Makare

MapCrew : 8

Transportation : Double Cabs

Duration : 2 Days

 

Visiting the famous “Makare – මකරේ” or the “Dragon Mouth” was in my mind for a long time but couldn’t find a time and a gang to visit there. Suddenly the idea of camping in the “Gal Oya” national park was suggested by my friend and luckily, there were many friends looking to join for the trip. We fixed a date on a weekend and reserved the Wild Life Department Nilgala Circuit Bungalow two weeks Prior. (Click here to Reserve Bungalows Operated by Department of Wild Life Conservation, Sri Lanka)

Seven of us departed Inginiyagala around 1.30 pm in two vehicles and pick another friend at the turning point for Nilgala Wild Life Department bungalow on Inginiyagala – Bliba Road. Access road is more of a dirt path with bushes creeping in, where we saw few households up to the border of the Galoya Forest Reserve. We reached there and settled in Nilgala wildlife bungalow around 4 pm and prepared for the BBQ. The staff supported us to marinate the chicken (There are no super markets or even large scale boutiques nearer, so better to bring all supplies from the nearest town. We bought our supplies from Ampara). The hardest part was to light up the charcoal in the BBQ grill which we brought with us.
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Then we went for a bath in the Gal Oya, which is few meters away from the place where we stayed. The environment was clam and warm, urging us to take a dip in the cold water. The water flow looked slow, but was strong and deep in some sections. The caretakers made us a delicious dinner to enjoy with the BBQ and we enjoyed it before going to sleep a bit  late.
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We woke up in the morning and our plan was to visit Makare and do a small hike on a wild trail. So we decided to visit makare before the breakfast and started our journey for the day. The road was not that difficult but it is recommended to use a vehicle with a good ground clearance, Four wheel drive is not a must. It took us a considerable time to drive up to makare as we were going below 10kmph all the time. After reaching a small hill like dead-end, we had to walk down to Gal oya. We took some time to capture the beauty of the stream running over the rocky surface. There were signs of a very high water level marked on nearby cliffs which was around 10-15 ft higher than the water level at that time.

Our guide took us on a footpath along the left bank of Gal oya and reached the famous “Makare” after few minutes walk. I imagined that it is a one giant rock and the water is flowing under it. But actually it is a collection of countless big rocks and the water is flowing through that rock filter. So we can’t see water flow unless Gal Oya is over flowing (Which is a seasonal thing if the top end of Gal Oya gets enough rain).
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After clicking few photos there, we decided to head back to our vehicles and go to one of the nearest campsites. We brought a small tent hoping to use it in case we needed, but it wasn’t. So we used it as a backdrop for some group photos!
😀
We were really hungry and missing the breakfast at that time, so we decided to cancel the hike we planned and return to the wildlife bungalow as soon as possible. It took around another 45 minutes drive for us to reach there, and a delicious breakfast was on the table as we arrived.

Since we didn’t had much time to plan and due to the last minutes participation, the food we brought finished with that breakfast. So we decided to head back to Mahaoya for Lunch and to have another dip in the nearby section of Gal Oya before the return trip.
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On the way we saw some fresh elephant dung, indicating that there was at least one elephant nearby. It made us cautious and one of us spotted a small foot prints running towards the stream!
We heard a noise amid the discussion to guess who owns those foot prints. A wild boar appeared out of nowhere and it was coming towards us. Our immediate thoughts were to run for our lives, but we didn’t except making room for the boar to pass the group of us. The boar wasn’t a fully grown one and neither of us could see the Incisors that we were heard of. The boar decided to come towards us anyway and the time seemed passing in slow motion. The boar stopped near a puddle and rolled over resting up side down like a dog. It made us bit relieved and I tried to click some photos.

After having a minute of mud bath the bar again started following us. Then we realized that it must be used to humans and looking for something to eat in the bags we were carrying our towels and stuff. No one had anything to offer to the boar, but he followed us to the stream anyway.
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We jumped from the bank on to the rocks coming out of the stream and started to walk toward the usual spot we bathed the day before. We though then the boar will get back to the jungle as he can’t follow us. But we were wrong and the boar tried to test its swimming skills! But the water flow was high and it seemed that the boar is drowning. We were hopeless and the only thing we could do is to run towards a shallow bank and call it to swim there. After few minutes of rigorous swimming the boar made it to the bank we were on. It was tired from the fight with the mighty currents of Gal oya and let us even pet it.
😛

