For someone who is serious about birds in Sri Lanka, Mannar is a destination you will visit again and again. My first trip to this beautiful place was covered in 'The Extraordinary Mannar' post. The road from Mannar to Jaffna through Pooneryn is a must take as it goes through flat, arid but rich birding sites. Its a beautiful drive. This blog post is about that super adventure.
If you leave Colombo at 3 AM in the morning, getting to Medawachiya is only a 2.30 - 3 hour journey as the roads are very good, clear of any traffic and very well marked. However, from Medawachiya to Mannar should be a much more cautious affair. Although the roads are good, it cuts through a lot of jungle patches and spares human settlements. The main danger are the cows on the road but quite often you have wild animals on the road as well. So for both their and your safety, its essential you slow down to about 50 kmph to cover the 84 km from Medawachiya to Mannar. Still, if you leave early enough, you can arrive in Mannar just in time for the first light. What awaits you during the right time to visit Mannar is an amazing sight.
Greater Flamingo's in their hundreds have gathered on to the Mannar salt flats this year. Although not a guaranteed nor regular gathering, Mannar from December to March is one of the places which these majestic birds tend to gather. And this year, this was the only location they have come down to.
This particular morning, the light was not great due to gloomy conditions. Still what a great experience of colours, sounds and behaviour.
As usual #Vankalai has rejuvenated it self after rains and the marshes are hosting large flocks of water birds. Although some of the duck species were not to be seen, the marshes are busy as usual with the migrants and the residents.
Among the migrants, this year the Glossy Ibis have come down in numbers.
2nd day of my stay in Mannar was dedicated to two other key areas one must visit when in Mannar for birds. The Giants Tank sanctuary is one of them. This jungle paradise surrounding the Giants Tank is about 30 mins drive from Mannar. Its a beautiful place but as its not a popular national park, finding your way inside the park is a bit tricky. There are many narrow roads and having a 4x4 which you can put to rough use will help to get inside the jungle.
This year, large flocks of Rosy Staring's have come down to the north west. There were many flocks inside the jungle patches having a feeding frenzy.
Towards the evening, these noisy visitors form large flocks of thousands and dance around in the sky just before sunset. However, before this dance begins, a quick bath to cleanup is a must.
One can find many other birds and unique flora within the Giants Tank sanctuary.
Another spectacle I came across are the millions of butterfly's who were streaming out of the jungle paths. These white butterfly's formed columns through the narrow jungle paths which finally congregated to a non-stop column of thousands of butterfly's. I don't quite know where they are going but its a sight to behold.
The same day evening, I headed towards Jaffna and the country that opened up is so beautiful and unique. The flat, open spaces stretch towards the horizon where large heard's of domestic cows roam the land.
For most part of the road from Mannar to Pooneryn, the trees on the side of the road are cleared. I believe its a consequence of the war where trees were cleared to ensure they cannot be used for roadside bombs. Thus, the predators who look for a vantage point, use the electric wire. One can find many of them looking down upon the vast plane from their vantage point.
After driving all the way up to Sangupiddi causeway which connect Pooneryn to Jaffna, I decided to turn back and head back to Mannar.
As usual, the sunset over the vast lagoons close to Mannar, to be specific in Vidithalathiw, were breathtaking. Thousands of Rosy Starlings were flying in synchronisation, getting ready to call it a perfect day while enjoying the last rays of the sun.
Next day promised even more adventures with the prospect of exploring Jaffna for the first time.