I am so glad to be back in Sri Lanka and eager to get down to work. I know I’ve harped on about the weather previously, but March over here is hot, so unlike last September—Dec. To avoid the hottest part of the day we would be arriving at our study sites either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. I didn’t mind in the least as I’d be back to doing what I loved. Continue reading
I know I’ve mentioned it before, on more than a couple of occasions, just how much I love tuk-tuks, so I thought it was about time I brought you into the fun-filled colourful little world of these ubiquitous and versatile three-wheelers.
As I have previously noted, tuk-tuks are adorably cheeky (unless you’re in the other vehicle they push in front of!), faster than a speeding bullet (in traffic at least) and prone to last-minute daring changes of direction (their drivers would do amazingly well on the hardest tracks of Mario Kart). Continue reading
During the last few years the Urban Fishing Cat Conservation Project has focused on the science of conservation i.e. finding the cats to begin with, and attempting to catch and collar the tricksey devils to understand their movements and behaviour in an urban environment. Although this is still ongoing, 2016 is the year for Awareness and Education and every opportunity is taken to publicise the work of the project – even if it takes us to some odd venues. One such opportunity popped up the other day. Continue reading
Upon entry to Sri Lanka you’re granted a 30-day visa, though, like in most other countries, you can stay for up to 3 months – but only if you submit another application to the Department of Immigration. I’d learnt from previous experience that Sri Lanka loves administration; every piece of paperwork has to be scrutinised by at least 5 other people besides the official you originally handed in to. With this in mind, and after last year’s trip, I knew that I could expect to spend a minimum of three hours there. At least this time I had the advantage of knowing where to go and how the whole palaver worked. Continue reading
Unlike my last time in Sri Lanka when I’d stayed in hostels, this time around I would be staying in a little self-contained flat. Although hostels are cheap places to stay if you’re travelling, their rates are still much higher than local prices; after all, white people do sweat money – or so I’m told. Continue reading
I have no idea how some people manage to look so damn glamorous at the airport; they seem to float around in fabulously exotic holiday clothes without a care in the world. As well as being uncomfortable, boredom-inducing purgatories, I find airports and planes freezing so I take the Eskimo approach and bundle up in as many layers as possible: I become the Michelin woman of warmth! I may look like I’m about to head out on a trek up Everest (I have my walking boots on as well) but it means that I have spare space in my backpack for souvenirs and pressies. Forward planning, my friends! Continue reading
As I sat on my return flight to England, next to the rudest and grumpiest old couple you could ever have the misfortune of sitting next to, I thought about the last three months and wondered what I’d learnt from being immersed in a different culture.
The first thing that struck me was how friendly Sri Lankans are. Despite the English being known for their politeness, that politeness doesn’t seem to extend to being friendly. The easiest way to illustrate my point is the example of walking down the road. As you walk about in Sri Lanka, if you make eye contact with anyone they automatically smile which is lovely, the universal good feeling generator. However, if you wander about back home the only people that will smile at you seem to be dog walkers and old people.
The last day of my epic birthday week had arrived and once again it began with an amazing breakfast, which was then followed by a tour around the plantation. The estate was vast, there were poly tunnels upon poly tunnels. It was interesting to see the growing process from seed to shipment and learn all the intricacies involved. I’ll confess I did keep getting distracted by random bugs; what can I say? I’m clearly part magpie, movement and shiny things distract me.
The final part of my epic birthday celebrations were in the hands of Anya’s fabulous Mum, Mihiri. Although a group of us had been out for a joint birthday meal before she left, Anya still felt guilty about being in Nepal during my birthday, so she’d badgered her Mum into organising something. I was nervous. I had no idea what was happening or where we were going – I don’t do well with surprises. All I knew was that I was being picked up at 4:30am.
After returning to Colombo from my two fantastic reptile-filled days, I had a short day’s project work to complete. It only consisted of checking the few camera traps Anya and I had placed before she left for Nepal. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to report: some dead batteries, 4 photos of a Southern coucal at the wetlands and the usual civets, mongoose and monitor lizard at the other site. Although I did see my first-ever Sri Lankan snake – a species of water snake. With that done, my excitement increased hour upon hour as, the next day, I would be visiting Yala National Park in the hopes of seeing a jungle cat and a sloth bear.
