Sri Lanka may be small but it’s wildlife is mighty! Boasting one of the highest rates of biodiversity in the world, the country is home to 91 species of mammals, including some of the largest populations of leopard and the Asiatic elephants in the world.
Here’s our pick of the best wildlife hot spots in the ‘Teardrop Isle’.
Yala National Park
Nestled on Sri Lanka’s south-east coast, Yala National Park boasts a diversity of wildlife to rival any African safari experience. A national park since 1938, Yala is home to one of the planet’s densest leopard populations, giving you one of the best chances of seeing these beautiful big cats anywhere in the world. As well as these fabulous felines, you’ll also be in with a chance of spotting elephants, sloth bears, sambars, golden jackals, spotted deer, wild pigs, peacocks and crocodiles to name just a few! For the twitchers amongst you, the diverse habitats ranging from woodland and scrub to marine ecosystems are a haven for birdlife, with over 220 different species calling the park home.
If it’s elephants you’re after then you’ve come to the right place in Uda Walawe National Park.
Established for over 50 years now, the national park is renowned as one of the best places in Sri Lanka, if not the world, to see Asiatic elephants. You are almost guaranteed to see them during your time here. The huge Walawe Reservoir, in the heart of the park, is a favourite hangout for the 400 or so elephants that live here, especially during the drier months. Park up on the edge of the water and you’ll be treated to the delightful spectacle of family groups visiting to drink, bathe and play in the water.
It’s not all about the pachyderms though – you’ll also spot water buffalo, monitor lizards, sambar deer and monkeys and the park also blesses bird watchers. The raptors are a particular highlight here including the intriguingly named changeable hawk eagle.
Our highlights of Sri Lanka tours also visits the Elephant Transit Home in the park, a small centre that cares for orphaned elephant calves until they are independent enough to be released back into the park.
Wilpattu National Park
Located on the north west coast Wilpattu National Park is Sri Lanka’s largest and also least well known national park. A dry zone jungle, the landscape is dotted with scores of freshwater lakes that thousands of resident and migratory water-birds, quite literally flock to. Whistling teal, spoonbill, white ibis, egrets, and many species of gulls, terns, owls and eagles all can be spotted.
On land the dense swathes of woodland host crocodiles, elephants, sloth bears, spotted deer and water buffalo. You may even catch a glimpse of the elusive leopard.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Located on the lusher south-west coast Sinharaja is the remnant of primary tropical rainforest on the island. Home to and incredible breadth of bio-diversity and a huge number of endemic species. The whole reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage. You’ll find 95 percent of the Sri Lanka’s endemic bird species here including the colourfully monikered green-billed coucal, red-faced malkoha and the Sri Lankan blue magpie. The rolling lush tropical landscape also boasts over 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of mammals and butterflies, as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians.
From stunning scenery to amazing architecture, Sri Lanka is a tropical paradise. Marvel at magnificent temples, see the Rock Fortress at Sigiriya, see elephants at Yala National Park and explore the ruined cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.