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The diverse island country of Sri Lanka is one of the best places in Asia for spotting wildlife. With a vast variety of National Parks boasting big game, marine life and varied landscapes, holidays in Sri Lanka are a popular choice with wildlife fans.
Sri Lanka’s unique location from the mainland, its tropical climate and wide range of altitudes, have given it a variation in climate and biodiversity usually only found across an entire continent. As well as the elusive leopard, elephants, sloth bears and a whole host of other mammals within its beautiful National Parks, Sri Lanka has also become known as an easy place to spot the blue whale, one of the largest animals in the world. Sri Lanka is also a fantastic choice for birdwatchers, with a whole host of National Parks containing various different species.
With around 100 areas of protected land in the country and multiple National Parks, we’ve narrowed down some of the top places for spotting wildlife…
Sri Lanka’s most famous National Park sits in the southeast of the country and covers a huge area of land (approximately 130,000 acres) that’s filled with a fantastic array of wildlife. As well as elephants, buffaloes, crocodiles and monkeys, the park is famed for having one of the largest concentrations of leopards in the world. This high concentration gives visitors a great chance of spotting an elusive Sri Lankan leopard. Other wildlife includes sloth bears during June and July, sambars, jackals, spotted deer and peacocks. As Sri Lanka’s most popular National Park, visits to Yala National Park are often included as part of a Sri Lanka tour, with safaris a common excursion for tourists in the country.
Located south of Sri Lanka’s central mountains and beautiful tea plantations, Udawalawe National Park is renowned for containing around 500 Asian elephants. With elephant sightings virtually guaranteed, and close encounters commonplace, this park is the spot for viewing these majestic creatures. The main attraction is the elephants, but birdwatchers will also enjoy spotting a variety of eagles that call the park home.
Also known as the ‘Land of Lakes’ due to the fact it contains over 100 lakes, this stunning park in the northwest of Sri Lanka sits approximately 30 kilometres west of the famous city of Anuradhapura. One of the oldest and largest National Parks in the country, the park is known for sightings of the elusive sloth bear. The park is also home to a collection of leopards and whilst their density isn’t as large as at Yala National Park, sightings are still possible. Other mammals include elephants, leopards, water buffalo, spotted deer and mongoose.
Located west of Yala National Park on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, Bundala National Park is internationally renowned as a top destination for birdwatchers. An impressive landscape of coastal lagoons and wetlands, Bundala is home to around 195 species of birds, including the greater flamingo. Although most visitors head to Bundala for the birdlife, lucky visitors can also spot crocodiles, elephants, grey langur monkeys and turtles.
These two National Parks in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province have situated just a short drive from each other and sit around two large reservoirs. Minneriya is the more popular of the two National Parks and a common excursion on a tour of Sri Lanka, however with its close proximately to Kaudulla, it is possible to visit both parks as part of a day trip. During the dry season (from June until October) over 300 elephants congregate around the reservoir for what is known as ‘the gathering’, and frequently travel between the two parks. Birds fans can also expect plenty of sightings, with many different species residing in the parks, including flocks of around 2000 cormorants reported.