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Eco-park is located in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, which is one of the best 6 national parks for elephant safari in Sri Lanka. eco-park or Sigiriya national park is visited by a large number of travellers and most of them are visitors of historical monuments in the cultural triangle. If you spend the beach holiday in eastern Sri Lanka, choose Gal Oya national park for your Elephant safari in Sri Lanka. If you spend your beach holiday on the west and southern coast of Sri Lanka you better choose Udawalawe national park for the elephant safari, which is very close to most beach resorts on the west coast, south coast as well as mountains…

This scenery was captured during the elephant safari in Udawalawe national park


Stunning beaches, mouth-watering cuisines, rich culture, crumbling historical monuments and breathtaking scenery, as well as a fascinating wildlife collection, are the main ingredients of Sri Lankan holiday packages.

Even though Sri Lanka is not a top-notch wildlife holiday destination, the tiny island offers some fantastic opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts with its dozens of wildlife reserves and national parks.


Despite the small size of the island, the country possesses an extremely high degree of biodiversity. Nature reserves such as Sinharaja rain forest and Horton plains national park is ranked among the top biodiversity hotspots in the world. Visiting Yala national park to see leopards and Going on an elephant safari in Sri Lanka are the two best things to add to your Sri Lanka tour package.


As a tropical country, Sri Lanka provides very suitable living conditions for elephants. Sri Lanka is home to many national parks, wildlife reserves, and rainforests, and most of them are giving shelter to this endangered animal. Based on the World Animal Protection Organization’s Research Report on the conditions for elephants used in tourism in Asia, the island has the highest density of wild elephants in the world. The wildlife conservation department of Sri Lanka conducted a census, which revealed that there are 7000 wild elephants and 120 to 200 of them are captive.

With staggering 7000 wild jumbos in the jungle, there is no surprise that Sri Lanka is the best spot to see wild elephants if you like to see an elephant in their natural habitat. The conservation effort of Sri Lanka is commendable and the number of wild elephants is constantly on the rise over the last few decades thanks to the collective effort of the government and the people of Sri Lanka.


The elephant is a common sight in Sri Lanka and travellers can witness them on roads, in wildlife parks, and in Buddhist temples. The elephants in Sri Lanka have been associated with humans for many centuries. Sometimes, elephants played a major role in making and breaking the royal kingdoms. The Kings used elephants as a mode of transportation and in battle. According to the historical notes and elephant, one of the most valiant local kings in Sri Lanka was King Dutugemunu.

The elephant is still one of the best options for people in Sri Lanka in forestry operations when the big machines cannot trespass the rugged terrain. Elephant safaris in Sri Lanka are a very useful activity in some remote areas of Sri Lanka, such as Sigiriya, where a large part of the land is covered by thick forest. Elephant safaris in Sri Lanka help travelers enjoy the beautiful natural vegetation and wildlife in remote areas; most of these places would have been difficult to explore using vehicles.

About 120-200 elephants in Sri Lanka are tamed and trained to use in various cultural activities such as processions. These tamed elephants are used for cultural activities as well as for Elephant safari in Sri Lanka. Some of these tamed elephants are living in and around Sigiriya providing elephant safari to travellers.


Sigiriya is a tourist hotspot in Sri Lanka’s north-central province, tucked 200km away from the commercial capital of sri Lanka. Sigiriya host one of the most popular tourist attractions on teh island, which is the Sigiriya rock fortress. This iconic, UNESCO world heritage site attracts a large number of travellers every day and it is a common belief that a visit to Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour is never complete unless it includes a visit to Sigiriya rock. When Sigiriya plays a major role as a historical monument in Sigiriya, the Elephant safari in Sigiriya is recognized as one of the main pastimes activate for travellers, especially foreign travellers.

By far Sigiriya is the most popular elephant safari in Sri Lanka. A large number of people are engaged in organizing elephant safari in sri Lanka and therefore, it is one of the important lively hood for most people in Sri Sigiriya. Venturing on an elephant alow teh travellers to beautiful countryside and forested areas. As the elephant makes no destruction of the trees and plants as it walks through the jungle, Thye elephant safari is considered one of the best sustainable ways of exploring the forested areas in Sri Lanka.

