No wildlife excursion can be truly experienced unless you go on safari and Wilpattu National Park is no stranger to expeditions thus far and you can be sure that leopards will almost always make a grand entrance here. Jungle fowl scurrying along, peacocks on parade, a herd of spotted deer here and there, glimpses of barking deer… Crocodiles sunbathing, flycatchers catching flies and other insects, star tortoises and breathtakingly large monitor lizards, that keep you wondering what on earth they’ve been feeding on to get so big; elephants, make up only a few of the residents of Wilpattu. Located in the Northwest coast of the island, Wilpattu National Park is a wonder in its dry zone habitat for animal and plant life. The Park is easily accessible from Anuradhapura if travelling through the north central regions or from Puttalam on the western coast. February and October and considered the best months to visit.
Wild yet powerfully majestic, Yala National Park is leopard country and is believed to have the highest concentration of these apex predators on earth. If the thrill of a safari through the rugged, unmerciful bush sounds elephant enough, then here’s the call of the wild with its truest dose of candour. Moving on to the other love of the wilderness, the Asian elephant – a presence of sheer valour –amongst species of indigenous and migratory birds, ingeniously solitary reptiles, the crocodiles of course steal the show, and endemic plant life, are only a sneak peek into what’s in store. Alongside pockets of thick shrub there are expanses of barren terrain, and just beyond beckons the rush of the Indian Ocean. Yala National Park teems with as much fauna as there is flora, set within a land extent of over 370 square miles. With two separate main entrance gates, Katagamuwa and Palatupana, the Park is easily accessible from 6am to 6pm from the city of Kataragama. The Park is closed from September to mid October every year.
Kumana is well known for its wildlife and more so for its migratory and indigenous bird population. Sightings of changeable hawk eagles, painted and rare black necked storks, egrets, godwits, ibis and many more are possible by the many lagoons, and reflected in eyes of curious, wandering jackals. While on safari, watch out for the elephants, spotted, and sambhur deer. They too are quite active around watering holes like the Kumana Villu swamp, and in pockets of lush foliage. Kumana is situated in the eastern district of Ampara and is 12km south of Arugam Bay. There is a turn off just before the town of Panama, which leads to the National Park.
Home to scrub jungle, wetlands, lagoons, salt pans, sand dunes and a long stretch of coast, Bundala National Park’s terrain is blessed with many faces of landscape in unison with unlimited yet protected fauna. Known for its incredible spectacles of migratory birds, the Park is a great friend to bird enthusiasts from the world over. While glimpses of elephants are not as common as the crocodiles (estuarine as well as saltwater), much anticipated are sightings of deer, langurs, the tusky (not to mention a tad touchy) wild boar, and even the spotted fishing cat. Although Bundala National Park is a fairly small area of sanctuary, nearly 30 square miles, its diversity of species is rich and therefore can be a quick safari trip if you want to make the most of the island’s wilderness in a short space of time. Bundala is accessible via many coastal cities: Hambantota, Galle, Matara and also through routes from southwestern regions: Ratnapura, Pelmadulla and Embilipitiya. Opportunities to visit the Park span throughout the year, with December being the month for bird watching expeditions.
With just over 30 square miles, Minneriya National Park is a thrill-packed alternative to the more vast expanses of other wildlife sanctuaries. Made of grasslands, thick scrub, and the wildlife that roam their particular territory, the Park is fed by its giant reservoir which is also its life-blood, especially in the dry months of June through September, which are the best times to visit. A diversity of animals roams within the vicinity of the reservoir, as food and water grow scarce elsewhere in the Park. A must see spectacle is ‘The Gathering’ where countless herds of elephants congregate near the Minneriya reservoir. This is believed to be the highest number of elephants in one place, which is why it is a sight that is not to be missed. The Gathering is also known as the sixth greatest wildlife spectacle in the world and takes place between July and October. Also deer, toque monkeys, and even the occasional leopard, are part of the sightings at Minneriya National Park. Migratory and indigenous birds are usually seen making good use of the environment.
For the love of nature, for the love of those life-sized creatures that roam the scrublands of this considerable expanse of 119 square miles, Udawalawe National Park should not be missed. The Park is home to a population of over 400 elephants and the probability of seeing them while on safari is almost always guaranteed. The Walawe Reservoir is also encompassed within the Park, spanning over 3,000 hectares; it’s a favourite elephant hangout during times of water scarcity. Over 180 species of birds, the mugger crocodile and sightings of more reptilian, plant life and other mammals too, are abundant spectacles at the Park. Udawalawa can be accessed through the city of Ratnapura following the Pellmadula-Embilipitiya Road and the Park can be visited throughout the year. November to March is recommended for bird watching expeditions.
Approximately 265 kilometres from Colombo, lies a treasure by the name of ‘Maduru Oya.’ Established as a National Park of Sri Lanka under the Mahaweli Development project, the park provides a sanctuary to wildlife. However, that is not all. This destination posses a rich history in engineering and a lot of adventure with an army camp being situated there
Named after Sir Robert Wilmot Horton, British Governor of Ceylon in the 19th century, Horton Plains is a beautiful paradise of diverse visions and nature’s marvels. Known as the ‘Roof of the Island’, it contains the most extensive area of cloud forest in Sri Lanka. The Horton Plains National Park at an altitude of 2,100 metres above sea level and spread over 3,169 hectares, along with the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary and Knuckles Mountain Range comprises the Central Highlands World Heritage Site. The landscape is covered in a tropical cloud of forest or lush montane savannah grasslands known as ‘patana’. It’s almost an Eden where every perfect blessing of nature including exist in peace and tranquillity. A popular tourist destination in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, it is situated 165km from the capital Colombo.The plains provides excellent hiking tracks, which include the main circuit Nature Trail that takes the visitor through grand views of the Small World’s End, the Big World’s End, Baker’s Falls and Chimney Falls. The World’s End is the most dramatic finale to a long hike, with a 1,000 metre abrupt vertical drop, that would certainly make the faint hearted a bit dizzy. One can choose the more adventurous nature trails to Thotupolakanda and Kirigalpoththa as well. The Main Trail starts at Farr Inn, which houses the Horton Plains Information Centre. Only eco-friendly material is allowed to be taken into the park from the entrance. Plastic bottles must be brought ba
March to July is marked as Gal Oya National Park’s feast for the eyes. Boat and/or Jeep safaris make for a splendid late afternoon with its animals spread across 100 square miles of rich and unique landscape of grasslands, evergreen forests, elevations and depressions of rocky plains, and water bodies. Wildlife at the Park features toque and macaque monkeys, langurs, leopards, sloth bears, elephants, and over 100 species of birds, among many more inhabitants, like its butterflies. Via cities of Ratnapura, Pelmadulla and also through Wellawaya and Monaragala, the Park is easy to access.
A protected rainforest named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve for its rich biodiversity. Endemic and rare life forms of all species can be found here. Department’s office at Kaduwa.