Tips for Sri Lanka wildlife tours

sri lanka safari jeep

Tips for Sri Lanka wildlife tours

Sri Lanka wildlife tours may not as popular as Tanzania or Kenya for wildlife tours. But, Sri Lanka is a popular holiday destination with plenty of opportunities for wildlife tours. In fact, the island already attracts a large number of foreigners to its wildlife sanctuaries and most Sri Lanka road trips include Sri Lanka wildlife tours.

Sri Lanka is abounding with wildlife reserves and forests and most of them are protected parks and nature preserve. There are many type forests are occurring here such as rainforest, dry-zone forest, mountain forest, mangroves and savannah.  Therefore Sri Lanka continues to be a heaven for nature lovers. Wildlife parks of Sri Lanka and forests are home to boundless wildlife. Following are some of the popular wild places in Sri Lanka

Today most travellers visit the national parks during their Sri Lanka road trips, sometimes they book short Sri Lanka wildlife tours such as day tour or two days tours. Sri Lankan national parks harbour a great variety of animal, bird, vertebrate, amphibian, fish and insect species.

Udawalawe national park
Udawalawe national park is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where you can have a safari in an open hood jeep.

When should I go to Sri Lanka?

When you travel to Sri Lanka is very important for your wildlife holidays. Sri Lankan national parks are closed for several months every year. Most of the time they are closed during the dry season of the country, and then the parks are closed for several months in some instances. Usually, this is the period, in which, the water is very limited within the park due to the drought. Therefore the animals have no enough water and food. Animals move deeper into the jungle in search of water and food and very difficult to spot them during this period. The wildlife authorities announce the temporary closure of national parks several months earlier. So plan you wildlife holidays accordingly by inquiring the availability of national parks for safari.

What time should I enter the park?

As a rule, early morning and late evening is the best time to spot the animals in the national parks. At the dawn, the animals are heading to water resources such as lakes, rivers and water holes. Most animals are also in search of food early hours of the day. During the midday, most animals are opted to stay in the shade. Leopards are resting in treetops and caves while other animals stay under huge canopies. Animals are resting during this time of the day due to the oppressive heat generated by strong sun-rays. Animals are again inactive in the late afternoon as the sun reduces its heat. The best places to spot animals are the grasslands, nearby areas of water resources and caves and treetops especially to spot leopards.

What are the best national parks to spot animals?

Where you should travel differs depending on the animals you wish to see. Several national parks such as Yala and Wilpattu are ranked among the best places to see leopards with other animals such as elephant and crocodile in the country. Udawalawe national park in southern Sri Lanka is popular due to the large concentration of wild elephants. Several national parks such as Kumana are popular in the island as places for bird watching. But, all the national parks have a fascinating blend of different species of animals. Several national parks may be popular for spotting several animals due to the geographical location and climate conditions.

How much should I pay for a safari?

All national parks on the island are under the purview of the wildlife conservation department of Sri Lanka. Therefore, all the activities in the parks are closely monitored by the rangers appointed by the department of wildlife conservation. Visitors are not allowed to engage in any form of destructive activity within the parks. Entrance fees of national parks can be different across the different places and it is about 20 US$ p.p.

What is the Best method to travel to the park?

It is highly recommended to hire a 4 wheel drive vehicle with plenty of ground clearance. Most of the national parks have rugged terrain and muddy surface in some areas demanding you to have a suitable vehicle. People are not allowed to drive fast in the parks while it disturbs the animals. But, in Yala national park several unfortunate incidents took place during the last few years due to the reckless driving of several jeep drivers.

What animals do I see in Sri Lanka?

Elephant (elephas maximu maximus) is the most common animal in the country. It is a subspecies of the Asian elephant (elephas maximu) and occurs only in Sri Lanka. Elephants can be spotted in great numbers in Sri Lankan national parks. Sri Lanka is the best country to see wild elephants in the region due to the large population, which exceeds 5800 animals. Leopard is the largest carnivore in the country and occurs often in Yala National park. Yala Block 1 is one of the best places to see leopards in the world. Crocodile, wild buffaloes, species of monkeys, many deer species, cat species, jackal, mangoes, and monitors are the other most common animals to see on a safari.


Finding the accommodation for Sri Lanka wildlife tours will not be a difficult task at all. Because els and guest houses can be found at the outskirt of most national parks. The surrounding areas of popular national parks such as Udawalwe, Yala and Wilpattu provide plenty of accommodation facilities for travellers. It is highly recommended to have a prior confirmed reservation before coming to the hotel due to the increasing number of tourist arrival in Sri Lanka.

