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Kele Group wildlife tour to Maradanmaduwa, Wilpattu N.P.

New entrants

Everybody welcomed Saroja [wife of Lucky] , Shrinath [friend of Sarath] and Chamara [son of Ranasinghe] on the tour as new entrants.

Gerry

It was Gerry’s first tour to a National Park since his bypass heart operation in March 2016, coincided with his seventy second [72] birthday which he celebrated in the Wilpattu Jungle with his sincere friends. We; Kele Group wishes him best of health and long life.

Gerry Nanayakkara

B’day boy cutting cake

Happy b'day Gerry

72nd Cake

Uninvited guest at the party

There was an unusual guest of honor at the B’day party. An Indian Crested Porcupine [Binomial name or scientific name or Latin name is Hystrix indica] or Panduru Ittawa in Sinhala.

Indian Crested Porcupine or Sri Lankan Porcupine or Panduru Ittawa Scientific name / Binomial name Hystrix indica

Indian Crested Porcupine or Sri Lankan Porcupine or Panduru Ittawa Scientific name / Binomial name Hystrix indica

[there is a very interesting photograph of the b’day boy with the guest of honor]

Description

The Indian crested porcupine is a large rodent, weighing 11–18 kg. Their body (from the nose to the base of the tail) measures between 70–90 cm, with the tail adding an additional 8–10 cm. The lifespan of wild Indian crested porcupines is unknown, but the oldest known captive individual was a female that lived to be 27.1 years old.

It is covered in multiple layers of modified hair called quills, with longer, thinner quills covering a layer of shorter, thicker ones. The quills are brown or black with alternating white and black bands. They are made of keratin and are relatively flexible. Each quill is connected to a muscle at its base, allowing the porcupine to raise its quills when it feels threatened. The longest quills are located on the neck and shoulder, where the quills form a “skirt” around the animal. These quills can grow up to 51 cm (20 in) long, with most measuring between 15–30 cm. Smaller (20 cm) and more rigid quills are packed densely on the back and rump. These smaller quills are used to stab at potential threats. The base of the tail contains shorter quills that appear white in color, with longer, hollow quills that the porcupine can rattle to produce a warning sound when threatened. Contrary to popular belief, Indian crested porcupines (like all porcupines) cannot shoot their quills.

Further readings on porcupines

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_crested_porcupine

http://amazinglanka.com/wp/pangolins-and-porcupines/

Gerry and Ittawa

Ittawa with Gerry.

It was agreed not to feed him that night and if he get used to which they always vulnerable to artificial food and he did not visit us on last two  days.

Tracker Sanath and driver Ajith tried very hard to track leopards by following their footprints several times during our rounds but had to ‘bite the dust’ without success. Another wildlife photographer Namal Kamalgoda informed that he too could not find a leopard during that weekend. He was in the park with Filipino visitors.

There are two possible theories.

One, it was couple of days before Vesak and ample moonlight was available. Leopard could hunt in the night and there was no immediate necessity to hunt in the day time where it could rest.

Two, due to excessive heat during day time it could rest and lie inside jungle where environment is cooler only to come out for water if needed.

But contrary to above theories, a leopard has emerged at Maradanmaduwa area closer to our bungalow and several day visitors had seen him but not us. Unfortunately luck is a part and a parcel of this game. We always have to bear in mind that a sight of a leopard or a bear is a bonus during nature excursions.

Some guys have all the luck – Rod Stewart

First day – 4th May, 2017

Nevertheless we were lucky enough to saw bear on first day and it was on a ‘Muna-mal’ tree eating fruits. It was on other side of the tree and hard to see very clearly. Ajith’s pick-up went to hunt leopards and never saw the bear again. But Sanath’s pick-up stayed and was rewarded with rare sight of the bear getting down from tree and drinking water from water hole nearby.

Sri Lankan Sloth Bear

Sri Lankan Sloth Bear at Walaswala

Then another bear came near our bungalow on the first day around 11.pm. Ranjan, Horatius, Shrinath and Priyantha were awaken by the tracker and went down to see him. The bear came down from a tree close-by and had a look at all then vanished in to darkness. It was a thrilling experience.

