Back to Trip Reports 


Title:  Sri Lanka 2007

Trip Type:   Family package holiday with a bespoke itinerary booked through Kuoni (again!).  Photography was not a priority.

Outline Itinerary:  The itinerary changed during the trip (but that is a story in itself!) but from memory we had 2 nights Colombo, 5 or 6 nights at the Deer Park Safari Lodge (close to Minneriya Sanctuary) and finally another 1 or 2 nights in Colombo.  Time at the Deer Park Safari Lodge included day trips to Sigiriya Rock, a late afternoon ‘elephant safari’ the ancient ruins at Anuradhapura and other local sights.  Approx 10 days.

When:  February

Equipment:  Nikon D200/MD-200, Nikkors 70-180 Micro, 300mm/4 AFS, 18-70/3.5-45, 50/1.8D, TC-14E, Manfrotto 055 / 168

Photographic Highs and Lows: 

For the most part the photography side of the trip was all positive as I did zero pre-planning and did not have any photographic expectations. It was a family holiday for my wife and I and any ‘real’ photography would be a bonus. That said we did go out with a guide to see some of the local sights (local town market, Sunday school, regional holy man, etc.) for which I took a camera and standard zoom.

Begger at a local market

Water monitor spotted by the road en-route to a local town

Realising I was interested in the local wildlife the guide offered to show us a colony of fruit bats which, whilst impressive, would have had good potential had I had my 300mm lens to hand.  Sadly we did not get the opportunity to go back.  Another disappointment were the huge water monitors (7 or 8 of them, each at least 1.5m in length) that we came across one morning on our way to one of the tourist sites.  I managed to get quite a few pictures but they would have been far better shot eye level.  That however would have meant lying in the mud, I wouldn’t have minded but I doubt that my wife would have been too impressed at walking around with me caked in thick smelly mud all day.  If only she realised the sacrifices I make for her………


The plus side however more than made up for this, there was potential subject matter everywhere. The water monitors, as already mentioned, were huge (1 to 1.5m), totally unfazed by our presence and reasonably common, smaller and often quite striking lizards and land monitors were also frequently seen, the bird life varied and beautiful, and macaques were numerous around the temples, interesting plants, etc. 


Wildlife is everywhere, this garden lizard was found close to the top of Sigiriya Rock


Carvings of Buda are everywhere, this beautiful example was about 12-15ft high (plus a 6ft plinth)


Our first sighting of wild elephants

The highlight however was the 2-3 hours we spent in Minneriya Sanctuary. When booking the trip I had booked a package of excursions too as my wife particularly wanted to see some of the cultural history in the region, in particular Sigiriya Rock and the ancient ruins at Anuradhapura. Included in the package was an afternoon “elephant safari”. Having been to Africa several times I knew that our chances of seeing wild elephants on a single drive were slim, and discussions with our guide confirmed this. But off we went anyway, my wife had never seen a wild elephant so even a small chance was well worth the effort. As expected we saw nothing for a couple of hours but then we turned a corner and there, in front of us, was a small herd silently grazing. Result! The light was not great, nor was the general scene, so I took a few snaps and we watched them for a little while before driving off for a bite to eat ourselves (the guides seemed to think all tourists had to eat every hour or so or they would die! This actually became a bit of a private joke during the trip.).

Elephant feasting on tree bark

We found a quiet spot as the sun was going down and then suddenly noticed an elephant come out from behind a distant bush, walk into the golden sunlight and start to strip bark of a tree.  This time I did have the 300mm and was rewarded with some lovely shots of a wild Asian Elephant eating bark from a tree. The guide told us that Minneriya was a hotspot for elephants in the dry season (around July) when herds hundreds strong amass in the area for the permanent water.

We also visited the elephant orphanage at Pinnawala which had potential but the light in the middle of the day was harsh (an overcast or rainy day would have been much better) and the tourist crowds were a far cry from seeing these magnificent animals in the tranquility of their natural environment. But it is certainly worth a visit especially if you don’t get to see elephants in the wilds.



Captive elephants at Pinnawala orphanage were very well cared for but it was still a little sad that they were not roaming free......

Photographically Sri Lanka has huge potential and I hope to return one day and tour around some of the National Parks and sanctuaries with a little more focus on photography.

Viewfrom the top of Sigiriya Rock


One of the amazing stone carvingsat the ancient captital (one of several ancient 'capital cities') of Anuradhapura 

Ancient rock art at Sigiriya

Other Comments: 

Getting about by car (with a local driver) was relatively easy if a little time consuming. The roads are generally very good but they are not what I would consider to be major highways, travel therefore takes a little longer than you might expect. The people were very friendly and the island is beautiful, I would therefore not hesitate to recommend it for trip, photographic or not.

Colombo was a little disappointing and was a sprawling city typical of this part of the world. The beautiful colonial architecture of the guide books did not really show itself and I suspect what is there are but a few isolated gems that would take time, or luck, to seek out. I think Colombo is best avoided.



Sunset from Colombo at the end of trip..........




Back to Trip Reports or General Ramblings