What should I wear?

A light cotton dress is the most appropriate dress during the Sri Lanka wildlife tours. A hat can be very handy to keep the dust away from your hair. It is very common to drive through the clouds of dust formed by other jeeps drive ahead of you. It is highly recommended to wear a short and a cotton t-shirt during the Sri Lanka wildlife tours. A light coloured dress is suitable due to the dry and warm weather conditions in the parks. Try to add things such as mosquito repellent, sunglasses and binoculars to your list of wildlife holiday items.

Popular National for Sri Lanka wildlife tours

Sri Lanka is a tropical island in the Indian ocean that is very rich in fauna and flora. There are seventeen National parks and sanctuaries at the moment in the country and they are inhabited by large number of animal species including elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambhur, deer and monkeys, wild buffalo, wild boar (pig), porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, jackal, mongoose, loris (unique to Sri Lanka) several varieties of lizards, squirrels, reptiles and amphibians. Each park, however, has its own specialities.

Yala national park to spot leopards

Situated 309 km. south of Colombo, Yala is approximately 1,259 in extent and is located in the southeastern corner of the island. Its northern boundaries border on the Lahugala Elephant Sanctuary and it has the added bonus of a scenic ocean frontage. The terrain is varied flat plains alternating with rocky outcrops. The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense jungle. Water holes, small lakes, lagoons and streams provide water for the animals and birds. The speciality here is the large numbers of elephants. Yala is recognized as one of the best places to spot leopards, due to the large concentration of this carnivore in the park. Therefore Yala is very popular among the foreign travellers and included in many Sri Lanka tour and beach holiday packages.

Galoya national park

Situated at Inginiyagala, the Gal Oya National Park is 314 km. from Colombo and is most renowned for its elephant population.

Udawalawe national park

Situated 170 km. South East of Colombo the Uda Walawe National Park is approximately 30,821 hectares in extent. This Park which lies within the Ratnapura and Monaragala Districts acts as the catchment to the Uda Walawe Reservoir and is located in the Dry Zone. This Park comprises grasslands and thorn scrubs and many valuable species of trees are found within it. Large herds of Elephants and Deer species such as spotted Deer, Sambhur, Barking deer and Langur, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo, Jackal are some of the prominent wild animals found in this Park and a variety of avifauna is seen.

Wasgamuwa national park

Situated approximately 200 km. away from Colombo, the Wasgamuwa National Park lies within the Polonnaruwa and Matale Districts and have the Mahaweli river and Amban river as its eastern and western boundaries. Tropical intermediate dry mixed evergreen forest predominates its environment.

Bundala national park

Bundala National Park is the latest addition to the National Parks and is situated 260 km. away from Colombo. All species of waterbirds resident in the country and the migrant birds inhabit this Park.

Horton plains national park

The Horton Plains National Park is the only National Park situated in the Hill Country and falls within the Nuwara Eliya district and is 200 km. away from Colombo. The panoramic scenic beauty of the Hill Country could be witnessed within the Park. The famous `Worlds End’ is a major attraction within the Park. Endemic slender loris and endemic purple monkey are among the important animal species that could be seen in addition to sambhur, a member of the cat family etc. There is some endemic avifauna also found within this Park.

Bird sanctuaries

The sanctuaries at Kumana 312 km. from Colombo, Wirawila 261 km. Bundala 259 km. and Kalametiya 224 km. are all lagoon locations in Sri Lanka’s extreme southeastern coast. The Giant’s Tank in the northwestern corner of the island is a huge ancient irrigation reservoir of 3,800 hectares. The coastal sanctuaries are exotically picturesque with combinations of lagoon, swamp, river, jungle, lake and plain. Large flocks can be found here of both resident and migrant aquatic birds. The highland sanctuaries at Udawattakele 118 km. from Colombo and the Peak Wilderness 141 km. are quieter but equally picturesque with wooded hills and secluded streams and have the added bonus of rare flora such as our unique Wesak Orchid as well as numerous species of rare butterflies. The Udawattakele Sanctuary is in the suburbs of Kandy, our picturesque and fascinating hill capital. The Peak Wilderness is situated on the slopes of Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada), Sri Lanka’s sacred mountain.

