would have definitely went up there if we had the time – but the clock was ticking, and we still had a leopard to spot!
We were keen on doing one last safari – but wanted to avoid the crowds at Yala National Park, which we heard, were unbearable: better to go to a zoo than Yala ! And so, again, on the recommendation of Sereno, we headed to Lunugamvehera, a small, less visited national park within Yala. The game drive started even before we got inside the park: we encountered a few wild elephants crossing the road, with one almost charging on the car for food.
The game drive in Lunugamvehera was breathtaking – we barely saw another car. The sceneries, abandoned temple, and sense of solitude made up for the fact that we, unfortunately, did not spot a leopard.
That night, we stayed at Yakaduru Safari Village in Yala. This was, by far, the most magical place we stayed at, and even better was as far from the tourist trail as possible.
It was hard to find on the map – only accessible through a hidden dirt road. We arrived by night to find an empty site, only recognisable thanks to a fire camp and a few fire torches spread around the area.
Two staff members were there to welcome us to our room: a roofless mud hut with a bed in the middle. Although it is not for the faint hearted (think toads in the toilet, spiders on the walls, and a centipede hidden in a corner), it was one of the highlights of my trip. The dinner served there was excellent (almost rivalling Kumari’s!).
The next morning, we climbed up a few impressive boulders next to the mud house to see the sunrise over Yala National Park.
A perfect way to say goodbye to this beautiful country. That day, we drove to Mirissa, a surfer’s town on the coast, and spend the day by the beach, drinking Mango smoothies, and tanning.
Leo rented a surf board for 10 dollars an hour, and allowed me to borrow it for a few minutes to pretend I know how to surf.
We had one last dinner by the beach in Mirissa before heading back to London the next morning.