Bill Oddie's most excellent adventure in Sri Lanka

On assignment for BBC Wildlife Magazine, Bill Oddie gives blood to the rainforest, meets some familiar feathered friends, experiences the ‘Rainforest Rainbow’ and has four game drives in which to find a leopard…

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Bill Oddie's adventure in Sri Lanka article spread

On assignment for BBC Wildlife Magazine, Bill Oddie gives blood to the rainforest, meets some familiar feathered friends, experiences the ‘Rainforest Rainbow’ and has four game drives in which to find a leopard…

 

I am alone, it is dawn and I’m in the lodge’s dining area.

We arrived last night in the dark, and all I know is that I’m in the middle of a forest called Sinharaja. It is slowly getting lighter and I can now see some trees. Nothing but trees, in fact. To the left, to the right, below, above and beyond.

 
It’s as if the land is enveloped in a gigantic leafy duvet, and it’s steaming like an England scrum on a chilly day at Twickenham. I can see no sign of active life. Typical rainforest!
 
Rain or cloud?
 
Or maybe it’s not rainforest. Maybe that’s not steam, maybe it’s cloud. Just as I realise that I don’t know the difference between rainforest and cloud forest, a male voice says, “We call this Forest View.” Can’t argue with that.
 
“Is it rainforest or cloud forest?” I ask. For a moment the man is perplexed, and then he explains, very slowly, as if to a child, “First, the cloud, then the rain.”
 
“Aaah!” I exclaim as if enlightened. My mentor then utters the words he knows every tourist wants to hear. “Later, maybe sun.”
 
My host shuffles off, and  I listen to the calls that are typical of jungly habitats the world over. There is always a bird that sounds like a Clanger, and another that sounds as if it is laughing. I can hear both but see neither.
 
The truth is that first light in this forest – rain or cloud – can’t hold a candle to a British dawn chorus. My mind wanders to the New Forest in May, as somewhere a bird chortles mockingly.
 
Name that tune
 
I find it frustrating to hear calls and songs and not have the faintest idea which birds are responsible. I scan the vista of trees and mist, and, suddenly, the first winged creature of the day flaps slowly across the valley. 
 
A butterfly. Not one of those huge, luminous blue butterflies that you are supposed to see in tropical places, but something small and yellowish, rather like a brimstone, only – well – duller. It disappears into a treetop. So far, I’m not overly impressed.
 
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