Elephant orphanage

An orphanage for elephants has been set up by the Department of National Zoological Gardens, at Pinnawela, 90 km. from Colombo. This is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Sri Lanka and includes in most Sri Lanka road trips. It was established in 1975 and several animals brought here at the inception are now mature enough for breeding, which is the ultimate aim of the institution. Entrance fees: Rs.200. Pinnawala elephant orphanage has the largest captive herd in the world. The Pinnawala elephant orphanage has not only got the largest captive herd of elephants in the entire world but it also has become the most successful elephant breeding centre, according to reports.  The elephant orphanage now boasts of its sixteenth birth and the second generation of births in captivity. It has become a major tourist attraction because of its uniqueness. This is an ideal site for photography, research and education on elephants as the visitor is able to observe a large herd comprised of week old babies to sixty-year-old.

A state of the art zoo is under construction at Pinnawala which will be open to the public by 2003. The Department of National Zoological Gardens now maintains two farms at Pallekelle and Gonapola to meet a part of its food requirements for animals.

Jatika namal uyana, Ulpotagama, Matugama

Naamal Uyana” is an extremely rare forest replanted with Ironwood Trees (Mesua ferara) in the 8th Century AD by King Dappula. The Ironwood Tree is endemic to Sri Lanka and the replanted forest is over 200 acres in extent. The area is also geologically important allowing visitors to view one of the largest Pink Quartz Mountains in Sri Lanka. Other attractions include ancient monuments dating back to the 2nd Century AD and three surface waterways, which intriguingly disappear, and then resurface around 500 metres away in the form of water fountains!

RICH ANIMAL AND PLANT LIFE The Namal Uyana holds a rich animal and plants life with over 19 species of birds and rare species of lizards and 76 kinds of medicinal plants.

Ironwood forest

National Iron Wood Forest is a unique forest in Sri Lanka where the Iron Wood (Mesua ferara) trees dominate the vegetation of the 238 acres of forest. It is said that during King Dappula IV’s period (8th century AD) this Iron Wood forest was created and the remaining trees are the shoots of that forest. Hence it is considered the oldest man-made forest in Sri Lanka. According to botanists, this is the only Iron Wood forest in the dry zone with wet zone vegetation. Among the many streams that meander through the forest, one stream intriguingly disappears out of sight only to emerge as a great freshwater fountain 500 metres away.

Pink quartz mountain

The main topographical feature of the forest is the Pink Quartz mountain with seven peaks. The height of the mountain is 1070 ft above sea level. Geographers believe that it was formed 4,000 million years ago and it is the only mountain of this kind in Sri Lanka.

Lunugamvehera national park

Lunugamvehera national park Sri Lanka is covered by rare trees and home to many endangered animal species, Lunugamvehera national park has become a popular destination in the southern province of Sri Lanka. The national park is situated bordering the Udawalawa national park and Yala national park. It is declared as a national park in December 1953 and spread over 23498.8 hectares. The Lunugamvehera National Park was designed to protect waterways and to provide a resting-station for elephants, migrating between the Eastern section of the Yala Wildlife Conservation and the Western side of the Udawalawa National Park.

Lunugamvehera had been a prominent and important region of the Ruhunu kingdom (Kingdom in southern Sri Lanka) in early days and it had been a very thriving area in the region. Lunugamvehera National Park is situated bordering Kuda Oya and Kirindi Oya; main tributaries of the Lunugamvehera reservoir. These rivers are both a means of support for thousands of people and also the cause of great disasters in the flood season.

One of the main attractions of the Lunugamvehera national park is the reservoir which spread over 3283 hectares. This reservoir came to being under the Lunugamvehera development project and 600 families in the village using it as their main source of income through the fishing. The reservoir is a great irrigation resource, which can hold 350 million cubic meters of water to irrigate 17,000 hectares of rice and crops in Area. This reservoir is also a source of fish and shrimp for residents.

The reserve was established in order to protect the wildlife, as well as biodiversity in the region. Lunugamvehera is a national park with very high biodiversity, which contains trees, belongs to different forest types in Sri Lanka such as dry zone forest, rainforests arid zone vegetation, shrubs, and grassland etc. Weera, Kone, Palu, Hik, Kunumallawa, Kirikone, Ulkenda, Kappetiy and Coffee plants are commonly seen in the park.

Sixty-two different species of trees recorded in the National park while the number of animal species recorded is 42. The elephant is the most common animal in the National park numbering 100 to 150 Elephants. Elephant corridor which is located between Udawalawa and Lunugamvehera national park enables the animals to migrate from one national park to the other; widening the habitat for the animals. Other than the elephants one can see the animal such as Leopards, Bear, monkeys, crocodile, deer, sambar, different species of birds.

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

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