The Sri Lankan sloth bear (Melursus ursinus inornatus) is a subspecies of the sloth bear found mainly in lowland dry forests in the island of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan sloth bear is omnivorous. It feeds on nuts, berries, and roots, as well as carrion and meat. One of its main staples is insects, which it removes from rotting stumps and trees with its long, hairless snout. It rarely kills animals. Yala National Park and Wilpattu are famous places to sight these mammals in Sri Lanka. – Wikipedia

Some of other animals we saw on the same day.

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Second day – 5th May, 2017

 

Sri Lankan Peacock or peafowl at Wilpattu

Sri Lankan Peacock or peafowl in Wilpattu

Kudiramalei point / Thambapanni

Sea side picturesquesite

Prince Vijaya came to Sri Lanka as a sailor and landed here. Kudiramalei point situated inside WNP on north western side, about 35km away from Maradanmaduwa bungalow. One can reach this point passing through Kalivillu and crossing old Puttalam – Mannar road and toward sea. Normally we organize an excursion with new entrants to this important site. Unfortunately we could not make it this time due to prevailing heat-wave and high humid situation. One has to walk a quite distance in hot sun to reach ruins. Vast number of small stupa like earth mounds remains at the site. A place believed to be Princess Kuweni’s palace could be seen near Kalivillu on the way.

Third & fourth days – 6th & 7th May, 2017

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……  and the special thanks go to ………..

Food prepared by Niroshan and ably assisted by Vijitha was very tasty. Both of them were very obliging and helpful.

Though we had a bad omen; breakdown of our first bus at the beginning of the journey, all other things went according to precision planning by Salinda R. and Assistant Directress Malkanthi R.

It was a new experience to travel in a single bus compared to go in several cars. There was much fun during travel time. Some of the members had a ‘fellowship drink’ on the way back to Colombo which was unthinkable if we drove ourselves. Udaya’s driving was very safe and he never took unnecessary risks such as dangerous overtaking etc. Compliments should be given to Ranjan S. for organizing the bus.

Many thanks go to Nimal F. and Renuka W. for tasty sandwiches and Malkanthi R. for preparing pasta dish for B’day dinner on the first day

According to a proposal made by Ranjan S. and endorsed by almost all members, in Wasgamuwa N.P. in February 2016, it was decided to exempt Salinda’s share of expenses on wildlife tours. Though Salinda R. did not like the idea, it was decided in recognition of his ability and dedication in organizing wildlife tours. Extra Rs. 617.00 was added to each member for this purpose.

“Please help to preserve nature till we; Kele Group meet at next wildlife tour. Many thanks for your participation.”

Salinda R.

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Text by Salinda R.

Pix by Priyantha d A.

“We who are gathered here may represent a particularly elite, not of money and power, but of concern for the earth for the earth’s sake.”

– Ansel Adams
Photographer

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Kele Group wildlife tour to Maradanmaduwa, Wilpattu N.P.

Kebiliththa; in search of God Skanda

Where

Day-1

On 29th July, 2016; Friday we came to Kathragama and stayed at Ceybank .

Day-2

Early morning we went to Buttala via Sella-katharagama road & meat the following giants on road.

Then we went to Kebiliththa [ or Kabiliththa ] via Monaragala, Dombawela and Ethimale since previous route via Yala block 2 is now closed. There were 23 people in total but our group consisted Horacius aiya, Thilaka akka, Salinda aiya, Malkanthi akka and yours’ truly. We hired 4 Land Rover Defender jeeps and 1 Mahendra with over sized tires.’Ranil’ was the jeep organizer, a pleasant guy who is in late thirties or early forties.

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These jeeps were needed to go thru difficult terrains like broken granite slabs, mud holes with slippery surfaces and many more obstacles.

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Most of the road was deeply eroded because almost all village devotees use farm tractors to scale this journey. Some young guns came in motor bikes and amply rewarded by broken mud-guards, broken brake systems and immovable machines.