After a while a dog who lives in the Nilgala wild life bungalow came to the stream and the boar disappeared in to the jungle. So we too went on to have a bath and spent a quality time dipped in cold water. Afterwards it took only few minutes for us to pack our things and start the journey back. We went to Bibila town for the lunch and dropped one of our friends there. Drive back to Ampara took around another two hours and we finished the journey around 5 pm with a whole lot of unforgettable memories.
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Arugam Bay

MapCrew : 7

Transportation : Cars (Kandy > Mahiyanganaya > Ampara > Akkaraipattu > Pottuvil > Arugam Bay > Pottuvil > Lahugala > Siyambalanduwa > Wadinagala > Ampara > Inginiyagala > Bibila > Mahiyanganaya > Kandy)

Duration : Two Days

I had plans to visit Arugam bay beach and spend a night there during the surfing season (May to September), But it kept postponing. There was a free weekend coming and seven of my friends confirmed participation. This time our plan was to spend more time on the beach as possible, So I wanted to reserve a place closer to the beach unlike in our previous visit (Read about our visit to Arugambay and Kudumbigala).

The gathering point was Kandy as most of my friends were there. One came from Kurunegala and another one all the way from Colombo. I was already in Ampara and planned to join them from there onward.  It was around 6.15 am when others left Kandy and they took around 4.5 hours to reach Ampara Via Padiyathalawa. As soon as they arrived Ampara we had a quick breakfast and started our drive to Arugam bay via Akkaraipattu. There was almost no traffic, so we reached Arugam bay just around an hour. We directly went to the hotel we reserved. It took another half an hour for us to settle in, before starting our search for a good place to have the lunch. The staff at our hotel recommended a place (Ranga’s Beach Hut) which reminded us that we have been there in our previous visit. It was just a couple hundred meters away next to the beach and we decided to walk up there by the main road. Even though it is off season, there were few groups of travelers in the restaurant area. We asked for their famous “Rice and Curry with Fried Fish” but sadly it was finished by that time. So we ordered Fried rice and soft drinks after settling to a table under a shady tree. Environment was way cooler than the outside road because of the giant umbrella of trees branches. They took some time to prepare the food but we didn’t noticed that as we were busy with catching up and admiring the surrounding.
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We spent a more than an hour there and decided to walk back to the hotel through the beach. It was easier than walking on the main road plus we had a perfect view of Arugam bay. My friends were sleepy as they started the journey in the early morning and decided to take a quick nap until the burning sun rays fade away. But no one could sleep but talk lying in beds and chairs!
😀

We took a shower first to cool off and then decided to walk to the beach around 3.30pm. Even though our hotel was next to the beach, famous Arugam bay surfing spot was another one kilometer away. We saw many places that was threatened by sea erosion (may be a seasonal thing due to the changing tide patterns). There were quite a lot of people on the surfing spot, but only a few were surfing. We walked further to avoid the crowd and spent hours lying on the beach. The tides were so strong that sometimes it dragged us along the beach for couple of feet reminding our younger days! We didn’t wanted to worry about getting our cameras wet, so couldn’t capture any photo during our “floating in the beach” session. It was around 6pm when we decided to head back to our hotel. The sun just sank behind the coconut trees within couple of minutes, making us to walk back under the dark starless sky. Lights from the hotels marked the beach, up until the Arugam bay bridge. It took us more time than we expected to walk back to the hotel and had to spend another hour or so washing away the sand from our clothes and hair.

We decided to go for another cafe for dinner just for a change and looked up for few restaurants with good reviews on the internet. There was a Pizza place and we walked along the main road towards panama side. After about a 700m walk we reached to a cozy looking place and decided to settle down there as we were bit tired of walking to the place we initially planned to go. Gladly they too had wood oven pizzas and took some time to prepare it.
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One story lead to another and suddenly realized that we were the only group left in the restaurant and it was almost their closing time. So we left there and walked back, admiring the atmosphere created by dim lights of the nearby boutique hotels. We all were so tired and just went to sleep as soon as we came back to the hotel.

It was around 7 am when I woke up in the next morning. Sun was already up and making the morning tides shine. There were two hammocks fixed in the hut on beach, and i decided to hop on. It was my first experience about hammocks and it was better than i imagined. Everything was so calm and peaceful that I even noted pros and cons of living next to a beach in my mind. We decided to go to the same place that we had the previous day lunch for the breakfast. It was much closer through the beach, so we walked there. It was one of the best satisfying breakfasts that I have ever had. Tasty eggs with crunchy toasts and a hot cup of tea under the shade of a tree along with the company of good friends; that was perfect!
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After spending more than an hour on the breakfast we walked back and stepped in to the sea from the beach just next to our hotel. Some waves were higher than us, which tried to throw us back to the beach. We didn’t realize the time passing and it was almost 1 pm when we came out of water. It was time for us to pack our bags and check out from the hotel. Few friends wanted to buy souvenirs and there was a shop closer to hotel on the main road.
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Breakfast made a really good impression on us that we went to the Ranga’s Beach Hut for the third time to have Rice and curry for the Lunch. They had a tasty fried fish dish, which we ordered extra just because it tasted better. It was few minutes passed 3pm when we bid farewell to Arugambay and started our drive back to Ampara through Siyambalanduwa. There was a herd of Elephants near the Lahugala tank, so that we took  a break to add some photos to the memories. We all reached Ampara around 5 pm and my friends went towards Kandy after having a good cup of good bye tea.

