Real Gap's Lisa travelled to Sri Lanka at the start of the month to discover this beautiful part of the world. Find out how she got on on our Elephants and Community project...
I arrived in Rambukkanna in the dark (it gets dark at about 7pm all year round in Sri Lanka so be prepared for short evenings!) and so it wasn’t until the morning that I could take in the surroundings properly. Leaning over the balcony of the volunteer accommodation, I watched some tourists taking an early morning safari on the back of one of the beautiful elephants that live on site.
The elephant project is located near to Kegalle (pronounced Kaygawl), a busy little town that’s a good hub for weekend adventures to other parts of the country – you can get to Kandy in an hour and a half for 60 rupees (about 30p). It’s an elephant safari that gives tourists a ride and gives you the chance to make friends with these amazing creatures from right alongside them.
So – more about the project. The volunteer house is comfortable – bunk beds in shared rooms and a couple of shared bathrooms and it’s located in the grounds of the elephant safari, right by a river where the elephants take their baths!
If you like birds, you’ll be able to spot kingfishers galore so don’t forget to bring your binoculars!
Aside from the natural sights, this project will get you involved in helping to look after the elephants, working alongside the skilled mahouts, assisting with tidying the elephants beds after a good night’s shut eye, tending the eco garden that provides food for the elephants (tough work in the heat but they sure love pineapple!). You’ll also help teach English to local children from 5 to 16 years old. And you’ll learn a bit of the language and some cookery skills too. Excursions include a visit to a spice garden and the famous Pinnawala Elephant Centre just 10 minutes away.
The simple beauty of this project is living alongside the mahouts and their families, submersing yourself in the slower pace of life in Sri Lanka. Alenka, one of our volunteers who had been at the project for 7 weeks, was literally in tears at the thought of leaving the elephants and the locals who had made her experience so amazing.
On a separate note, the gecko in my shorts was an unnecessary addition to my wardrobe but the cute little things are everywhere so get used to them! And the ride around the safari grounds on Nonna, one of the really lovely natured elephants, set me up nicely for my next destination – an elephant research project in the stunning Wasgamuwa national park.