Wasgamuwa National Park
A safari adventure in exploring the wild and an audience with the well-known giants of Wasgamuwa National Park admist the Dunuwila Lake, is what it’s all about while experiencing the best of this elephant territory. Even the elusive sloth bear has been known to be sighted at the Park. Nevertheless the journey has no shortfall in the diversity of wild encounters, as the abundance of ancient water tanks in and around the vicinity suggests. Located in within the districts of Matale and Polonnaruwa, Wasgamuwa can be accessed via the Kandy-Mahiyangana Road. Wasgamuwa National Park presents a climate that leans towards fairly dry, however the area does experience adequate rainfall seasonally as a part of tropical conditioning, therefore the best times to visit the Park is January through March.
Bundala 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.
Udawalawe National Park
National Park is an awe-inspiring site from which to experience Sri Lanka’s wilderness and unique wildlife. Along the border of Udawalawe reservoir, the park extends over 30,000 hectares with almost unparalleled diversity and a sheer number of animals. In 1972, this area was declared a national park principally to accommodate elephants that were displaced by the irrigation development under the Udawalawe reservoir. Today it is a paradise for the giant mammals. Visitors can grab a pair of binoculars and stay ensconced in a safari jeep to sight the large resident population of wild Asian elephants. Udawalawe is one of the best places for watching birds where species including Black-winged Kite, Asian Openbill, Black-capped Kingfisher, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Grey-headed Fishing Eagle and Brown Fish Owl can be seen. The vast open plains are a reward to predatory birds such as Sea Eagles, Brahminy Kites, and Black-shoulder Kites who watchfully soar across the sky as they await a prey. The park is also home to many vagrants such as White Wagtail, European Bee Eater, and European Roller. Udawalawe is a habitat for an abundance of exalting animals including sloth bears, sambar deer, wild boar and junglefowl. Count on your luck for you could even spot reclusive leopards strutting around the scrublands or hidden by foliage on trees. The blue waters of the Walawe river are abounding in shoals of fish and invigorates a distinct wildlife experience. Along th
Horton Plains National Park
Hiking, trekking, strolling… whichever you prefer, do it here. On this stretch of mountain plains over 2,000ft above sea level, mist shadows parade its panoramic foothills. But you can get to the Horton Plains before the mists. Between 6am and 10am is your best bet for catching up with the astonishing views surrounding a magical, almost infinite plummet at a plateau known as ‘World’s End’. Sights of tea plantations, villages dotting the landscape, and farther south up to the coast are all incredible to discover. Wildlife on the Horton Plains is diverse. Sambhur deer, leopard, wild buffalo and even the rare slender Loris live harmoniously in the cool climate. The Plains are also home to a varied species of plant life, in particular wild berries, strawberries and raspberries. Tundra, thick forest and rocky expanses are all part of the assorted demographics which make for a thrilling all round trekking experience. Horton Plains can be accessed from Colombo through Avissawella, and Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela towns. Recommended best times for visits is from January to March.
Marvellous Maduru Oya
Home to herds of elephants, deer, wild boar, bears, leopards, water buffaloes, species of monkeys, birds and fish, and endemic flora, the Maduru Oya National Park is a sight to behold. The drive through gravel paths shaded by rows of trees veils the fact that this National Park is situated in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, in the North-East. The National Park is a catchment area for the Maduru Oya reservoir. It is a landscape of emerald mountains, open savannah, still waters of little pools and flowing tributaries that showcase a verdant garden where animals enliven the view. Macaques and endemic purple faced-langurs create a raucous or lounge among the branches in troops, while elephants saunter in their usual leisurely motion. Maduru Oya National Park is a thrilling hive of activity at any time of the day, with so much to be explored, including history. A trip to the Park will not be complete without traversing through time, when kings built monuments and temples, which even currently exude an aura of awe. The Henangala cave temple believed to have been built in first century CE captures within its abode ancient tales that are worth reliving. The view from the rock temple is resplendent; the scenery in the evening is breathtaking – watch the elephants at water holes or simply enjoy the mesmerising scenery fading into the distance. There’s more history in the ruins of the earthen dam and sluice that was built somewhere during 276-301 BCE. And the best way to complete a trip to
With its string of hotels and guest houses, the Kuchchaveli Beach is a well sought out spot if you're looking for a beautiful beach to have a relaxing time. As you walk along the serene strip of soft golden sand, you will see sun loungers and umbrellas dotting the landscape with visitors relaxing under the bright sun while others explore their adventurous side with beach activities and water sports. Here at Kuchchaveli Beach, you will find a warm and peaceful environment that is definitely worth a visit.
