For anyone who needs, I now have some email addresses and comments:
Uda Walawe Saman 071-8428604www.samangamage@
He is a park ranger. Very sharp eyes and very ethical as well.
Saw a fish eagle drinking just metres from the buffalo in the pool, all 4 species of eagles found in the park, crocs, spotted deer, buffalo, storks, elephants, including a tusker.
Minneriya & Kaudulla 0776891735 - Sujeewa.firstname.lastname@example.org
He has a very basic eco lodge within park grounds between Kaudulla and Minneriya where elephants do come through.
Very experienced, campaigned to get Kaudulla started, though I find for 1st time safari go-ers, unless you ask, not much information given on the animals. Must actively ask questions.
Great for avid photographers as he has taken some great shots himself and will position vehicle for the best light.
Advice given was no news about elephants being in Minneriya, so we went with his advice to Kaudulla. Some others in the group went to Minneriya and said they saw around 200? It's difficult to know who to believe.
Yala: Ajith 077 608 3144
He has 15 years' experience and his own spots in the park to go to, though will also try to get you a good spot in front of others if he can for the leopards. We advised him it's not our priority to chase the leopards.
We saw 2 leopards - one in the am in a spot no other vehicle went. But leopards wasn't the highlight for me. There was so much action between the different species at the waterholes. We saw a peacock dance, jackels up close and one chasing a crow off a carcass, 2 tuskers, a young bull elephant chasing the wild boars, croc swimming away, lots of sand pipers and ibis and storks, spotted and sambar deer, heard the purple-faced langur sound the alarm ...
Rekawa: Saman - 0777 902 915 - Contact person at project office
Thushara - 0770 723 553 - Another member of the conservation team
- I didn't contact them. Sad to say, I have heard that in the last season, crowds were allowed to crowd round the turtles, shining their lights, cameras going off, making noises. Even an incident where the turtle was not allowed to return to the waters for a photograph.
- Unless there is crowd control for visitors, this project isn't run ethically or sustainably.
Whale watching: Raja & the whales. He doesn't chase the whales nor take payment if no whales are sighted, though it's still good to pay some for petrol and food costs for the attempt. Didn't try Mirissa