As a child I had always wanted to spend my birthday in the garden playing games and having a bouncy castle or going to the zoo. Unfortunately I was born at the end of November and lived in England! This year however, for the first time ever I would be having a warm birthday and the possibilities were endless.
When you stay in a hostel you go for dinner with anyone and everyone. It’s a chance to swap stories, have some laughs and acquire info about which places to visit and which ones to avoid. It also beats sitting on your own like a lemon, except for those days when you really want a bit of peace and quiet. So it goes without saying that you should be free to choose when you go to dinner, where, and who with. Or not. Not if you are hounded by the Dinner-Going Terminator. Remember him? He cropped up in my earlier piece ‘Snow White and the multiple roommates’.
My objective whilst in Sri Lanka was to learn vital field skills and to, hopefully, contribute to the conservation of fishing cats. I didn’t fly for over 12 hours, enduring a screaming spawn of Satan, just on a jolly. I hadn’t planned on any travelling around the island either, which was a shame, but my budget was tight and gallivanting off on your own is expensive, even out here. That’s not to mention the massively differential tariffs in force.If you’re a foreigner you get charged over 10 times as much as the locals, and my blinding un-tannable skin prevented me from even attempting to blend in. Continue reading
My Facebook feed is constantly filled with wildlife updates, usually small cat and vulture related (big surprise?). So some time ago, when I saw a post about a cat conference with a rusty spotted cat as the cover animal –I thought ‘Oooo small cat that’s exciting’. I didn’t look too closely, as it was bound to be in some far-flung country that I wouldn’t be able to afford to get to, so I didn’t think any more about it.
One of the main things I’ve always found incredibly exciting about wildlife conservation is the collaring of animals. Firstly, it is the chance to see your study animal up close, which for many people is a rare thing, and secondly, it is a massive insight into where the sneaky gits go. I couldn’t believe my luck when Anya informed me she had another GPS collar and that we would be setting some trap cages in order to catch and collar a cat. Eeeeeeiiiiii! I had to rein in my excitement, I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as ‘here kitty, kitty!’
Wildlife conservation is a funny thing. People are all for protecting animals and saving the planet but rarely think past the cute fuzzy emblem. As the human population continues growing rapidly and parasitizing the world, more and more habitats are being destroyed leaving innumerable species under threat (I know! Quite a dark beginning for one of my posts, but it gets happier –I promise). Continue reading
Zoooooooom! Brrrrrrrrup! Beep beep beep! Brrrrrrup! Honk honk! Oh, the constant noise surrounding this damn hostel!! It gets a tad quieter after 11pm but it starts up again just before 6am, usually initiated by the insanity-inducing bread van. Imagine a chubby little brightly coloured tuk with windows filled with bready goodness. Cute, right? Wrong! Oh, so very wrong! In Sri Lanka everyone is competing to be heard, from the constantly screaming horns of the vehicles to the walking candyfloss man who rings a bell and shouts (just like the good old days during the plague). Continue reading
We had another study site to visit called Biyagama and I was told it was quite a tuk-tuk drive away, which was fine by me as I love them, I’d bring one home if I could. I suppose they reflect my nature, excitable and not all together there. Our tuk-tuk driver/ field assistant, Maduranga, finds my obsession with them highly amusing, especially when I become really animated if we drive past a tuk sales lot. I can’t help it, they’re adorable and they come flat-packed! It’s like an Ikea car!
Visiting another country is all about immersing yourself in the culture and, for a greed monster like me, that means the chance to scoff loads of new tasty food. My philosophy for discovering new dishes basically follows 1 rule, if you can’t pronounce it or have no idea what it is –then eat it! This has worked really well for me so far. Luckily for me I also have insider knowledge. Anya, my Sri Lankan friend and field work buddy, is also a food beast so when it comes round to lunch she knows just where to go. I seem to have the best of both worlds, guaranteed great food for lunch and I also get to explore places for myself when it comes to dinner time.
After finishing our urban habitat surveys we moved on to our second site, located outside central Colombo at some unpronounceable (Thalawathugoda) reclaimed wetland. Earlier in the year Anya had captured and collared a fishing cat that, due to his unfortunate habit of stealing chickens, had to be relocated and this was the area that was chosen: