Sigiriya is a small town a few hours north of Kandy, home to an ancient fortress on top of the 200m Sigiriya Rock, also called Lion Rock. You can also climb the slightly smaller Pidurangala Rock for an incredible sunrise view. Just keep in mind that there’s more to this part of the country than these rocks…
Sure, Sri Lanka is famous for its fantastic beaches and world-class surf, but it wouldn’t be a proper visit without an elephant safari! There are a number of parks throughout the country including the very popular Udawalawe and Yala national parks, but I chose Kaudulla because it was affordable and supposed to be much quieter.
I looked at booking it online, a half-day trip was priced at $60 including the entrance fee and I was willing to pay this after seeing the cost of our safaris in Africa! But I waited until I arrived in Sigiriya and I’m so glad I did. The family that runs the wonderful Backpackers Hostel have their own safari trucks and will happily organise a morning or afternoon safari for guests and non-guests alike!
The guys in the dorm at Backpackers Hostel and I rounded up a bunch of people, 12 in total, so we were able to fill two jeeps. It only costs Rs.4000 (£17) each which is a huge saving compared to the online price, including the Rs.2700 (£11) entrance fee!
It’s a small park with a giant watering hole in the middle and one track that drives past it. Trucks aren’t allowed to leave the track, so it’s completely up to the elephants if they want to get anywhere near you, but it’s here that you’re most likely to see large herds of elephants, up to a hundred!
We drove for an hour to get to the entrance of Kaudulla, stopped to buy entrance tickets and use the toilet, then away we went. When we first drove onto the plain we saw a huge herd of water buffalo, and just around the corner was a small group of elephants with two babies! The further we drove the more elephants we saw until we were in the middle of a herd of a hundred, and it was magical.
We got that lucky in Africa but we were watching them from afar, so this was an incredible opportunity to see the much smaller Asian elephants in the wild, and so close! Unfortunately, it was surprisingly busy with other trucks full of people, blocking the track which made it hard to get through but we still had an amazing view.
We must have sat there for an hour watching them, then we turned around and drove back. The whole safari was four hours, plus almost two hours of driving there and back. Probably the best £17 I’ve spent in a long time!
You can easily get Sigiriya from Colombo or Kandy by taking a bus to Dambulla and then another bus to Sigiriya, although there might be some direct buses first thing in the morning, you can ask at your accommodation. The whole journey took four hours (from Kandy) and only cost Rs.168 (70p). It’s easy to catch the local bus, just ask around at the bus station and the locals will always be able to point you towards the right one.
There’s a range of accommodation available, I stayed at Backpackers Hostel run by a wonderful and kind family who made me feel right at home, and I even got upgraded to a private room because the dorm was full! Just next door is One More Night Hostel, a great place to hang out and meet other travellers. There are a few local restaurants around, nothing really stood out, but you can always find the usual veggie curry, fried noodles or kottu.
Have you been to Sri Lanka and done a safari? Let me know where you went and what you saw in the comments below!
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