Anna Leask realises a lifelong dream in wild and wonderful southern Sri Lanka
More than 10 years after the Boxing Day tsunami, the tiny village of Mirissa, on the south coast of Sri Lanka, is still doing it tough.
The area is steeped in culture, and the landscape is spectacular.
But it was hard hit by – and is still recovering from – the 2004 disaster. It is also very basic and devoid of easily accessible creature comforts for a first-world traveller like me.
The need to adapt my beach-lounging, cocktail-sipping vision was evident very quickly.
Though I had been dreaming of spending a few lazy days in luxury, the opportunity to have an adventure entirely out of my comfort zone was much more appealing.
The owners of the guest house I stayed at were more than willing to help guide me through my week.
My room at The Spice House overlooked a jungle full of monkeys, lizards, squirrels and birds galore, and was run by expat Brit Phil and his wife Wathsala.
These two know everything there is to know about Sri Lanka and were more than happy to help arrange anything and everything for my stay.
I was after a safari – the objective to see as many elephants as possible – but only if they were in their natural environment and not being harassed by jeeps full of over-excited tourists.
“Easy,” said Phil, who organised his brother-in-law to drive me two hours inland to Udawalawe National Park.
We set off at 3am to get to the park by sunrise. The early start was worth it because as we drove down the last stretch to the park entrance, I saw my first elephant, alone, serene and drinking from a lake as the sun rose.
I fulfilled a lifelong dream to see real elephants in their real home – babies included.