A serene 45 minute drive from Jaffna’s bustling centre brings you to the idyllic Casuarina Beach, named after the fuzzy pine-like casuarina trees that line the long stretch of shore. The beach is popular with tourists and locals alike because of its bright white sand and shallow azure waters. Try and make it down in the early morning before the crowds arrive. If you want to really experience the beauty of the shallow seas track down a fisherman to drive you out on his boat. There are basic changing facilities and small snack stalls, but alcohol is prohibited on the beach. As with all Sri Lankan beaches do be careful if the sea looks rough – there are sometimes lifeguards but this is not a given.
Galle Face Green
With activities spanning from kite flying, to fishing, to football and beach volley ball to exercising on the Green lawn facing the blue, to jogging alongside the ocean, from chomping down on hawker recipes that line the walkway just over the beach, to an easy check-in at the many star as well as budget hotels conveniently rimming the shore, and most of all before you do, playing a game of tag with the frothy waves until you finally give up…. Galle Face Green, bustles with life, long into the evening. Located close to the south of Fort town, Galle Face Green is a renowned landmark in Colombo. The opportunity to make the most of the sea, sun, stars, sand and stay is right here by this lively coastal marvel.
Two words; Whale. Watching. But there’s always the ever so charming beach to make the most of your trip to Kalpitiya. Be there as early as seven in the morning and head off on a boat from coast to spot the spectacular creatures of the sea, dolphins and whales. Expect to see giant flips of tails or even flashes of playful curiosities from the friendlies. February to March is the best recorded times for sperm whale sightings, and acrobatic pods of spinner dolphins. The rare humpback dolphin is also been known to show up in the waters of Kalpitiya. November to April is recommended for calm seas and the sun kissed beach and a 160 kilometre journey from Colombo is well worth it for not only is the ocean safari breathtaking, unless your prone to a bit of sea sickness, but fun on the beach is equally pleasurable.
National Parks and wildlife in Sri Lanka
Chundikulam bird sanctuary
The peninsula has a natural heart that throbs wildly, and you can discover it at its pristine best at Chundikulam. The name may ring a bell only for a few people. But Chundikulam National Park became a bird sanctuary as far as 1938. It is the best place to capture birds in their most unguarded, spontaneous, intimate or dramatic moments. Throw in some rare and elusive mammals like the fishing cat, the sloth bear and the jungle cat, and you will agree it is a naturalist’s paradise. Chundikulam sits in the middle of the strip of land that joins the Jaffna peninsula to the rest of the island. At its east is the Indian Ocean and at its west the Jaffna lagoon. In this arid, wild land, many kinds of habitats have evolved: beaches with sand-dunes, salt marshes, wetlands, thorny scrublands, dry forests, tanks, mangroves and of course the lagoon. This means that a great number of birds, favouring a great number of terrains, can flock and thrive within the area.
