Sri Lanka boasts a wealth of national parks – 26, to be exact. With so many wildlife reserves open to visitors, it is difficult to know where to begin!
Let us do the hard work finding the right Sri Lanka national park for you, based on your interests and needs. From seeing spotted leopards slinking through the trees to viewing immense herds of elephants, you won’t forget your Sri Lanka wildlife experiences in a hurry.
Spot the Sri Lankan leopard
To spot the Sri Lankan leopard, Yala National Park is the best option for your Sri Lanka trip. This wildlife reserve has the highest density of leopards of anywhere in the world, so sightings are almost guaranteed!
Yala National Park has a spectacular sea border, stretching inland to cover salted scrubland and lakes surrounded by lush plains. As well as the Sri Lankan leopard, visitors can spot elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, monitor lizards, snakes, and a wide variety of birds.
The best time to visit is between December and July. In the winter, visitors can spot a wide range of migrant birds while spring brings the chance to see leopard cubs playing on the edge of the trees. Water sources are scarce in summer, drawing out the more elusive creatures in the park.
Most family-friendly safari
Kids are welcome at all of the wildlife reserves, but winning the crown for most family-friendly safari in Sri Lanka is Udawalawe National Park.
Udawalawe is about an hour inland from the south coast. It is the reserve that most resembles an African safari park with thick grassy fields and large tanks, ideal for viewing the animals that roam here. Elephants are the main draw, but you will also find deer, sambar, water buffalo and monkeys. Butterly sightings are special in late spring.
Kids will love visiting the Elephant Transit Home where orphaned elephant calves are rehabilitated and released back into the reserve. At 9am, 12pm, 3pm, and 6pm, you can watch the baby elephants being fed by the handlers.
Steer clear of the tourist trail
Those looking to steer clear of the tourist trail will love Wilpattu National Park. This wildlife reserve is the country’s oldest, set on the north-west coast of Sri Lanka just above kite-surfing mecca Kalpitiya. This region is rural and offers a true taste of authentic Sri Lanka.
A network of waterways known as vilus crisscrosses through the park from the shore to the eastern edge. These feed the surrounding forest which is dense and diverse, beautiful tropical plants concealing exotic birds and the elusive Sri Lankan leopard. There are even ancient sites hidden at the very center of the park.
A special way to experience Wilpattu National Park is to stay at one of the luxury campsites on the border of the park. Leopard Safaris and Leopard Trails both offer excellent accommodation, unparalleled guiding, and mouth-watering cuisine served under the stars.
Unique activities in Gal Oya
If you want an experience that you have never had before, add the unique activities in Gal Oya National Park to your itinerary. This remote reserve can be explored by jeep but also has much more to offer visitors.
Most spectacular is the sunset boat ride across the central lake. Birds soar overhead as the sun sinks below the skyline, and elephants swim between the islets ready to rest for the night. Guests at Gal Oya Lodge can go on a guided walk along the border of the park in search of rare indigenous flora.
Active travelers will find peace and joy on the testing journey to the summit of Monkey Mountain. At the top, hikers are rewarded with a 180-degree view of the Gal Oya Valley.
Witness The Elephant Gathering
Do you want to see a recognized wildlife phenomenon? Witness the annual event known as The Elephant Gathering at Minneriya National Park in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle.
In the summer, the water sources in this wildlife reserve shrink away until only the large Minneriya Tank remains. With no other choices for drinking and bathing, the animals of Minneriya National Park are forced to congregate together each morning and evening. This includes vast herds of elephants.
In August and September, it is possible for tourists to see up to 500 elephants at once in Minneriya National Park. This convenient Cultural Triangle activity could turn out to be the highlight of your Sri Lanka vacation.
How to make this experience a part of your itinerary?
Our vision for our blog is to build an invaluable resource for independent inquisitive travelers wanting to travel to Sri Lanka in a way that goes beyond the conventional and takes people further and deeper both physically and emotionally. It’s about having a fuller, richer, more meaningful trip. We also want to be a practical resource. Every article is ‘actionable’, you are able to make it part of your itinerary in some way. For tips on how to make any of these tips part of your journey send us an enquiry