  • Udawalawe national park
  • Gal Oya national park
  • Eco-park Sigiriya
  • Yala national park
  • Wilpattu national park
  • Minneriya national park

What is the best place for elephant safari in Sri Lanka?” is a very common question for us, because a large number of foreign travellers wish to see the gathering elephants. In this post, we are discussing a few places that are coming under the best place for elephant safari in Sri Lanka. Most importantly all these places are within easy reach of the most popular tourist hideouts such as beaches, mountains with tea plantations, and a cultural triangle.


This Sri Lanka map showcases 3 national parks (Udawalawe national park, Eco-park and Gal Oya national parks) that are popular for elephant safari in Sri Lanka
  • Eco-park Sigiriya
  • Udawalawe national park
  • Gal Oya national park

In this article, we discuss 3 National parks, namely Galoya national park, Udawalwe national park and eco-park, these 3 national parks are most popular for wild elephant sightings.

These national parks are located in 3 provinces of Sri Lanka (Gal Oya national park- Eastern province, Udawlawe national park-western province and Ecopark -north-central province), allowing travellers to make elephant safaris from different parts of Sri Lanka. E.g the eco-park is located in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, therefore travellers, who visit ancient monuments can have easy access to wild elephants at the eco-park.

If you stay in eastern Sri Lanka choose Gal Oya national park for a safari. If you spend your holiday on the west and southern coast you can make an elephant safari at Udawalawe national park, which is very close to most beach resorts on the west coast as well as the mountains.

These 3 national parks are located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. All these 3 places are popular for their large concentrations of wild elephants. Unlike many other popular places such as Yala and Wilpattu, visitors can easily see wild elephants in these places. The elephant population in these wildlife reserves are very high. mainly due to the abundance of food.


Sri Lanka is the best spot for you if you love elephants because Sri Lankan jungles are teeming with wild elephants, some of the wildlife reserves such as Gal Oya national park, Ecopark Habarana, Udalawale national park and Minneriya national park are particularly popular for large gathering of Wild elephants. The chances are plenty to spot large gatherings (up to 100 animals) of wild elephants at a time.

Sri Lanka has proved to be one of the best wildlife holiday destinations to spot elephants in Asia with the completion recent elephant census. It is discovered that the elephant population on the island is more than 5800, which is a very healthy population compared to the size of the country.


The national parks are visited by a large number of tourists every day and it is an important income generator for the country. The elephant is the most occurring wild animal in most national parks of Sri Lanka such as Yala, Udawalawe and Wilpattu. It can be described as the most important fauna attraction of Sri Lanka.


Elephant spotting is 100 per cent guaranteed and fairly easy at the Elephant orphanage, however, I feel that there is another better place than their natural habitat to see elephants and I would highly recommend one of the 3 national parks that we discuss in this article over elephant orphanage (with the exception of the Elephant Transit Home which returns elephants to the wild). However, if you ate lack time to visit national parks and are not in a position to do a jeep safari, then heading on to the elephant orphanage, is the most viable option for you.


At the moment there are more than 15 sanctuaries in Sri Lanka which comes to around 10% of the total land area in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a country with a long history with regard to designating safe places for wildlife. The first sanctuary of the island was declared in the 2nd century B.C by King Devanampiyatissa. Being a tropical country Sri Lanka has an extremely favourable climate for natural vegetation.

Most wildlife reserves are located in the dry zone forests such as Wilpattu, Yala national park, Udawalawa national park etc. In this blog post, I’m talking about Gal Oya national park, Ecopark and Udawalawe national with all the tips and tricks you need to plan the best elephant safari in Sri Lanka.


The only count available dates back to a century when an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 elephants roamed wild in Sri Lanka. But poaching and depletion of forests are largely blamed for the shrinking elephant population in the country and the number of wild elephants has been halved by now. 