A safari to Yala
YALA is Sri Lanka’s most emblematic national park, set in the ancient Ruhunu kingdom in the Southern Province. Remnants of past civilizations, covered with the jungle tide, form the stamping grounds of wild animals of a great variety. Established as a national park in 1938, Yala comprises five blocks sprawling over 979 square kilometres. The attraction of the park lies in the arid, wild, open land which is punctuated by grasslands, shrubs, tanks, lagoons, water holes and sand dunes. Water gathers in the forms of streams, tanks, waterholes, rock pools, and lagoons. Each terrain, different in character, provides glimpses into wildlife in their most intimate, beautiful and dramatic moments. The most charismatic and sought after animals in Yala are the leopard, the elephant and the sloth bear. But there are 41 other mammal species, among them the jackal, the sambhur, the spotted deer, the loris, the crocodile, wild cats, wild boar and buffalo. Of birds there are 215 varieties, seven of them endemic to Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, crimson-fronted barbet, black-capped bulbul, blue- tailed bee-eater and brown-capped babbler. During the migrating season, birds flock in plenty and jostle for space in waterways, a display of rare, beautiful and unusual plumage. Raptors like the crested serpent eagle can be seen wheeling in high skies, perpetually looking for prey. There is also a teeming reptile population, the most charism
Kumana National Park
Once known as Yala East National park, this naturally evergreen area situated in the district of Ampara was made into an independent wild life reserve fourteen years ago after being closed for an extensive period. Since then it has come to be considered one of the most important nesting and breeding grounds in the country with an awe inspiring 255 bird species having either been photographed or recorded there including a variety of rare species like the Black-necked stork and the Eurasian spoonbill. In addition to this Kumana National Park is also home to a large variety animals such as elephants, An elephant family On alert, a herd of deer, leopards, deer and mugger crocodiles. All wildlife at Kumana National Park as well as the extensive flora that grows there are supplied water by the Kumubukkan Oya that borders the western region of the park as well as 200 hectares mangrove swamp called Kumana Villu. The latter provides an excellent feeding and resting habitat to the various water birds that migrate to this place from April to July. The park also holds over 20 lagoons and man made tanks often used by the animals as watering holes. While not as well known as its neighbour Yala National Park, Kumana nevertheless provides its visitors with an authentic wildlife experience devoid of any artificiality. It is also a preferable spot for those who do not want to deal with large crowds. Kumana is the best place to observe animals in their natural habitat.
Spot the sloth bear
The recluse of the jungle, the nocturnal sloth bear is scruffy in appearance. With much ado, grunting and snorting it goes about its daily chores of breaking down branches of fruit and searching for termites and beetles. The sloth bear can only be enticed to come out of hiding during the Palu berry season. Springing forth in abundance, Palu season starts in May and goes on till end July, coinciding with the sloth bear watching season as this bear has a large appetite for the small fruits. Palu is a yellow fruit with a thick pulp that has an extremely sweet flavour the bears simply cannot resist. They will climb the tall trees in search of these berries and gobble as many. Dizzy from over-indulging, especially young greedy bears can be found slouched below these trees. Yala is one of the best places to watch sloth bears in action as they are usually seen picking fallen berries. Sri Lanka’s national parks have long attracted hordes of tourists for leopard and elephant sightings. The sloth bear is yet to receive such fame as it is difficult to spot these furry bears, a sighting during the day is rare unless during the Palu season. Unlike the leopard that has acute senses that help it to track a human from a distance, the sloth bear relies mostly on its eyesight and realises human presence, only when it is very close. The animal panics if it does not see a clear route of escape, and attacks as a defence mechanism. It has been listed as an endangered species by the Internati
Wild world in a park
Set in the deep south of the country, in Ridiyagama Hambantota is Sri Lanka’s first man-made safari park, where animals from around the world roam freely while visitors travel around the landscape in guided tours. The Hambantota Ridiyagama Safari Park is 500 acres in extent and divided into several sections for different animals. The first segment of the park now opened to the public, has a 16-acre service station, a 35-acre lion enclosure, a 54-acre Sri Lankan elephant enclosure and 80 acres for herbivorous animal species of the world. Around 22 species of animals including African lions, zebras, giraffes, Bactrian camels, Arabian orix, lechwe, Indian blue bulls, African cape buffaloes and large birds such as ostriches roam freely in the park. Watching the king of the jungle cautiously treading the new found habitation while zebras and ostriches seemed to be quite at home. Reminiscent of the African savannah, the ever-vigilant lion roams while the zebra watches its back for the king of carnivores to pounce at any moment. The Hambantota Ridiyagama Safari Park has been carefully arranged to allow maximum view for visitors without the exhilarating game of the hunter and the hunted. It will be a leisurely trip of observing the animals behaving uninhibited in a natural surrounding created in the new park. Four of the park’s six zones have been reserved for carnivorous animals while the remaining two zones host the herbivores. Two zones of the carnivore section will be exclusive