We joined the group lead by Keneth at Monaragala and left Salinda aiya’s car at HNB car park and got in to a Defender with all our goods. The group traveled via Dombawela, Ethimale and then a jungle road to the destination; Kebiliththa. We had our lunch around 4.00 pm and rested inside Army camp on southern bank of river . Then had a bath at Kumbukkan Oya [river] where water was around 1 ft deep. After initial cleansing we crossed the river & went to northern bank of Kumbukkan Oya where sacred places were situated, bo tree, tamarind tree and the general worshiping area. While we took part in ‘bodhi pooja’, a wild elephant came to vicinity and village sorcerer [kapu mahattaya] tried his best to keep the elephant at bay by aiming battery torch at him , blocking his entry in to our worshiping place physically and lastly waving a lighted torch [pandama] at him. Fire and burned smell finally drove him away. Nearly everybody was exited due to this matter.

We were fortunate to got camping & bedding inside army camp but hundreds of villagers slept on the banks of the river erecting their own tents. The elephant came again to tent area and a woman got scared and screamed in the middle of the night.

Day-2

We got-up around 4 am in the morning and had a bath and went to the bed of the river to prepare pooja or offering. Pooja usually consist of mung dhal milk rice with honey and large plates of fruits. For making rice we had to dig the river bed and make fresh well and get fresh water.

 

 

While the sun came in from eastern side, sky was lit up with deep blue colors with moon just hanging there and number of ‘nade’s were busy preparing milk rice. People who involved in cooking in any form [strictly men in this matter] covered their mouths and noses with new pieces of cloth.

Then it was time to go to ‘the sacred place’ to offer our ‘pooja’.

 

Following banners display exactly why people come to Kebiliththa Devalaya.

 

xxxxx

 

There were several other ‘nade’s were lead by different ‘Kapu mahattayas’

 

yours faithfully

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Again with Canon 70D and Canon speed light Ex580 with reflective umbrella, i shot following portraits.

Chamika

Chamika’s image was converted to b&w to dramatize the scene & here is an original in color.

Chamika in color

Ranjula was lighted in split lighting to bring dramatic mode.

Ranjula in color

Ranjula

Then i decided to convert some of her images to b&w

Ranjula in b&w

Ranjula in b&w-2

Portraits with one speed light modifier

Kavudulla National Park

Wildlife Tour to Kavudulla National Park

To witness world famous ‘gathering’ [& lost opportunity]

Rain storm over Kavudulla National Park

Rain storm over Kavudulla National Park by Damsith

Kavudulla National Park [KNP] is situated in Polonnaruwa District and in North Central Province. One can reach KNP by turning right at Hatares-kotuva on Colombo-Habarana-Trincomalee main road, passing Gal-Oya junction Railway Station. This is where the railway line diversion take place by one line goes to Trincomalee via Kanthale and the other goes to Batticaloa via Kaduruwela [polonnaruwa].

KNP-Damsith-Kavudulla tank sorowwa

KNP is 220.km away from Colombo and dominated by Kavudulla tank [weva]. The tank is surrounded by floodplains, forest and wooded hills extended eastward. From November to March the tank usually fills up with ‘Northeast Monsoons’ and excess water from Minneriya tank. In the following months water releases through draw down for cultivation and feeds Kanthale tank. KNP was declared National Park status in 1998 just few months after Minneriya was declared as a National Park.

Some of the tuskers lensed by our Snr photographer Mr. Gerry Nanayakkara. [enjoy these magnificent giants on slideshow mode. pl ‘click’ on images for large screen] Shot on previous wildlife tours.

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Wild animals in the area, especially elephants [eplephas maximus] are largely benefitted by abundance of water in the reservoir and lush grasslands around it for their day-to-day consumption. KNP and it’s surroundings plays a vital role as a feeding grounds for many fauna and flora.

Month of August is the best to witness world famous ‘gathering’, either at Minneriya National Park or at KNP; wild elephant herds migrating to and from Wasgamuwa N.P. to either Minneriya N.P. or to KNP or as far as Somawathiya N.P. A single elephant need 200-250.kg of vegetation and 60-70 Ltrs of water per day.

We stopped in Inamaluwa [near Sigiriya turn point] and got in to a small bus which took us to ‘Govipala Cottages’ for lunch. It is owned by Mr. Brandi-gampola [surname] but we call him simply ‘Brandy’ [not Ranjan’s brandy]. We had a ‘quick-beer-thirst-quencher’ with ‘wev malu’[tank fish] for bite and lunch after. They were to supply dinner to us on our way back.

We were good two hours late on schedule when we reached the park. There was one kilometer traffic jam before park entrance. Our entrance tickets had been purchased but reaching the entrance was a problem due to  excessive number of Jeeps been queued along narrow road.