According to the wildlife census conducted in 2011, the number of wild elephants on the island was recorded as 5879 making Sri Lanka the country with the highest number of Wild elephants in the world.  According to the census, the number of babies was recorded as 1107 and the number of tuskers recorded as 122.

Elephants were counted as they come to drink water from water holes, reservoirs and tanks. The national parks and reserves in the country were closed to the public during the survey. It allowed the officials to conduct the survey without any outside interference. This survey helped to find out the minimum number of elephants, the distribution of the population and the composition of herds, including males, females, babies and tuskers.

The Wild Life Department said the country was divided into seven wildlife zones managed by a wildlife director and the zones covered the national parks, nature reserves, strict nature reserves and sanctuaries in the country.

The highest number of elephant concentrations recorded in the Mahaweli region, is 1751, with 47 elephants recorded in the central zone, 1,573 in the Eastern, 1,189 in Wayamba, 1,086 in the South and 223 in the Northern zones.

The Wildlife Department of Sri Lanka revealed that elephants were in good health condition and that Sri Lanka still recorded the highest elephant population in South Asia.


Sri Lanka is a tiny island in Asia, which is one of the most popular destinations for wildlife holidays destinations in the world. This tropical island is bestowed with a large number of animal species.

Wildlife authorities of Sri Lanka are planning to establish the first-ever wild elephant conservation centre on the island. The move is taken in the wake of an increasing number of wild elephant attacks in the country. The conservation centre will mainly focus on the protection of wild elephants and reduce the number of cases related to wild-elephant attacks.

There are several numbers of incidents recorded every year in the country related to human-elephant conflict incurring losses for both sides. There are several elephant deaths as well as human deaths recorded in the country due to the human-elephant conflict.

The government of Sri Lanka has initiated many programs to minimize the damage caused by human-elephant conflict, making electrified fences, and an elephant insurance program is some of the noteworthy steps. The elephant conservation centre will enable the strong conservation need of wild elephants.

The Elephant conservation centre will be established in Horowapathana, which is 220 km from the commercial capital (Colombo) of the country. Horowpathana is identified as an area with a high wild elephant population, in the elephant census conducted in 2011. It is revealed that Sri Lanka is inhabited by more than 5800 wild elephants making the island with the most number of wild elephants in Asia.  The conservation centre will be built at a cost of 185 million rupees.


Eco park Sigiriya is an unpopular wildlife reserve for safari tours in the central province of Sri Lanka, which is located near Habarana junction as you drive in the direction of Trincomalee. One can reach Habarana easily along the A6 (Colombo-Trincomalee) main road. It takes nearly four hours for the journey from Colombo and the distance to cover is about 180 km.

Safari at Ecpopark is mostly an optional activity. It can be easily added to tour packages such as Sigiriya, and Dambulla tour package and Sigiriya and Kandy trip from Colombo.


Eco park Sigiriya is categorized as a dry zone forest similar to Minneriya and Kaudulla national parks. All 3 national parks (Kaudulla, Minneriya and Eco-park Sigiriya) are located within easy reach of Sigiriya and Habarana. Therefore these national parks are most visited by travellers, who come to visit the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka.

Eco park Sigiriya is a good alternative to Minneriya and Kaudulla national parks. Especially during the rainy season, a large portion of Minneriya national park is flooded and visitors have to find other alternatives, due to the unsuitable muddy surface to travel in the park. Eco park is the best alternative national park in a situation like this. Eco park is located in between the national parks of Minneriya and Kaudulla, therefore elephants and other animals also migrate to Eco park, which rarely comes underwater, when the other nearby two national parks are heavily flooded.

Unlike most national parks in the country, at Eco park, travellers can’t see the water resources such as lakes and tanks, where the animals gather most. Maybe that is the reason, why the visitors have a very meagre chance of seeing animals other than elephants here.

