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Sri Lanka’s Pink Lagoon Safari

Sri Lanka’s Pink Lagoon Safari

By Juliet Coombe

Jetwing Surf organises all sort of exciting experiences including going at dawn to Urani pink lagoon, which is at its best at sunrise with its own little wildlife museum ‘Eco Lagoon Safari Information Centre’ and fishing community, a highlight of my trip to Arugam Bay. Here the Urani fishing guides are passionate about their stunning mangroves, range of birds and so along with the recreational officer of Jetwing Surf, Hiran who always carries the superb bird watching guide by Gehan De Silva to spot the twenty plus species of lagoon birds. We set off pre-dawn when the lagoon was like a pink flamingo and the water was wonderful hues of pink. Every safari on this ancient tributary is different and for those who get up at 5am you will be rewarded by anything from the local farmers chasing the water buffaloes across the lagoon in a small blue canoe boat with the oars swinging through the air to get them rounded up and over to the paddy fields on the other side. The oar swinging in circles is to scare the sleepier animals into action, and it is as if they are cattle ranching at the O.K. Corral with cries of ‘Ye Hi’.

 

One of the best sightings on a Urani Lagoon safari is seeing the wild elephants bathing early morning, head bumping each other and throwing water in the air while they drink and play wash each other and then paddle doggy style to the other side. On my first day we saw them miles away in the distance after landing close to a paddy field where we could see due to the huge holes in the mangroves several elephants had crossed earlier in the morning. Getting out we sank into a muddy elephant footprint and after a lot of stumbling about, loosing flip-flops and nearly the camera, as we laughed at our muddy disposition. I took pictures of the two male elephants vanishing into the undergrowth. With Opticon binoculars always at hand I could see one very well on the horizon and trudged ever closer in my bare feet to take pictures, while still staying at a safe distance.

The next day we returned to the same point thirty minutes earlier and were stunned to see them eye balling us on our tiny boat, through the elephant made holes in the mangroves. We took pictures as they ambled over curious no doubt by a person with long lenses looking just like a trunk zooming in and out to get the best angle. As eagles circled overhead, I learn from the boatman they have no less than 5 types in the area and combine this with enjoying the largest land animal romping around it was already an unforgettable adventure.

The amazing recreational manager of Jetwing Surf Hiran quietly pointed out 20 different species of birds as we quietly rowed our way along the lagoon and explained they have an astounding 22 different types of mangroves in the area each with their unique flowers. Just as the biggest of the five elephants was about to put his foot in the water, two boat guys passed by shouting to each other, hearing all the noise the elephants got frightened and went into the bushes fearing attack on the youngest member of the small herd. How something so big can vanish like magic into a tiny area is beyond me, and yet they did and so we went around to the other side, where water lilies are in abundance to see if we could track their giant footprints. Sure enough there they were in-printed deep into the lagoon mud like big foot striding across the landscape and yet despite being wide-open planes they had given us the slip.