As soon as we entered the park, we saw a giant tusker walking along bund of the tank and unmistakably it was going for afternoon water dip. The bull was well built and could have been 30-40yrs of age. Tusks were nicely curved and well grown. Jeep drivers were in mighty hurry to take us further down to see elephants and they wanted to beat incoming rain too. Otherwise we could have waited and let it cross the bund and go to other side toward tank. Since the bull was not coming into clearance and was covering itself from possession of Jeeps, we could not photograph clearly. But everybody took some kind of shots of it.

KNP-Damsith-KNP tusker

KNP-Damsith-on our way to Kavudulla tank

Due to a freak storm with heavy downpour, lightning and gusts of winds, our hopes of witnessing this spectacular phenomena was vanished. All the ‘Kele Group’ members and invited guests were disappointed in the afternoon as elephants got scared and took flight toward forest for cover. Floodplains started turning into muddy pools and wind threatening constantly by making canvass hoods of six jeeps flying at every angle exposing everybody including children to raging rains.

KNP-Damsith-rain storm over Kavudulla tank-1

Thunder and lightning was so frightening, our contact and Jeep driver Kumara later told us that literally elephants started to run for safety with tails twisted and erected at their backs. Our Jeep driver ‘Gamini’ said that this was the first time in his life [for the last eight years] returned after a safari drive without seeing an elephant.

KNP-Damsith-lightning over Kavudulla tank

This was the first time ‘KG’ group organized such a large group consisting 35 adults and 5 children and two year old ‘Ranvi’. It was a good experience managing every aspect of the tour other than [very crucial] timing factor. Everybody realized that we were approximately two hours behind our original schedule.

But as soon as we got in to our bus everybody was ok and in merry mood. Everybody was relaxed after stop at Dambulla P&S and soon spirits started flowing and singing started.

 

 

Though rain disappointed every spectator came from Colombo, it surely a blessing for villagers and animals not only in Kavudulla area but for whole North and North Central Provinces itself.

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sri lankan pink sakura flower or Tabebuia Rosea, Tecoma rosea, rosy trumpet tree

sri lankan pink sakura flower or Tabebuia Rosea, Tecoma rosea, rosy trumpet tree

Rosy trumpet tree or Sri Lankan Pink Sakura tree is native to South America and Mexico.

 

The tree was brought to Sri Lanka as an exotic plant for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya in the 1800s.

Later it was used in other public parks and home gardens.

 

Tabebuia Rosea flowers make a spectacular scene — the ground under the trees becomes pink with fallen flowers, making it a treat for the eyes. Street sweepers might not like it.

Tree is grow up to 30-40 meteres height and well grow in tropical areas. The tree starts to bloom usually from February to May and flowers stay for very short time like 1-2 weeks.

 

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Sri Lankan Pink Sakura flowers

Sand dunes at Yala, Sri Lanka

Palm tree

Palm tree on our way to yala sand dunes

We went on a three day trip to Yala and stayed in wildlife society bungalow which is situated inside Lanka Salt Ltd. or salterns or ‘maha levaya.

Wildlife society bungalow, Yala

Wildlife society bungalow, Yala

Sand dunes are just behind the wildlife society bungalow. On second day after our morning excursion to Yala national Park, we decided to walk to Yala beach. We crossed a sandy strip mainly consists of tall palm trees.

 

The dunes were covered with vegetation in some parts and we had to climb fairly steep inclines. When we reached top of dunes one can see vast stretch of lonely beach.

Sand dune with vegetation

Sand dune with vegetation

Fishing huts and catamarans used by seasonal fishermen were left where they kept for next season. This season being rough sea they must have gone toward Trincomalee where seas are calm and suitable for fishing.

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Some parts of dunes and vast areas of the beach has a particular red-maroon color sand which gave very contrasting look against light golden color sand.

 

Wind was blowing constantly and I had to take special precautions to protect my camera and the bag. Anyhow sand was blowing with gushes of winds against our bodies and sometimes it hurt when sand hit your face and uncovered parts of hands and legs. Top of that it was around noon time and sand was so hot that it burns your feet and you cannot stand in one place for long. I was moving from one place to another looking sand patterns on top of dunes.