National parks such as Yala have a large number of lakes and waterholes within their borders and those water holes are the best spots for witnessing the animals, as animals gather in those places in search of water. At Eco park, there is no water accumulating places other than the stream that flows through the national park. The most valuable reward for the visitors of Eco park is the large herds of wild elephants and beautiful vegetation.

One needs to have a four-wheel-drive cab with plenty of ground clearance in order to travel in the park. Unlike Minneriya and Kaudulla, Eco-park has a very rugged terrain and is difficult to travel. The muddy surface in some areas must be dealt with care due to the slippery condition.

Eco park is the most popular spot for wild elephants. It is possible to witness more than several hundred wild elephants in a 2 hours safari at the park. The vegetation at Eco park Sigiriya can be described as very suitable for elephants. It mainly consists of various types of grass and bushes providing ample amounts of food for hungry jumbos. Due to a very suitable living habitat for elephants, it is inhabited by a large number of big elephant herds. The vegetation at the eco-park can be described as dry-zone forest vegetation.

Eco park is relatively smaller than the other nearby national parks of Kaudulla and Minneriya. Eco-park is 25800 hectares in extent.  Leopards, bears, various species of deer, crocodiles, monkeys, and several species of birds are the other most seen animals here.


This wildlife reserve is so unpopular, that even the most Sri Lankan scratch their heads and think of where this national park is if someone asks the direction for this national park. Even though it has a large number of animals occurring throughout the year, especially the will elephants the park is one of the least visited national parks in Sri Lanka.

Gak Oya national park is situated in the remote areas of Ampara in the Monaragala district. Ampara is not a popular tourist gathering area in Sri Lanka and therefore it is not included as a place of visit in most Sri Lanka road trips, therefore most tourists are making their way to Ampara. And also tourists do not tend to make a special visit to Ampara due to the Galoya national park because there are a large number of alternative places such as Yala national park, Udawalawe national park, and Wilpattu that are more convenient to reach during their Sri Lanka tour.


Gal Oya national park originated as a result of one of the biggest development projects (the Galoya development project) of post-independent Sri Lanka. The national park was established in the early 1950s as a patch of forest in the developed area, which exceeds 100,000 hectares, to accommodate the wild animals that lost their living habitats.


Gal Oya national park covers more than 25,000 hectares of land in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Another important function of the national park is the protection of the catchment area of Senanayake Samudra. Senanayake Samudra is a massive reservoir built after damming the Gal Oya River. Water collected at Senanayake Samudra was utilized to convert large tracts of forested areas to farmland. 162,000 hectares of new farmlands came to being as a result of Senanayake Samudra. Today the reservoir is functioning as a separate sanctuary in parallel to nearby Gal Oya national park.

Visitors to Gal Oya national park have the opportunity to see some stunning scenic pictures while enjoying the wildlife at Gal Oya national park. The main contributor to the beautiful surrounding of Gal Oya national park is Senanayake Samudra; it is surrounded by rugged terrain dominated by mountains and evergreen dry-zone forest.

The road that leads to the national park is flanked by Senanayake Samudra and trees and bushes of the dry-zone forest. This remote national park is nestled among some beautiful countryside, reservoirs, mountains and villages.

Elephant gathering near the lake of Minneriya national park


Other than the jeep ride through the national park, a boat ride in the Senanayake Samudra is also very useful to spot wild animals in the area. The boaters have plenty of opportunities to see a large array of animals and birds in the surrounding area of the reservoir.

The sight of big herds of elephants at the edge of the reservoir is a very common sight here, especially in the evening hours. Gal Oya national park and the surrounding area of Senanayake Samudra is a heaven for bird lovers. It is one of the best places to see a large number of aquatic avian fauna species. Senanayake Samudra was the venue for a documentary film on the white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), done by world-renowned German filmmaker Dieter Plage.


