Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is Sri Lanka’s first Ramsar site, as designated by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. This thorny scrub forest with beaches, sand dunes, and lagoons, located 250 kilometers south of Colombo in the district of Hambantota, has become noted for its diverse biodiversity. With 197 different bird species and 32 distinct animal species, it is a popular reserve for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Because of the enormous numbers of Greater Flamingos that travel there from Siberia and the Rann of Kutch in India, Bundala National Park is considered a specialized bird viewing experience. Between August and April, the Greater Flamingos come at Bundala, and up to 2000 of them have been recorded during one migratory phase. Other species that may be seen in the heat of Bundala include a small herd of elephants, wild boar, sambar, spotted deer, and grey langur monkeys.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains, Sri Lanka’s highest plateau, is about 2000m above sea level and has been described as one of the country’s most “amazing and forbidding locations.” The plains, which are located in the central hill area 20 kilometers south of Nuwara Eliya, are tough to get but well worth the effort. This spectacular scenery is a sight for sore eyes, with its wild meadows, pockets of lush forest, lakes, and waterfalls.
The plains are home to a variety of animals, including wild boar and sambar deer, as well as the shaggy bear-monkey and the rare toque macaque. Bakers Falls, Chimney Pool, and World’s End are additional attractions in Horton Plains National Park. World’s Edge, at the end of the Horton Plains plateau, is claimed to have the best view in Sri Lanka, with its 880m abrupt plummet below.
Gal Oya National Park
The Gal Oya Valley project was Sri Lanka’s first substantial irrigation project after independence. Within it was erected the country’s largest reservoir, the Senanayake Samudra, which is regarded the focal point of the Gal Oya National Park. In fact, the Gal Oya National Park is the only park in the country where boat safaris are available. One of the most thrilling features of the boat safari is seeing elephants swim across the lake.
That is, if the park’s magnificent hill-forests, leopards, water buffaloes, wild boar, crocodiles, and other types of deer haven’t already wowed you. There are also several little islands on the Senanayake Samudra that are home to a variety of bird species. It is believed that 150 of the 430 bird species recorded in Sri Lanka live in Gal Oya.
Kaudulla National Park
Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka’s newest national park and wildlife reserve, inaugurated in 2002 and is the country’s newest eco-tourism destination. Kaudulla is about 6 kilometers from the Gal Oya Junction on the Habarana – Trincomalee route, and is easily accessible to the Cultural Triangle. The park’s name derives from its proximity to the famous Kaudalla Tank of the ancient King Mahasena. Jeep safaris are the recommended method of visiting the park, and the months of August to December have been designated as the ideal months to do so because the area is home to around 250 elephants throughout that time.
A 6656-hectare elephant corridor has also been built in the park between the Minneriya National Park and the Somawathie Chaitya. The park’s dry evergreen woods are home to 24 animal species, 25 reptile species, and 160 bird species. Visitors to Kaudulla enjoy seeing leopards, fisher cats, sloth bears, and the endangered rusty spotted cat.
Kumana National Park
The Kumana National Park, located in the south-east corner of Sri Lanka and next to the Yala National Park, is Sri Lanka’s foremost bird refuge, housing a varied range of indigenous and migrating species. Kumana is a popular destination for bird watchers since it is a great camping and safari area. Kumana is home to 255 species of birds, including the highly uncommon migratory Black Necked storks, Yellow Footed Green pigeons, and the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, as well as animals such as the European Otter, Golden Jackal, and a few elephants.
Ancient cave inscriptions from the first and second centuries that have been uncovered in the park’s surroundings are also of interest. Pada Yatra pilgrims, a mix of Hindu and Buddhist worshippers, travel Kumana on foot every year on their way to Kataragama.
Minneriya National Park
The Minneriya National Park is located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa. The park, once a sanctuary for sambar deer, toque macaques, and leopards, is now a world-renowned tourist destination. This is owing to the fact that the world’s greatest gathering of elephants takes place on the beaches of Minneriya’s roughly 2000-year-old man-made lake. During the dry season, from July to October, this stunning sight happens inside the limits of Minneriya National Park.
With approximately 300 elephants gathering every evening, it’s little surprise that Lonely Planet ranked it sixth in the world for one of the finest wildlife shows. The ‘Gathering,’ as it has been called, is caused by a scarcity of waterholes during the drought. Unable to get their daily water supply, the elephants make their way to the Minneriya tank, making it a must-see event.
Wilpattu National Park
The Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest national park, is located on the island’s west coast and comprises primarily of thick secondary forest interspersed with minor clearings. Wilpattu, on the other hand, is more lush and picturesque than semi-arid Yala, with a diversity of plants to be found in different regions of the park. The park is notable for the abundance of villus (basin-like natural tanks) that offer water to herds of wild animals and flocks of birds.
It’s worth noting that crocodiles live in these villus as well. Wilpattu’s popularity, however, stems mostly from its leopard and bear populations. It is not uncommon to see leopards lounging or sipping water from the park’s numerous villus. Wilpattu’s rustic character adds to the excitement of the encounter, with January to May considered the ideal months to visit.