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Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari

MapCrew : 3

Transportation : MRT, Taxi

Duration : One Day

 

It was around 1.30pm when we left the Jurong Bird Park. (Read about my visit to Jurong Bird Park). We took a taxi to the Singapore Zoo which we felt the quickest way to reach there. As you may know, there are three adjacent parks called Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari. All three parks were designed in a way that visitors can cover the entire park by foot, but they include a tram ride or a boat ride to boost the attractiveness. The ride may cover all the important parts with a quick glance through the animals, but it may not cover the entire park. So we decided to walk around the Singapore zoo without using their tram ride, then walk around the river safari exhibits before going on the boat ride and only go on the tram ride in Night Safari so that we could go back to our hotel before midnight.

Each having many varieties of species related to there themes. We started with Singapore zoo. It felt bit “not much” organized as the Jurong Bird park, but definitely one of the well planned zoos. We took a copy of the Singapore Zoo map and started to cover the exhibits clockwise. There were a group of Otters in the begging. They were cuddling with each other to find the perfect position for a nap!
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Then we met Malayan Tapir, Siamang, Babirusa and Pygmy Hippo. Highlight of that section was the White tiger. They were resting in the far most corner of the cubicle.

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Suddenly we remembered that there was a show in the park map called “Rain forest Fights back” at 2.30pm. SO we ruched to the location though it was already 2.45pm. The venue was almost full, but we managed to squeeze in to a less crowded row of seats. The show included a large yellow Python, White peafowl and many other small animals. They always highlighted there natural behaviors with what they did in the show. Then we went to the “Primate Kingdom” and “Wild Africa”. Though we almost covered every animal in the zoo, we had to rush through certain parts so that we don’t miss the river safari.
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It was around 4.15pm when we finished, and rushed to the River Safari area as there was a notice saying the boat rides will be closed after 5.30pm (Map of the River Safari). We had to walk through many exhibits to reach the Boat Safari area. They have created specific environmental conditions replicating major river of the world.  Just after the exhibit “River Wonders”, they have created “Mississippi River”, Then “Congo River, “Nile River”, “Ganga River”, “Mary River” and “Mekong River”.
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Then we reached to one of the most popular section of the park, the home pf Pandas. There were few Red Pandas and Two Giant Pandas nibbling bamboo. There weren’t much crowd at that moment so we were able to leisurely take a good look at them.
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Then we hurried to the River Safari Cruise, Boat Dock to find out that they have started the final safari of the day few minutes before. It was 4.45pm but they said they have closed the section. It was a big disappointment for me as we could have skip the walking part and start the boat cruse first, If we knew they are closing early. We then walked out of that section with disappointment. The Amazon river Quest Boat Ride was closed too, but we could see animals from the walking path. Finally we reached the “Amazon Flooded Forest” which is a close to nature home for many native species of Fish and Amphibians. “Giant River Otter”, “Freshwater Stingray” and “Electric eel” were the highlights. The multi storied exhibit with “Manatees” and “Arapaimas” caught the eye of many visitors. We spent about a half an hour there and walked in to the “Night Safari” location around 6.30pm.
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We bought tickets specifically for the 7.30pm (the earliest) Night Safari Tram ride when we were purchasing in the morning. There was a lengthy queue even for that 7.30 pm ride. We quickly went through the Night Safari Map, but decided only to go on the Tram ride as we had to work on the next day morning. While we were waiting, few performers came on to a stage nearby and started a fire show. It was magnificent, seeing people dance with fire and at last eating it! We only had to wait for around 15 minutes after the fire show. We were directed towards a Tram with four seats in a row. Felt bit crowded at the first, but the feeling faded away as the tram started to move. Sadly, my fixed focus lens wasn’t enough to capture the animals in a distance at dark background. We could see them perfectly with the naked eye, so I turned off my camera. There were a lot of animals in four main sections. “Fishing Cat Trail”, “Leopard Trail”, “East Lodge Trail and “Wallaby Trail” are the fur route covered by the Tram Ride. We saw an Ice Cream shop in the main entrance after the ride and decided to taste. I had received 10 SGD discount from Uber Singapore, so we used an Uber Cab back to “Broadway Hotel” in Little India around 10pm.
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Jurong Bird Park

