Wildlife Watching – Sri Lanka’s Best National Parks
Sri Lanka is considered one of the best destinations in Asia for wildlife observation in their natural habitat. In the national parks of Sri Lanka you can find wild elephants, leopards, buffalo, crocodiles, roe deer and countless exotic birds. In addition, whales, dolphins and turtles have taken a shine to the coast of Sri Lanka.
On this relatively small island there are about thirty national reserves and parks. Below are the best national parks and interesting places which are grouped according to “interest” and species of animals, the encounter with which is virtually guaranteed in one place or another.
Sri Lanka’s National Parks, where you have the chance to see leopards
Sri Lanka is home to a rare and unique species of leopard – the Ceylon leopard, the locals call these beautiful wild cats Kota. You can see leopards in one of the two parks on the island, the southern Yala or the northern Vilpattu.
Kotya from Yala National Park. Photo credit: Yala Green Safari, Flick
Yala National Park
Yala National Park can be safely called the most popular and most visited park on the island. The park owes its popularity to two things: firstly there is a high chance to see leopards and secondly the park is located on the South coast of Sri Lanka near the most beautiful beaches of the island.
In addition to leopards there are wild elephants, crocodiles, buffalo, beautiful peacocks and a myriad of small deer and roe deer.
Wilpattu National Park
The absolutely chic northern Wilpattu Park has lost the palm in popularity to the southern Yala, but nevertheless remains one of the most interesting and intriguing places in Sri Lanka. Vilpattu is usually a stopover for those traveling to the northern beaches of Trinco with a stopover in Anuradhapura.
In addition to leopards, elephants and crocodiles in Vilpattu you can see a rare species of deer muntazhki and even if you are very lucky, the Asian gubacha bear.
Safari Parks: Wilpattu How to get there: Take a cab from Kalpitiya, Negombo or Anuradhapura. Safari Tours: In any of the safari parks, guesthouses, and hotels in Anuradhapura.
National parks in Sri Lanka where you can see wild elephants
Wild elephants in Sri Lanka can be seen in almost any large national park, but most often travelers turn their eyes to Udawalawe, which is located in the South of the island and the National Parks of the Golden Triangle. By the way, traveling in the Golden Triangle, wild elephants can be seen almost always, during the migration season – in Minneria Park. The rest of the year – in Kauddula Park (from Sigiriya and Dambulla) or in Vasgamuwa Park (from Polonnaruwa).
Wild elephants in Udawalawe Park. Photo credit: Phil Kingsbury, Flick
Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe is the kingdom of elephants. Literally. The local landscape is reminiscent of the African savannah, with herds of wild elephants roaming freely.
In terms of travel, Udawalawe is notable for its location – the park is located between the highlands and the southern beaches, and more democratic prices for safari compared with Yala, just south of here.
Minneria National Park
During the dry season (July through October), the tiny Minneriya National Park becomes the Elephant Gathering Site, where elephants come to the large reservoir to migrate between the big parks of Kauddula and Wasgamuwa. The gathering of Asian elephants in Minneria is absolutely unique and definitely worth the special attention of travelers.
In addition, Minnerya is located almost in the Golden Triangle, next to the beautiful historical sites of Sri Lanka – Sigiriya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa.
Kauddula National Park
While Minneriya is a seasonal elephant migration site, wild elephants can be seen all year round in the nearby large Kauddula National Park, also located near the Golden Triangle. Moreover, the park is home to buffalo, crocodiles, langurs and even a few leopards.
Despite its proximity to the Golden Triangle, Kauddula is a non-touristy and very peaceful place. Safaris can be booked at any gesture in Sigiriya, Dambulla or Habarana.
Where to stay: Sigiriya, Dambulla, Habarana How to get to the park: by cab or tuk-tuk from Sigiriya, Dambulla or Habarana. Safari Tour: from Sigiriya, Dambulla or Habarana
Wasgamuwa National Park.
A third national park located near the Golden Triangle is Wasgamuwa Park. The park is only 10 km from Polonaruwa and is most often visited by those who stop for a couple of days in Polonaruwa. In addition to elephants in the park live bears – gubachi, however, despite the rather large population, it is almost impossible to see them.
Where to stay: Polonarowa How to get to the park: by cab or tuk-tuk from Polonarowa. Safari tour: from Polonaruwa
Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park, located on the east coast of the island, is distinguished from other national parks in Sri Lanka by the presence of the largest water reservoir on the island. In addition, Gal Oya Park is one of the least visited national parks of the island by tourists. Accordingly, this destination is suitable only for fans of eco-tourism.
Elephants can be seen on the territory of the park quite often. In addition, there are leopards, many peacocks and more than 150 species of birds.
In addition to jeep safari in the park you can take a boat trip with a picnic on the island. By the way, during the boat ride there is a pretty good chance to see floating elephants).
Where to stay: Gal Oya Lodge Getting there: by cab or transfer from Kandy or Arugam Bay Safari: can be booked at the lodge