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Walagamaba - the ill-reputed king of Kalagama -20110703_IMG_1645 | by Dhammika Heenpella / CWSSIP Images of Sri Lanka
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Walagamaba - the ill-reputed king of Kalagama -20110703_IMG_1645

After a successful drive around Kalawewa during the day, we spent our night in Kalagama which is about 10 kilometers off Kekirawa A9 junction.


The three of us along with our tracker Ananda (aka Ali Ananda), had the luxury of sleeping ‘tight’ in about 6’x6’ guard hut (massa) under starlight. The guard hut was built about 10-15 feet off the ground on the branches of a medium size tree which was located in an open paddy field bordering the Kalawewa.


The gusting wind and the amazing tales of the roaming pachyderms in the area made me a little uncomfortable as we were resting in the playground of a notorious man-killer elephant known as Valagamba. The details of human-elephant conflict certainly invoked a respectful fear of Valagamba on my mind. Some of Ananda's stories surely kept us excited while some made my night longer and colder.


The next day our priority was nothing but to find Valagamba - the ill-reputed king of Kalagama forests. Although we did not have a clue about Valagamba during the entire day, we were quite content to capture many other great moments offered by the picturesque Kalawewa. After searching for the loner for almost two full days, we finally received a phone call from a fellow tracker on Valagamba's whereabouts.


After 10-15 minutes into the bone-jerking ride, we spotted the king as the pale sun was burying into the silhouetted forest canopy.


In the fading light we closed in cautiously and traveled about 200 meters on foot in a path somewhat parallel to the beast. My heart kept reminding me that the line between bravery and the stupidity is almost indistinguishable, but the adrenaline to get at least one decent photograph was well encouraged by my partners in stupidity - Harsha (de Silva) and Sara (Saranga de Alwis).


As the monster was passing this small open forest patch (photographed above), we instinctively knew that it was the moment we were waiting for. But unexpectedly Valagamba stopped its movement and turned his massive head towards us - almost in slow motion. I was not sure how good its vision was but I felt my feet were numb when he locked its eyes on us for a good couple of seconds.


I agree with Rajiv (Welikala) as I have no doubt in my mind that Valagamaba has to be the king of the wild tuskers - at least in the North Central of the country. It is not because of his extraordinary size or the ill reputation it has got, but the majesty that only a king could possess.

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Taken on July 3, 2011