After 10 hard-working months hopping around the globe my time was sadly at an end but, I’d had the experience of a life time. I’d met some amazing people and learnt heaps, both in terms of work skills and about myself. All the fantastic things I’d seen, done and eaten would be nigh on endless if I tried to list them; but I thought I’d just mention a few of the highlights, including those that may not have made it into the blogs. Continue reading
After 2 months of opening and closing the traps, catching water monitors and waging war against bait stealing rats we finally caught a fishing cat! Continue reading
As I sat in my little flat with all the electricity turned off and the steady dripping of water leaking through the ceiling, I knew it was going to be great at the study site later. It was nearing the end of April and the first of the rains had arrived. The rain is always joined by thunder and a fantastic amount of lightning. Houses are regularly hit by lightning out here and electrical appliances are fried – not surprising given the ‘interesting’ wiring I’ve seen – hence the reason everything was switched off. In fact, Continue reading
During my school days I used to love public holidays, an extra day off to do nothing was fantastic, but as an adult they’re just a pain in the arse. Sri Lanka is a country with 3 main religions (Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity) and it’s infuriating just how many holidays there are, and they’re definitely not conducive to work. In a space of approximately 6 weeks there have been two Poya (full moon) days, Good Friday, Sinhala and Tamil New Year, a random public holiday day and now May Day. Continue reading
Jeez this place was stunning and SO fancy, I felt like I clearly didn’t belong here. You could see straight through the vast hotel lobby to a decking area with a pool which was over-looking a deserted beach framed by palm trees. The sea was crystal clear and the sun was blazing in the bright blue sky, it was like a picture from one of those pretentious and expensive get-away magazines. I was in Galle, an hour or so south from Colombo and I was in search of exotic sea creatures.
You may remember from way back in November of last year that I mentioned a third study site named Biyagama; it was a patch of wetlands hidden just beyond the perimeter fence of an adjacent industrial estate. After previously having a few of the project’s camera traps moved by local people, we hadn’t been back for fear of any equipment that we may have placed could have been stolen. In order to address this the plan was to conduct an awareness talk with the locals but, until that could be organised we just toddled along to see how the site was doing. Continue reading
New accommodation always means new neighbours, they can be loud or keep to themselves, some you invite round and others invite themselves. Sometimes you get that neighbour that just never seems to leave and becomes more like a housemate. I currently have a few of those and there is a distinct language barrier that means the issue cannot be resolved, well I say language, it’s more of a species barrier really. Continue reading
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
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.