This is a three bus mission. First you board the bus on the main road in Mirissa to head to Matara, just ask any local where to go and stand. Once you arrive at the station in Matara there will be loads of buses and signs, just look for the one saying Embilipitity and ride it all the way (there is always several of the locals trying to help and always lead you in the right direction. Just make sure to double check with the ticket conductor). At Embilipity bus station jump on the last bus that says Unawalawa and just tell the conductor you are getting off at Undawalwe, they will drop you in town at the junction.
We stayed at B&B Guesthousefor 1500 LKR a night. Again, it was just a place to lay our heads before the Safari. The location was perfect as we walked from the bus stop, good wifi and a huge free breakfast. Also, make sure you do not book two nights as the safari finishes at around 9.30am and there really isn’t anything else to fill your day in with.
There is a few Westernised restaurants but plenty of local options in Udawalawe. Topped off with fresh fruit and veg stores and a wine shop. We stuck to the fresh local food 150 LKR for a vegetable kottu and Egg Hoppers for 40 LKR all made right in front of you.
Things to do
Safari: There are loads of places to do a Safari in Sri Lanka. We were debating over the two main safaris in the south, Yala National Park and Udawalawe National Park. We chose Udawalawe over Yala as from what we heard from both locals and tourists there are far less jeeps in the park, making it a better experience and a better environment for the Elephants. In order to do a safari, unlike most tourist places where you walk down the street and just choose a random tour agency to go through, they are mostly organised through your accommodation. This is both a blessing and a curse as you can’t really barter the price like you would on the street so it is hard to know if you’re getting a good deal however, it makes the experience very convenient as they pick you up from your hotel with all the other guests and drop you back. Once you arrive home most places will have breakfast waiting as well. Be sure to take water, snacks and a jumper to wear until the sun rises.
The next question is private vs. group? If you have the money and want to get the perfect picture I recommend going on the ‘private’tour. This is because you can move more freely around the jeep and get great pictures as it’s all about you. However, as we had a fun group of friends from the hostel, we chose to go on the group tour although, I believe we didn’t see as many elephants as people usually do. We paid 9,000LKR for both Bowen and I.
Elephant Orphanage: this is the other activity to do here. We didn’t go for it as we didn’t have the time and I also didn’t get the time to do my research. With any of the activities involving animals, always remember to do your research before to check if it really is the most ethical activity.
It was Buddhist New Years Eve so we were advised not to take on the buses as they would be packed. Instead we got a private transfer for 7,500 LKR from our guest house with three other people to Ella. If you did do the bus trip, take the bus to Wellawaya and then change for Ella bus here.
We stayed at Mohamads Homestay, a small single room on the side of the mountain. This place was 2,300 LKR per night and we got the best big breakfast cooked by his wife each morning as well as complimentary pots of tea each evening. Location was again amazing! The place was so close to town that we climbed up a little bush track to the train lines and strolled into town in 5 minutes! In terms of location, there was a lot of accommodation in the hills which are pretty far out of town so beware. The best location is either in Ella town and around little Adams Peak road or anywhere along the train line so you can wander in via the tracks. Again, if you are not concerned about location and don’t mind spending 300 – 400 LKR per tuk tuk ride and would prefer an amazing view. There are loads of places further away tucked into the mountain side that are perfect.
Majority of Ella’s restaurants are located along the one main road. I would suggest for a cheap and easy meal to eat at any of the roti shops or for a nice meal head to Ceylon Tea Factory. Breakfast or brunch after the morning hikes is easy, head to Starbeans Coffee for a smoothie bowl and great coffee. If you’re like us and used to Australian coffee always ask for it strong!
Things To Do
Nine Arch Bridge: Get up early for this one as this bridge draws a crowd. It is a pretty simple route to get there, go to the Ella Train Station, jump on the tracks and follow it until you reach the bridge! If you are staying at the other end of town closer to Little Adams Peak, there is a bush track to get there, just take a look on a map of ask anyone around and they’ll point you in the right direction. This takes about 30 minutes. Tip, on your way check the train timetable at the station and be there for when a train crosses the bridge.
Little Adams Peak: We were told by Mohamad to head to the bridge then take the bush track to the Peak and it’s a 3 hour round trip. We took this advice and didn’t think about time and that we would be climbing the hill in the hottest part of the day! Instead, if you have multiple days do each on different mornings or start your day at sunrise!
Scooter trip to Koslanda: We hired a scooter from 9-5pm for 1500LKR which is the most expensive scooter we have hired. Head out towards Haputale and take the scenic route all the way to Koslanda, just outside town is Diyaluma Falls. In Haputale you will also find Liptons Seat with an amazing view, this is where the original Liptons Tea comes from.
Diyaluma Falls: the 220m waterfall base sits on the road heading back to Ella however if you want the best view you must take the adventure to get to the top. To do so you will turn right back onto yourself in the town centre of Koslanda, head along Poonagala Road and after 15 minutes you will reach another split and it’s another 15 minutes from here where you will reach a village, keep following the road even though the road starts to deteriorate. Park on the side and slip through the fence and take the track in the direction of the falls, you may be able to see the worn track. After 2km of walking through the long grass downhill you will reach the stream that takes you to the peak of the waterfall. Do beware of two things, Elephants and people from the village. We had three children meet us when we parked the scooter, and told us they would take us for free. We tried to decline however that wasn’t communicated, so once we reached the bottom they tried to ask for 2,000 LKR which is totally ridiculous. We ended up giving them much less and said it was that or nothing as we did want to pay them for taking us all the way. To be honest, even though we declined I think we did need them as it is not easy to find. Just make sure you negotiate the price at the beginning.
Ravana Falls, Ella Rock and loads of tea plantations are all other things to do in Ella that we just didn’t get time for.