Taxi transfers between cities and towns are quite common in Sri Lanka as the fare is inexpensive in comparison to European price. The route between Ella and Tissamaharama is only accessible either by taxi or public buses. Due to our tight schedule we would have to choose the most efficient way to get to our next destination in Tissamaharama.
The guesthouse we lodged in Tissamaharama is right on the side of some rice fields. Tissamaharama is more or less at sea level so the temperature rose from an average of 25 degrees in the mountain ranges to an average over 30 degrees.
A quick WiKi brief of Tissamaharama:
Tissamaharama used to be the capital of the Sinhalese, Kingdom of Ruhuna as early as the third century B.C. Only few buildings from that period can still be seen today. The presence of ordinary early Tamils in Tissamaharama was confirmed following archaeological excavations in 2010. The large artificial Tissa Wewa Lake which was a part of a sophisticated irrigation system, also dates from that time. There are five main lakes in the vicinity of Tissamaharama. The town mainly serves as a starting point for the visit to Yala National Park and Kataragama.
Yala National Park was on our radar for this trip. To be honest, there weren’t much to offer in Tissa apart from the national park. Unless you are a huge fan of safaris, otherwise a short 2 days would cover the highlights in this place. We regret very much that we could have stayed in Ella for a little longer and shorten the time we used in Tissa.
Our guesthouse offered safari options for full day or half day, in group or private. The price was a little more expensive compared to other tour operators in town. We walked around the town center and tried to find a tour operator. It was raining and getting quite dark when we strolled in the center, there wasn’t much street lighting either. When we returned to the hotel, they managed to find another 3 guests who wanted to do the same itinerary so we agreed to share the tour package. The starting time was 4am! As usual for, safaris!
Yala National Park is a strict nature reserve. It is divided into 5 blocks, the park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land consisting of light forests, scrubs, grasslands, pools and lagoons. Two blocks are currently opened to the public.
The park is located south east hugging the panoramic Indian Ocean, it was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and was designated a national park in 1938. Ironically, the park was initially used as a hunting ground for the elite under British rule. Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. Among its more famous residents are the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted deers, peacocks, and crocodiles.
The guesthouse gave us some packed ham sandwiches and some bananas for the trip. We left 4am and we were all queuing outside the park with hundreds of 4 x 4 jeeps lining up outside, waiting for the gate to open at 6am.
The rule in this safari is quite strict, no one was allowed to get out of the vehicle apart from the beachfront of the park. The roads inside the park were bumpy and uneven. All drivers from different tour operators were on radio, as soon as someone spotted a leopard in whatever location, within a minute or two, the location would be crowded with hundreds of jeep cars all vying for position to get as close as possible. We saw a tail shadow of a leopard walking across the road, it totally ignored the crowd of jeep cars and cameras’ shutter sounds as if there was nothing around it. What an attitude of an animal from the top of the food chain. I wonder what they thought of these strange creatures.
Around mid morning we stopped at the beachfront to stretch our legs and to use of the facilities in the park. After a short break, we got back in the jeep and continued our safari. We stopped briefly by the lagoon to take some photos of the stunning view over the it. We drove passed quite a wide range of animals during the safari the majority of which seems to be buffalos.
It was still in the early afternoon when we returned to our guesthouse. We hired a tuk tuk to take us around Tissa Lake and the view was amazing. We saw a Chinese couple doing their wedding photos by the lake.
A little WiKi about the Tissa lake:
The lake, an artificial reservoir, is thought to have been constructed in the third century B.C., either by Mahanaga of Ruhuna or his successor Yatala Tissa of Ruhuna, in order to irrigate paddy lands and supply water to the flourishing city of Tissamaharama.
The lake was restored in 1871. The embankment (or bund) on the southern shore supports the Tissa-Kataragama road, which is lined by old Indian rain trees planted by the British to provide shade.
Another point of interest I would like to recommend in this blog was a restaurant called the Smoky Kitchen, it’s one of the most highly scored in Tissa on google maps. They do a few different curry dishes and you pay a fixed fee to eat as much as you want. We had our last dinner there before heading over to our last stop in Sri Lanka: Galle.
I have to mention that I wasn’t expecting anything much in Galle, but read on and find out what we thought.
Continue reading: Sri Lanka adventure, the final stop in the Dutch colonial town, Galle.