Sri Lanka visitor information
General information about Sri Lanka
Planning on visiting Sri Lanka? It would seem wise to be aware of a few, general facts about Sri Lanka in order to avoid any surprises and be more familiar with the new and exotic environment that you will find yourself in. Read through to find out a little about the beautiful island nation.Currency: Rupee. Coins: Rs1, Rs2, Rs5, Rs10. Notes: Rs20, Rs50, Rs100, Rs500, Rs1,000, Rs2,000, Rs5,000. Electricity: 230 volts AC Time: GMT plus 5 hours 30 minutes International Dialing Code: + 94 Official name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Area: 65,525 sqkm Location: Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal. Ethnic groups: Sinhalese 74.5%, Sri Lankan Tamils 11.9%, Indian Tamils 4.6%, Moors 7.2%, other 1.8% Time zone: GMT +5 1/2. Daylight saving time is not observed Climate: No marked seasons—two monsoons; Northeast monsoon occurs from December to March and Southwest monsoon occurs from June to October. A tropical climate is observed throughout most of the island, whereas the hill country is cooler Languages: Sinhala, Tamil and English (English is widely spoken throughout Sri Lanka) Capital: Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte Commercial capital: Colombo Administrative divisions: Nine Provinces; Central, North Central, North, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western and Eastern Province Religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam Independence day: February 4 Holidays: Saturdays and Sundays are generally non working days. Shops and restaurants are open on weekends. Poya is a religious holiday in the Buddhist calendar and is a monthly public, bank and mercantile holiday for all. Most places (all liquor outlets including hotel bars)are closed on Poya Days Major exports: Tea, textiles, gems, rubber, and coconut products Highest peak: Pidurutalagala (Mt Pedro) at 2,524m National bird: Jungle Fowl (Gallus) National tree: Ironwood - Na tree (Mesua nagassarium) National flower: Blue water lily (Nymphaea stellata) Voltage requirements: 230/240 volts AC, 50Hz (Round three-pin plugs are common, with bayonet lamp fittings) Keep in Mind; Credit cards: Accepted in main cities ATM: Common in larger towns Tipping: A service charge of 10% is included in restaurant and hotel bills. A tip above that is appreciated, but it is not compulsory and when tipping drivers use your discretion
Visiting Sri Lanka: tourist etiquette
Sri Lankans are known for their hospitality towards visitors. However, to make your holiday more enjoyable, here are a few things to remember. Religious placesWhen visiting religious places remove hats and shoes. Dress with decorum. Shoulders should be covered and long pants or skirts should be worn rather than shorts. Religious statuesReligious statues at temples or any other place of worship are greatly revered. For this reason, make sure that you do not climb, sit or pose with the statues. Drive safeDrive within the speed limits: in the cities it’s 50kmh, out of the cities it’s 70kmph and on the Expressways it’s 80 kmh to 100 kmh. Mobile phone usage while driving is banned. Don’t drink and drive. SmokingSmoking is prohibited in public places. However most hotels, bars and eateries have designated smoking areas. WildlifeBe cautious when you are up close with wildlife. Don’t approach them and don’t feed them. When you see wildlife while driving try not to disturb them. Speak to your guide or locals for advice. SwimmingBefore swimming in the sea and rivers check if the area is not a danger zone or if it’s too deep. Beware of crocodiles along the rivers; check with guides and locals before you dip in. ExploringBefore exploring speak to locals about the area and check with information centres. It is better to have a local accompany you. Historical sites and National Parks These are protected sites therefore treat them with respect and do not litter. Avoid touching artefacts. Don’t disturb the wildlife. Rest stopsNeed to make a pit stop on the road from Colombo to other hotspots? Here are some tried and tested spots along popular routes, which will surely satisy your taste buds or relax you with its welcoming ambience. Boost your energy before getting on the road! Heading to the Eastern and Southern coasts through Pelmadulla, Ratnapura – Silver Ray Restaurant, Dippitigala Elpitiya, Waddagala Southwards bound through Hambantota – Hela Bojun Hala, Ambalantota Cruising South via the Awissawella Highway (A4) - Fresh Way Bakers, Main Street, Puwakpitiya, Avissawella Travelling along the Colombo – Kandy Road – Ambepussa Rest House, Main Street, Warakapola Hela Bojun Hala, Peradeniya Heading further central – Hela Bojun Hala, Kundasale On route to Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa along the Trincomalee Highway – Hela Bojun Hala, Pelwehera.
