Gal Oya experience: boat safari on the Senanyake SamudraBack
The Senanyake Reservoir – the largest body of water of its kind in Sri Lanka and home to huge herds of wild elephants – is incandescent with color at sunset. Sharp ribbons of shell-pink and king-coconut-orange shift seamlessly from sky to water. In the cooler hours before the sun goes down, Asia’s gentle giants are on the move and an onlooker passing by boat might chance a peak at them as they shuffle out of the shade of the trees and down towards the banks of the water. As evening descends over the tank, these elephants can sometimes be seen swimming gracefully between the archipelagos of islands that aggregate the Senanyake reservoir. The reservoir itself was commissioned to be built by its namesake DS Senanyake, Sri Lanka’s first prime minister following independence. Fringing the edges of the Gal Oya National Park, the area is home to a diverse range of birdlife, reptiles and mammals. A cruise across the tank’s placid waters is a unique and serene way to enjoy the rich biodiversity that this reservoir is known for.
The naturalists at the lodge will give you a briefing on recent sightings on the Senanyake Reservoir and then leaving the lodge in a comfortable 4×4 jeep, you will make your way towards the reservoir. The drive takes around 45 minutes, but it’s a smooth drive offering beautiful views of the surrounding scenery and you may even see some wildlife on your way. Once you arrive at the pier you will climb into a small covered boat and set out onto the reservoir. The calm waters of the Senanyake Reservoir make for a very relaxing boat ride. You can expect to see plenty of birdlife, both migrant and endemic and for the most part you are unlikely to see any other tourists, giving you the ideal opportunity to be alone with nature. If you are really lucky you may even see elephants swimming from shore to shore or crocodiles bathing in the shallows. The boat ride will take approximately 3-4 hours and if you chose to visit in the afternoon, you’ll catch the sunset. Your naturalist will provide an in-depth and nuanced running commentary on the history of the area and the wildlife you’ll encounter. And to top it all off, you’ll stop half way through on a deserted island to enjoy a hot cup of masala tea served with delicious homemade shortbread – a tea break offering simply unbeatable surrounding views.