There! There! I excitedly point my finger forward. Yes, we knew we would see elephants today. After all, it's the best time of year to spot wild elephants in Minneriya National Park. And yet I'm briefly surprised that there are real elephants in front. With my child's eyes wide open, I jump up in a jeep. My heart immediately jumps in joy and I can already say in advance: the Minneriya National Park will be one of my Sri Lanka highlights!
That's how it is when you do something for the first time. In this case: sees for the first time. Sure, as a child I saw elephants in the zoo. The adventurous stories of Benjamin Blümchen and his friend Otto have accompanied me to sleep for years. In Southeast Asia you can also see elephants that are kept as work animals.
But today I see them where they belong: in the great outdoors.
Searching for elephants with the jeep
We hadn't spotted any elephants on our jeep safari in Wilpattu National Park , so I'm now all the more excited when we rattle along the winding, ocher-colored path with our jeep. The vegetation around us is dense, but suddenly a huge flat plain opens up. And we see the first pachyderm herd. A peacock picks the ground calmly and even foxes watch the scene from a distance. But I only have eyes for the elephants.
This gathering in Sri Lanka is called "gathering". In the dry season between August and December, hundreds of elephants can be found in the Minneriya National Park, as there are still water reserves in the huge Minneriya Basin. And so we meet several herds that take a bath in the water or graze peacefully. Fun fact: an elephant eats about 200kg of grass, roots, fruits or leaves a day!
The elephant cubs, who weigh an impressive 100kg at birth, are protected by the elephant cows at every turn. We are even so lucky to see an elephant bull with tusks.
I am fascinated by these beautiful, meek-looking, gray giants. How they leisurely trot away in their herd, always keeping an eye on the young and in general: living with their own social order.
What resonates with me in addition to all the enthusiasm: the knowledge that humans and elephants come into conflict again and again. Illegal poaching, hunting for tusks, killing elephant cows to capture the young. The destruction of natural habitats that the elephants are pushing closer and closer to the local farmers - who want to protect their crops and have to defend themselves against elephants. And then the ignorant, if not indifferent, tourists who ride elephants or pay a lot of entrance fees in so-called zoo-like elephant orphanages.
We leave Minneriya National Park as the sun bathes everything around us in warm, golden evening light. A herd goes into the water again for a bath, we look at this peaceful spectacle with enthusiasm and one last time.
I try to internalize this mood: the calm atmosphere, the warm colors, the harmonious get-together of the many animals, the wide sky over an endless grass landscape.
It is one of those magical travel moments for which I want to keep opening my backpack to discover such spots in our world.
Many thanks to long-distance travel that made this trip possible.