Getting around in Sri Lanka shouldn't be too hard for anyone, regardless of age and gender. Sri Lanka has domestic flights to various parts of the island as well as international flights going and coming from all over the world. You can also make your way through the busy streets and rural terrains via buses, trains, cabs and tuk-tuks.Taxi: Taxis and chauffeur driven minivans can be hired directly or through hotels. Taxis can also be hailed directly or through hotels. Taxis can also be hailed directly from the roads. Auto-rickshaws (called tuk tuks) charge (before 9pm) Rs50 for the first kilometre and Rs40 for additional kilometres. Negotiate before boarding if there is no working metre. Aviation: IWS Aviation operates helicopters taking you around the island. IWS Centre, 451, Kandy Road, Kelaniya; 011 594 9999 Tip: For surfers and beach lovers heading to the East and South coasts as well as those travelling to the central hills, the Mattala International Airport is quite convenient. Bus: Air conditioned long distance luxury buses and city point-to-point non-AC buses operate throughout. Central Bus Stand, Pettah, Bodhiraja Mawatha and Olcott Mawatha, Colombo 11; 011 232 8081, 011 232 9606 Rail: Trains with 1st, 2nd and Economy Class carriages serve 164 stations and 155 substations. Private luxury carriages operating on some lines have seats bookable in advance online. Fort Railway Station; 011 243 4215; www.railway.gov.lk. Vehicles for rent: Luxury to comfortable budget cars, vans, SUVs and buses are available for hire on self-drive and with-driver basis with guaranteed safety. Ameri Rent-A-Car; School Lane, Colombo 3; 077 731 2848 Mal-Key Rent-A-Car; 58, Pamankada Road, Colombo 6; 011 236 5365
Cargills Food City Ideal to drop off your laundry before shopping. Nugegoda 011 281 4992; Staple Street, Colombo 2; 011232 6336 Colombo LaundretteTreat your laundry to the high standard of this five-star hotel.Hilton Colombo Hotel: 011 254 4644 Galadari HotelEasily accessed by car beside the hotel the Galadari laundry is good for dry cleaning formal wear as well as laundering household linen and curtains.64, Lotus Road, Echelon Square, Colombo 1; 011 254 4544
Want to make a call or surf the net?
Sri Lanka TelecomCovers every aspect from fixed landlines to the latest Internet and television services.Lotus Road, Colombo 1; 011 202 1000, Opening Hours: 8.30am–4.30pm Mon to Sat, 8.30am–12.30pm Sun and Poya. MobitelFor a mobile telephone service as well as Internet with special packages for visitors. 108, W A D Ramanayake Mawatha, Colombo 2, 071 275 5777 or dial 1717 from any network. (24 Hour Customer Service) in Sri Lanka. Lanka BellA telecommunication provider with wireless telephones and Internet services.344, Galle Road, Colombo 3; 011 537 5375, Opening Hours: 8.30am–5pm Mon to Fri, 9am–1pm Sat, Sun and Poya closed.