You’re watching Vagabrothers, and this is Sri Lanka. I’m Alex. I’m Marko, and we’re the Vagabrothers, brothers, vagabonds and your go-to guides for travel tips, inspiration, and vlogs on YouTube. In this series, we’re discovering the best of Sri Lanka: ancient cities, stunning nature, rich culture, and delicious food. In episode two we’re heading to one of Sri Lanka’s many national parks to get up close to the country’s most treasured animals: wild elephants. What’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the channel. Right now we are in rural Sri Lanka. We are in the cultural triangle, and we have a pretty awesome day lined up. It’s day two. We have left the city, and we’re about to go on a safari to meet some of Sri Lanka’s most magical, mythical animals, the elephant. But before we do that, we’re going to check out what life is like here in rural Sri Lanka. We’re going to do a little village tour and and get some food, and then it’s safari time. Driving here in Sri Lanka is pretty insane, but it all seems to work out. Okay, I think we’re here. Just hopped in a bunch of tuk tuks and forded a river to get to this village, and now we’re going to sample some local Sri Lankan cuisine with a local family. Traditionally, people would live in situations like this where they would have the family room and the cooking area right here in the kitchen where you would spend most of your time, but at night people would stay up in these treehouses. The reason they would stay in these elevated treehouses is Sri Lanka is home to thousands and thousands of wild elephants, and in the past there were even more elephants than there are now. So they would live in the house during the day , and then at night they’d spend their evenings up here out of the elephants’ reach, which would be safer than getting trampled because no one wants to get trampled by an elephant. Taking a little post-lunch nap. This jet lag is really kicking in… in a tree house? Now it’s time for a nap. This is not our tree house. She’s just finished splitting a coconut on essentially a spike that they placed in the ground. She’s using a manu, which is like a little miniature local version of a machete. We have a nice coconut full of meat, which will be used to make sambal, which is kind of like a sprinkle it on top of food, add peppers and spices and stuff, and it becomes this really delicious addition to any meal. But here we go. Bottoms up. It’s good. Earlier on the way here, we had a king coconut, which they use for drinking water. It’s almost purely water and the meat if there is any, is almost more like a gel, but this is very, very meaty and delicious. This is actually a replica of how people used to live kind of in earlier times. It’s a clay house. It’s got a thatched roof made of coconut palm fronds. There’s cooking going on here. I love the table. It’s really cool. It’s super simple. They just literally just took the clay and kind of grafted it onto the house. Got some rice here. Putting it onto a coconut leaf. Leaf…coconut? Banana leaf. Well, that was an excellent meal, but now it’s time for the main course of the day. We’re going on an elephant safari, but first we’ve got to get there. To the boat. I love it. It’s amazing. I love it, too. I actually do. It’s really hot, but luckily we have these amazing hats. They’re definitely saving us from the majority of the heat and the sun burns. We’ve seen some egrets. We’ve seen some monkeys. We’ve definitely seen a bunch of clowns, aka, all of us. It’s the latest rage, Milan. Oh you guys… elephants crossing the road. After many hours driving we have arrived at Kaudulla National Park. We’re in Central Sri Lanka. We’re here to see the Gathering, which is one of Asia’s largest wildlife spectacles. We’re going to pile into this big old Mahindra Jeep, and we are going to go on safari. I’m super stoked. This is one of the first times that we’ve been on safari in a very long time, and I can’t wait. I have heard that going on safari in Sri Lanka is in many ways superior to doing it in East Africa. The elephants here are super accessible. They go around the water, which makes it really easy for us to know where they’re going to be, when they’re going to be, so you can be very efficient. I’m pretty stoked. I love elephants. I’ve never been up close to an Asian elephant, actually. I’ve never been up close to an Asian elephant in the wild. Ding. It’s going to be good. I’m really stoked on this. Should be really cool. Words don’t even describe how excited I am to see elephants right now. Alright ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived. We’re at this lake in the middle of the park, and we are surrounded by hundreds of elephants. It’s incredible. This is the Gathering. This is the largest convergence of Asian elephants in the world. It’s one of Asia’s largest wildlife convergences, especially of mammals of this size but it’s just so cool to be surrounded by so many beautiful elephants, and they’re actually really close to you, as well. It’s super cool. I mean we are incredibly close to these elephants, and there are just hundreds of them. I think this is a lot closer than you can get in a lot of parts of the world like notably Africa where the elephants are actually a lot larger. Elephants have been super important in Sri Lankan culture. I think during the time of the Sinhalese kings, it was prohibited for any citizen to hurt or kill or enslave these animals. They were used by the government for transportation and even for executing prisoners, but then during the British time the British saw them as a pest, and so they put a bounty on the head of elephants, and there was one guy who killed thousands of elephants himself. Unfortunately, these days because the population has expanded and cities have grown, humans and elephants are coming increasingly into conflict. A hundred and fifty elephants die every single year when they accidentally wander into a human’s farm and trample their crops. So there’s been a number of efforts try to rehabilitate the animals that have been suffering as a result. But right now it’s just beautiful to see this many elephants wandering through the wild. I feel like my heart is full right now because I’ve never seen elephants out in the wild like this grazing, a herd of them this large. It’s really cool and watching them interact with each other is really fascinating, and there’re babies everywhere, which is so adorable. Sri Lanka has 12 national parks; this is one of them. It’s got 52 protected areas that account for over 12% of the island’s landmass. So this is just one of many places that you can see wild elephants and other wildlife here in Sri Lanka. This is just really, really spectacular just to be chilling here, and we’re starting get some colour in the sky. There’re baby elephants everywhere and all you can hear is just chewing masticating. Well, that was a great day. I think one of the reasons we came to Sri Lanka, why we were interested, because we heard this rumor the country had thousands of elephants walking through the wild, and today we actually got to see that, and it was just as incredible as it sounded when we first heard about it. I think there’re many reasons we wanted to come here, but one of them was the fact that it’s just such a wild diverse and extremely beautiful country and so getting out there, doing the safari, out on the boat before that, checking out village life… It’s just been a really enjoyable day in rural Sri Lanka and this is how I want to travel moving forward. You mean wearing a Lotus hat? Yes, I want to wear hats made out of leaves. I want to travel on boats. I want to go on safari. I want to see elephants and I want to do that on repeat. Today was one of the best days of travel I’ve had in a long time. It was great, and I’m stoked that we got to do it. But stay tuned because tomorrow we’re going off to explore some of the ancient history of Sri Lanka, including some incredible places, mysterious ruins, abandoned cities, Unesco World Heritage Sites, two of them. So stay tuned for that. In the meantime, remember if you enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs- up, subscribe and turn on notifications if you haven’t already, and stay curious, keep exploring, and we’ll see you out on the road. Peace. We’re going to go to sleep. We’re tired. We’re exhausted. Got to go to bed.