 

 

The Yala dunes are not clean to photograph as various material is strewn here and there by the fishermen. Plastic and glass bottles, cadjan huts, palm leaves, coconut leaves, discarded slippers, used pots and pans and many more things are half buried in sand and it is a real pain to hide them in your images.

Sand dune with red color sand

Sand dune with red color sand

Edge of a sand dune

Edge of a sand dune

Deep side of a sand dune

Deep side of a sand dune

Ripples of a sand dune at Yala

Ripples of a sand dune

But, still it’s the only place you can visit at that time and one determined to get whatever possible images out of this place and after sometime you get used to obstacles and start shooting.

 

Then I start to look for shadows, lines and shapes, curves, edges and angles in pockets of dunes and I started to feel fine.

 

I walk between sand dunes not to disturb crests with footprints and to keep them as pristine as possible. Thus I could take decent photographs without showing my own footprints.

 

Damith; our bungalow caretaker says that elephants use the sand dune strip to migrate from Bundala national Park to Yala National Park. But we never saw any elephant dungs. May be due to harsh weather elephants decided not to cross to and from.

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Tall palm trees of Yala, sri lanka

Tall palm trees against clear blue sky and cotton white clouds

On the way to our bungalow I photographed those tall palm trees against clear blue sky and white cotton clouds. Then I noticed how beautiful our bungalow looking against palm trees, blue sky and white clouds.

 

Most of the people who never needed or wanted heavens, find serenity surrounding wildlife sanctuaries. One can find serenity in dry but tranquil Wilpattu or calm Yala tracks.

Wildlife society bungalow at Yala

Wildlife society bungalow at Yala

Eagles Ridge Log Cabins

KG Group’s last trip on 2017 was to ‘Eagles Ridge Log Cabins’ at Lethenty Tea Estate, Dikoya, Hatton. The Cabins are managed by Bogawanthalawa Tea Estates PLC.

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The Cabins are surrounded by hills full of tea plantation and part forest. A stream runs through the Cabins and they have blocked it half way and made a natural pool where water is ice cold.

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Traveler could observe variety of fauna and flora around the cabins.

 

 

First day & the second were very cold in the evenings to nights and the mornings. But parties went on each night despite the cold weather.

During the stay we shot a visual for an advertisement and the ‘male model’ and product is shown below.

untitled-6979 The best drink for cold weather. RITZ. Buy NOW.

Staff prepared a sumptuous biriyani for second day lunch with help from some of KG Group ladies.

It was a perfect ending of 2017 and another fantastic trip organized by ‘the one and only’, Mr. Salinda Rodrigo.

It was the first trip for Chamika, Ranjula and Savindra with KG Group and a especially memorable for Savi as he caught fever after bathing in the rock pool and later we got to understand that it was ‘Dengi fever’

KG Group photo shoot

But the most catching photograph was judged by prominent member panel of KGG was the following. Two friends, whose friendship was longer than the friendship of Mahinda and Ranil and started several decades ago and now in their 70s still going strong.

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Judge: Yushmatha bonawada ?

Accused :  Swamini ! bonawan bomu

after hearing laughter from audience , shouted to silence the oudience

J : Order ! Order !!

A : Swamini, pl order two cigarettes too

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Very big ‘thank you’ goes to the staff who entertained us at ‘Eagles Ridge Log Cabins’ , Lethenty Tea Estate of Bogawanthalawa Plantations PLC for looking in to our needs and providing good food.

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Fast & furious at Pannala Speed Track

This was to be the last race at the end of 2016 season.

It was a fine day for racing as sky was over-caste and heat was at minimum.

 

As Pannala was one of the tarred surface best for speed racing, most of the big-guns were there.

The F3 were fabulous, too.

 

There was fierce battle prevailed at Motad races.

Shoel Daniel

Sangeeth Suriyage

…. some of the smaller categories of motor-bikes ……

 

but SPEED was generated mainly with these monsters ………..

The person who organized the event [ for the last 3 years or so ] a racing driver himself and a popular photographer Mr. Rohan Fonseka. He was named as ‘Nikon’ brand ambassador in Sri Lanka.

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Mr. Rohan Fonseka, Photographer, Racing driver, ‘Nikon’ brand ambassador