Gal Oya national park is the most popular Elephant safari in Sri Lanka, however, it accommodates many other animals and bird species. Several most common bird species at Galoya national park are spot-billed pelicans (Pelicanus philippensis), grey-headed eagle (Lchthyophaga ichthyaetus),  brahmuny kites (Haliaster indus indus), osprey (Pandion hadiatus ). Malabar hornbill and grey hornbill are also frequent visitors of Senanayake Samudra, but they are residing deeper in the woods.

Gal Oya national park is the last remaining breeding ground of a rare bird species known as the Brown-capped babbler (Pellorneum fuscocapillum). It lays 2-3 eggs at a time in a nest built on the ground or a small hole.  Among the endemic bird species red-faced malkoha (pahaenicophaeus pyrhocephalus) and Sri Lanka spurfowl (Galloperdix biclcarata) are the most occurring here. Both species are living in the thick jungle and are heard more often than seen.

Other than the wide choice for observing different species of birds, it allows you to see many species of other animals. Gal Oya national park is one of the best places to spot sloth bears (Melurus ursulis) due to the undisturbed environment. This animal loves to have a peaceful and tranquil environment. Sri Lankan leopards (Panthera pardus kotiya), Axis deer (Axis axis), sambhur (Cervus unicolour), barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak) and elephants are the most common animals in Gal Oya national park.


The Udawalawe national park is one of the popular wildlife reserves in Sri Lanka and is included in many Sri Lanka beach and wildlife exploration tour packages.

Udawalawe park is most popular due to the Udawalawe sightseeing tour with the Udawalawe safari, which enables travellers to see a large gathering of wild elephants. The Udawalawe park can be easily reached from any beach hotel located on the west and southern sea border, therefore Udawalawe safari tours are a very popular short program that can be booked from western and southern Sri Lankan beach resorts.

Due to its convenient location in the Sabaragamuwa province, Udawalawe safari tours are the best wildlife activity for travellers staying in Nuwara Eliya, Bandarawela and other mountain resorts. Undoubtedly the most popular safari tour on the island is the Yala safari while Udawalawe safari tours rank the second-best for wildlife exploration. The national park is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, and it has a picturesque majestic mountain range in the background.


Udawalawe park nestled in the cradle of the Ruhuna Rata and epic Sabaragamuwa Province filled with an abundance of antiquity from relics of Dagobas, stone anicuts (sluice), carved motifs on pillars and Brahmi inscriptions, ancient rock cave temple (like those in Madunagala, Karambagala, Bambaragala, Sankapala) and finally interlaced with nature’s bounty of scenic mountain frontiers. The ancient concept of the Dagoba, weva (Tabk), keth yaya (rice field) has been well portrayed in this historic region.

Udawalawe reservoir is another important part of the national park. It provides water for wild animals throughout the year.  The combination of Udawalawe reservoir, the national park and the mountain range in the background makes an awe-inspiring sight that you will not find anywhere else in Sri Lanka. You encounter the huge Udawalawe reservoir even before you step in into the national park. Today reservoir is the lifeblood of the region since it is the main source of water for agriculture. There is a good chance of spotting many species of aquatic birds around the reservoir.


The best period to visit the national park is from November to April parallel to the peak holiday season on the west coast. During this time the national park is relatively dry and has a good chance of spotting animals. During the rain, the terrain is very difficult to drive due to the muddy and slippery surface. During the peak season be prepared to encounter a considerable number of foreign travellers, who spend their winter holiday in Sri Lanka. During off-peak, the park is visited by a very limited number of travellers.


Where should we do the elephant safari? Minneriya or Udawalawe? This a very popular question among travellers that are looking for a place to do the Sri Lanka elephant safari. However, the answer is simple. Because both places are optimized for wild elephant spotting. Then what makes the difference? The difference is the location of the parks.

Minneriya is located in north-central Sri Lanka near Sigiriya and Dambulla (in the cultural triangle) while Udawalawe national park is located on the west coast. Therefore the Udawalawe national park is visited by travellers from the beach areas and Ella while Minneriya is visited by travellers who visit the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka.

Both national parks are suitable for spotting large gatherings of wild elephants.

Click here to learn about Sri Lanka elephants


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