Guide to the National Parks of Sri Lanka
The Call of the Wild Awaits Visitors in Various Wildlife SanctuariesSri Lanka, blessed with an abundance of flora and fauna, has a long tradition of conservation dating back to the 3rd century BC.
The world’s first wildlife sanctuary was set up by royal edict in the 3rd century BC in Mihintale and today Sri Lanka’s natural and protected areas account for 14% of the total land area.
Within this land area there are more than 70 sanctuaries, National Parks and a number of wetlands and mountain ranges. Here is a guide to the most well-known of these Parks.
Yala National Park – Yala (aka Ruhuna National Park) is famous for its elephant population, which can be seen in small and large herds. Spotted deer, sambhur, barking deer, monkey, wild buffalo, wild boar, sloth bear, and innumerable varieties of birds, endemic and migratory are also commonly seen. The peacock is the most famous famous of the birds at Yala. The mating dance of the male with its colourful plumes fully spread is a photographers delight. More introvert are the elusive leopards which are less commonly spotted.
Ruhuna (Yala) National Park – Tel: 00 94 (0)60 2489297
Lying within the ancient kingdom of Ruhuna there are also a large number of archaeological sites. Notably Situlpahuwa, a rocky site believed to have been a monastery which housed more than 10,000 people. According to over 60 inscriptions found at the site it is one of the greatest monasteries of the 2nd century BC found in Sri Lanka.
Wasgamuwa National Park – Wasgamuwa is situated in the North Central province closer to the ancient cities especially Polonnaruwa. In Wasgamuwa elephants are easily sighted as are other large mammals.
Wasgamuwa National Park – Tel: 00 94 (0)60 2669046
Minneriya National Park – Circling the beautiful Minneriya Tank (3rd century AD), the green surrounding are strikingly different to the arid landscape. Being part of the elephant corridor which joins up with Kaudulla and Wasgamuwa you are sure to see elephants, especially during the dry season of June to September when the water filled tank attracts them. Minneriya also boasts a wide variety of birdlife, including some endemic to Sri Lanka.
Minneriya National Park – Tel: 00 94 (0)60 2279243
Udawalawe National Park – Udawalawe is next in popularity to Yala and elephants can nearly always be observed, even at midday. In addition 39 species of mammals and 183 species of birds have been recorded.
Elephant Transit Home (Eth Athuru Sevana) at Udawalawe National Park – This is a centre for rehabilitation and re-integration of orphaned wild elephants, which has been established at Udawalawe National Park by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The increase of the country’s population, large scale irrigation and agricultural projects have fragmented the former habitat of elephants resulting in elephant mortality and a decrease of the population of these magnificent beasts. Despite the mitigation measures to control human elephant conflict, considerable numbers of elephant calves were recovered as orphans. The DWLC pioneered a research project in 1995 at Udawalawe to rehabilitate and release wild elephant orphans back to the wild. This project has been successful with releases in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008. Visitors can enjoy the antics of these baby elephants from a viewing platform at the centre. The DWLC calls for public support to minimise the expense from the public by joining the foster-parent scheme and Help Wild Elephant Orphans programme. Those interested may contact the Department of Wildlife Conservation at Tel: 00 94 (0)11 2 560380.
Wilpattu National Park – Wilpattu is close to Anuradhapura and is unique in its topography having several inland ‘villus’ (lakes) that attract thousands of water birds. It is also the main domain of the elusive leopard. Bear, herds of deer and sambhur are common. The vegetation is lush and wide changes of vegetation can be experiences in different sections of the park.
Wilpattu National Park – Tel: 00 94 (0)25 2257893.
Bundala National Park and Bird Sanctuary – In the deep south on the way to Yala is Sri Lanka’s first recognised Ramsar site (i.e. a wetland of international importance). Popular with both local and migratory birds, it is noted that around 167 species have been sighted. The park is the last refuge of the greater flamingo in this part of the island and up to 2,000 of these birds have been recorded during November and December. The lagoons also constitute one of the most popular wintering areas of migratory shorebirds in the country, accommodating up to 20,000 shorebirds at anytime including the black necked stork.
Bundala National Park – Tel: 00 94 (0)60 2489070
The entrance fee is US $14 per adult and US $7 per child at Yala, Wilpattu, Udawalawe, Minneriya and Horton Plains. The other parks are US $8 per adult and US $4 per child. A four wheel drive is recommended. Private jeeps are available at the entrance at rates varying from US $40 to US $60 (subject to change). You are not permitted to alight from your vehicle within the park except at specially marked locations and you must always be accompanied by a tracker provided by the park authorities. Please refrain from disturbing the peace of the wild and do not leave any litter behind.
Read more in Holidaying in The National Parks of Sri Lanka and Eco-Tourism in Sri Lanka.