Yala National Park
Sri Lanka’s most visited national park, Yala, is located in the southeastern part of the island, 300 kilometers from the capital Colombo. The park is made up of five blocks, only two of which are available to the public, and is considered by the BBC to be one of the top wildlife sites in Asia. Because of the great density of leopards in Block 1, it is regularly visited; nonetheless, until 1938, Block 1 was restricted for hunters, and it was only after that that it was designated as a
Elephants feeding in the scrub forest or ambling over the road are also common sights in Yala. The magnificent peacock’s mating dance is one of the most spectacular sights at Yala. When they are honored in this way by the peacock, most travelers consider the long trek well worth it. Unquestionably, a wildlife safari at its finest.conservationist reserve.
Udawalawe National Park
The Udawalawe National Park, located south of the central hill region, was formed in 1972 following the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir, which caused the relocation of wild species in the area. Udawalawe, the island’s third most popular park, is an important habitat for aquatic birds and Sri Lankan elephants. With around 600 elephants in the park, Udawalawe is regarded as one of the greatest spots on the island to see these massive beasts. The fascinating Elephant Transit Home was formed in 1995 and gives refuge and a home to around 25 orphaned young elephants from the wild.
Crocodiles, foxes, 30 different types of snakes, spotted and sambar deer, hundreds of buffaloes, and a few leopards also live in UdaWalawe. If you wish to live a genuine life in the wilds, there are three camp sites and four bungalows near the reservoir and the Walawe Ganga.
Wasgamuwa National Park
The name ‘Wasgamuwa’ is derived from the words ‘Walas Gamuwa,’ Walasa or walaha being the Sinhalese language for sloth bear and Gamuwa being the Sinhalese phrase for wood. The park was called after a huge population of Sri Lankan sloth bears that lived there at one point. It is still inhabited by these endangered species, however gaining a glimpse of them is more difficult. The park is surrounded nearly entirely by waterways, since it borders the Mahawelia and Amban rivers, and it is a wonderful site to watch several unusual bird species.
The indigenous Red-Faced Malkoha, for example, may be found in Wasgamuwa, as can the Yellow Fronted Barbet. The park is rich in biodiversity, with over 150 types of vegetation. Its historical significance is especially highlighted by the presence of the remnants of the Dathota, Malagamuwa, and Wilmitiya irrigation ponds, as well as the Kalinga Yoda Ela canel erected by Parakramabahu (I)
Kitulgala – Kelani Valley Forest Reserve
Kitulgala is most known for being the setting for the 1957 Academy Award-winning film The Bridge on the River Kwai, which was shot on the Kelani River. Kitulgala, also known as the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve, is a rain forest area hit by both monsoons and is possibly the wettest spot in Sri Lanka. It was constructed to safeguard the drainage basin of the Kelani River. Kitulgala is home to a variety of rare indigenous species, including the Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Spot-winged Thrush, and Ceylon Scimitar Babbler.
The river is home to unique fish and amphibians, as well as the Grizzled Indian Squirrel. However, the word Kitulgala is now synonymous with white-water rafting. When someone proposes going to Kitulgala, they envision a weekend of excitement that includes some fantastic dinners, a jungle trek, and camping in the wild outdoors.
The Sinharaja Rainforest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve in Sri Lanka’s south-west lowland wet zone. It was officially designated as a forest reserve in 1875, although it has long held mythical and historical significance for the people of Sri Lanka. Sinharaja, which translates literally as Lion (Sinha) and King (Raja), is Sri Lanka’s last remaining tropical rainforest, with 60 percent of the trees being unique. It is also home to more than half of Sri Lanka’s unique species of animals, butterflies, reptiles, unusual amphibians, and insects.
Visitors to Sinharaja are continuously astounded by the incredible variety of species they discover when exploring this biodiversity hotspot. A spineless forest lizard, a Sri Lankan rose, and a bamboo orchid are just a few of the unusual creatures and flora found here.
Pigeon Island National Park
Pigeon Island, one of Sri Lanka’s only two marine national parks, is a popular East Coast destination. Pigeon Island, located just 1km from the beautiful seaside town of Nilaveli, is named after the Blue Rock Pigeon, an endangered bird species unique to the island. The islands were initially designated as a bird sanctuary in 1963, and they were designated as a National Park in 2003. The island is separated into two sections: giant pigeon island and mini pigeon island.
It is also well-known for having some of the best preserved coral reefs in Sri Lanka, as the coral reefs that circle huge pigeon island are almost 200 feet long and 100 meters wide. Aside from the 300 kinds coral reef fish present in its waters, it also has juvenile and adult Black-tip reef sharks and sea turtles, making it an underwater adventure to enjoy.
Mullaitivu National Park
Mullativu, which was the site of violent clashes during Sri Lanka’s civil war, is currently undergoing a makeover, with the northern half of the district being designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary. More than 100,000 acres in northern Mullativu have been classified as a wildlife sanctuary, with a specific emphasis on elephants. According to the government, the sanctuary was built to address the growing conflict between wild elephants and humans as a result of deforestation, which devastated the elephants’ natural habitat.
This resulted in elephants seeking food in village areas, resulting in a number of human and elephant deaths. There were 15,000 elephants wandering the wild a century ago, but the number now hovers between 3000 and 4000, prompting anxiety among animal experts. Thus, by designating the northern jungles of Sri Lanka as a National Park, the purpose is to preserve the remaining natural ecosystems of Sri Lanka.