The Urban Wanderer

Crossing Borders ~ Bridging Cultures ~ Traveling Responsibly

Visiting an Elephant Sanctuary and Blessings from a Buddhist Monk ~ What more could you ask for?

This post is originally from February 28, 2017


This is the view from a look-out in Ella. It was a cloudy morning, but still absolutely stunning!
There are hundreds of ornate Hindu Temples that dot Sri Lanka’s countryside.
Sunday we wound our way back down the mountains to normal elevation where we happily felt the warmth from the tropics once again. Our accommodation was a tent on the edge of Udawalawa National Park. We were supposed to go on another safari once we arrived but there have been torrential rains the previous day so unfortunately it was cancelled.  Instead we played cards and watched the peacocks strut past us with their feathers in full display. When we were cleaning up the cards one of the girls went to put them back in the box…and out popped a scorpion who clearly thought it was his new home. Yikes!
 After spending a night roughing it in our tents we were all more than happy to move on to the next stop, which just so happened to be a 5 star hotel on the beach! They upgraded our tour after we booked last year which definitely is an added bonus. On the way however, we did so much which made for another wonderful day. 

Our first stop was the Elephant Transit Centre just on the outskirts of the Udawalawa National Park. This facility is one of the most reputable in the world, as it has rehabilitated hundreds of orphaned elephant calves. It is located on the edge of the national park so the elephants are free to roam in and out whenever they’d like. Feeding time is every three hours so the babies who are orphaned know to make their way to the enclosed feeding centre. They are tracked and monitored, and have had countless successes where grown elephants are accepted back into herds and go on to live a normal elephant life. We arrived just in time for the 9am feeding and holy balls they were SO CUTE! The elephants wait at the gates and the trainers let about 10 in at a time. The baby elephants literally run to the trainers, all jostling for their position at the milk funnel. Once they’ve had their quota of milk they move on and let the next bunch through. There was one older elephant who was injured and had a brace on his leg. It was so sad to see him limping but also super amazing because without this rehabilitation centre this elephant surely wouldn’t survive. I could have seriously watched them for hours!!!

The elephants waiting get into the rehabilitation centre
The stampede run to get to the feeding centre
Look at how tiny these guys are!
And this is the bigger one with the leg brace

Next on the agenda was a quick stop in the city of Galle and a tour of the 16th century fort that was built by the Portuguese and later occupied by the Dutch. Galle was pretty badly hit by the 2004 tsunami and because of the Fort, it saved much of the city’s structures. 

Galle’s lighthouse in the Fort
The brilliant view from the lookout

Our guide, Sam lives near Galle and he was kind enough to take us back to his village so we could meet with the local Monk and spend time at the Buddhist Meditation Centre. We clearly were the main event for the village as all the children came out to greet us and see all of us ‘whities’ in the flesh! It was so sweet because Sam’s entire family was there and seeing his beautiful, smiling children made my heart so full. 

Here we followed the monk with the offerings

We had the honor of practicing with the monk and participating in a religious ceremony. It first started with us following in a procession after the Monk. Some held offerings and those who held the offerings were also followed by a local who held a fancy umbrella to protect it. There was chanting and singing and to be honest I had tears in my eyes the entire time because I just felt so honored to be a part of this surreal experience. We had to walk in bare feet (but on a long piece of fancy fabric similar to what we’d see as a red carpet) to the area where the Buddha statue stood. Once there we sat and listened to the Monk who explained the Buddhist teachings. It all had to be translated by Sam so it was a little long and repetitive … I loved being there but my A.D.D definitely kicked in and I couldn’t help have my mind wander and watch the roosters strut by instead. Eventually we sat there in silence to meditate (as well as sweat like a mofo – covering up in +35 temperatures was a struggle for me). At the end the ceremony the Monk blessed us by pouring water in our hands in which we’d drink and pour over our heads. Then he wrapped a string around our wrist while chanting a blessing. Before and after he did this we would bow down to him with our hands in prayer on our forehead and heart.


Getting the string wrapped around my wrist with a blessing

Leaving the village was really emotional. There were so many people smiling and waving goodbye to us. We were the first group of ‘whities’ they have ever had at the Centre and I just feel so honored to have been accepted and let in to this sacred place.

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check outG Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

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sanctuaryVisiting a Meditation Centre

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