MapCrew : 3

Transportation : MRT, Taxi

Duration : One Day

 

When I got to know I have to travel to Singapore for an official matter, I did a quick search to know what to see and what to do there. Many blogs and previous travelers recommended the Singapore Zoo among the top 5 places to visit in Singapore. But the problem was time. As many said it will take more than 3 hours to cover the zoo and another 5 hours or so for the River Safari and Night Safari, I had to find a full day during the stay. Luckily there was a weekend,  which Saturday was already allocated for a group visit to Universal World, But Sunday was free.

Many had visited Singapore before in our group, so they have seen the zoo. Hence I decided to go alone initially, but found two friends interested in joining the trip. My idea was to get the maximum out of the full day, so I boldly decided to go for all four attractions “Jurong Bird Park”, “Singapore Zoo”, “River Safari” and the “Night Safari”. We took the North East Line MRT from “Little India Station” to “Outram Park” and East West Line MRT from there to “Boonlay” Interchange. Then we asked from an information counter about the directions to get a bus, The kind lady there reminded us that we will be needing the exact amount of change in cash in order to use the bus without the prepaid travel card. There was 194 Bus which goes directly to the Jurong Bird Park just outside the MRT Station, and we were able to collect required amount in coins for the bus ticket! 😀

When I searched online for information about these park, zoo and safaris, found out that all parks are planned in a way that you have to walk the full circle to cover the entire attraction but all of them have a tram ride or a boat ride to get a quick glance at them within short amount of time. As I wanted to see them all, I decided not to use the tram rides in Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Zoo.

We arrived at the Park around 9.30 am and hurried in to the ticket counters as it was starting to getting crowded. We brought Tickets for the all four parks (There was a big discount if you are buying tickets to the all four parks at once, Tickets are Valid within a week of the date of purchase) for 69 SGD per person. We took a minute to see the Jurong Bird Park Map and started from the Penguin Coast. A group of penguins were swimming and playing in an open pool near a model of a large ship. I found out that they are a special species of Penguins that live in a bit warm weather.
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Then we went to the “World of Darkness” featuring different kinds of Owls. There was a special request from the zoo to remain quiet there as noise may disturb those sleepy birds. The zoo have tried to create the best natural living conditions, where owls were harder to spot among close to nature backgrounds.
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We got to know that a bird Show called “High Flyers” will be there at Pools amphitheater from 11.00 am, which was located next in our route. But as there was around 30 minutes more, we decided to visit “Heliconia Walk” first. The path directed us towards a small hill, where many small colorful birds were displayed. That area wasn’t crowded as all visitors might have been waiting for the bird show at pools amphitheater. Then we walked to the “Royal Rumble” passing the “Wetlands” where different types of cranes lived.
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“Royal Rumble” was home to couple of bird species with attractive feathers and colors. peafowls and many other birds (I can’t recall their names) with feather crowns were resting under the shades of shrubs. After that we hurried back to the pools amphitheater for the “High Flyers” Bird show.
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The theater was filled with visitors and luckily we found a free space just in the middle to sit. Soon the show started with large colorful birds flying over just above our heads. They had trained them to catch fruits on the flight and fly through rings etc. The narrator always explained something related to their natural behavior with each activity birds did. It was very informative as well as attractive. The show ended with few dozens of birds, just hanging around with visitors near the stage for a photo shoot!
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Our Next stop was “Hornbills and Toucans” and “Window on Paradise”. There were many informative displays about Hornbills and their lifestyle. Many Hornbills with colorful beaks were there but the steel netted cages blocked my camera view.
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“Birds of Prey”, “Jungle Jewels”, “Bird Discovery Centre”, “Wings of Asia”, “Dinosaur Descendants”, “Swan Lake” and “Waterfall Aviary” were next in our route. The whole setup was in a close to nature way, creating a healthy atmosphere for the resident birds. Birds living freely inside the Aviary was something attractive.
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“Pelican Cove”, “Flamingo Lake” and “Riverine” were our last sections to visit before deciding to have lunch in the nearby Pizza Hut outlet. The food was tasty but only afterward we realized that there is a place called “Hawk Cafe” which we could have tried. Soon as the lunch was finished, we rushed to the Taxi Stand and left around 1.30 pm to “Singapore Zoo”.
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