At Wild Coast Tented Lodge, we have 3 foreign interns gaining experience at the parks in and around Yala. Here is their account of their journey so far.
Our names are Dom, Grace and Lauren and we are all from not-so-sunny England. We first met while studying for and obtaining our FGASA qualification at Bhejane Nature Training in South Africa. We joined Wild Coast Lodge at the end of last year as their first batch of intern rangers and have been living in Sri Lanka since (about 7 months now).
It immediately felt as if we were at home – the staff and locals are exceptionally hospitable and humble. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country, and we really feel part of it. Every day in the bush brings something different and we are always learning something new. Sri Lanka is a treasure trove when it comes to unique and diverse flora and fauna, be it tiny insects or massive elephants. Being exposed to this array of biodiversity is something we have relished as we want to gain as much knowledge as we possibly can. Spending so much time out in the bush has added to our knowledge on animal behaviour which we have used to offer better quality sightings to our guests on safari.
Our time with Resplendent Ceylon so far has been incredibly exciting and eye-opening. As this is our first stint guiding full-time professionally, we feel lucky to work with a highly-commended company. Although it’s only been 7 months, our understanding of internal business functions has deepened extensively, as we feel aligned with the internal business values. Furthermore, Wild Coast Lodge’s clientele is premium guests that look for nothing below excellence. Working with guests of this nature demands we put our best foot forward every single day; we have learnt to be meticulous when forming our guided experiences, striving to provide the best possible quality experience to our guests.
The best part is that guiding has allowed us to interact with people from a wide range of ages and cultures. It has enabled us to make valued friends and connections, all sharing the same ethos and interest in the natural world. We believe that having studied prior to this has aligned us perfectly for this role. Wild Coast has given us the freedom to showcase and mould our own distinctive guiding styles, skills and qualities. We have learned to tailor-make our safaris to every single guest’s needs and maximise guest satisfaction. During our stay, it’s not just us who have been learning. Our previously-garnered knowledge and skills, from learning about primate behaviour to teaching English, have been shared amongst the team and also within other departments.
We are excited for our remaining months here, and we hope to maximise the experiences and knowledge gained as much as possible. We are also looking forward to the up-and-coming leopard research centre that will be built on property. This will ensure that we are able to identify, research and locate wildlife that is more active during the night-time including animals such as Leopards, Rusty Spotted Cat, Jungle Cat, Porcupine and Fishing Cat. In addition, we hope to get involved at Wild Coast Tented Lodge’s sister properties Cape Weligama and Tea Trails whilst concomitantly improving their wildlife experiences. Moreover, we will take full use of the opportunity to explore such a beautiful country.
We have been fortunate to witness many fascinating aspects of nature, but we thought we’d highlight each of our favourite sightings in Yala:
Dom: “We arrived at a vast open plain while on the search for leopards and came upon a large breeding herd of elephants. After around 30 minutes of watching the babies play with each other, the demeanour of one of the adult females changed. She turned to face our jeep and slowly started to walk towards us, with a very young baby in tow. I could tell from the Elephant’s behaviour that she was in no way being aggressive, but merely being inquisitive. She came right beside the jeep and gently touched the side with her forehead. She was extremely relaxed and genuinely curious. As our driver began to move off to let them pass, the very young baby plucked up the courage and reached out its trunk and brushed the wheel arch, as if to wave goodbye. It’s hard to forget those very friendly ladies!”
Lauren: “It was while I was on one of my quieter drives. The safari jeep stopped at a waterhole to take in a lazy herd of buffalo and some foraging wild boar. Upon stopping, the boar moved off and disappeared into the bush. However, around five minutes later, something else appeared in the same spot – a huge crocodile! It carried a portion of carcass within its jaws and was closely shadowed by the boar that had previously vanished into the bushes. To add to his line of escorts, a sedentary buffalo came to see what all the fuss was about. The poor hungry croc gave up on its journey to the water and laid down whilst it was sniffed and prodded from all angles. Eventually, the buffalo grew bored and moved away. This gave the sneaky croc the chance to escape, and quickly dashed into the security of the water.”
Grace: “We were looking into a tranquil oasis of green at the edge of a monsoon forest, watching some monkeys and deer foraging in the distance. Suddenly, a chorus of alarm calls rattled the jungle and all of the animals fled. I immediately knew a predator was on its way. We quickly turned our grumbling engine off and listened intently. Soon, a large shape appeared out of the bushes. It was “Harak Hora” (“the cattle thief” in Sinhala). He is one of the largest leopards known in the world. All 100kg of him stood in the middle of the road staring right into our eyes… and then he began to prowl towards the jeep. Unexpectedly, he opened his enormous mouth to let out a loud growl that sounded like a saw. He was calling for a female and trying to locate her scent, whilst also marking his territory. For around half an hour afterwards, we managed to follow him through the jungle, trying to gain more insight into the life of this stunning nomad.”
All of us hope to see you soon at Wild Coast Tented Lodge – join us on a riveting journey, one that even we cannot get enough of, as two games drives in the bush are never the same!