Wild Parks of Sri Lanka
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Wild Parks of Sri Lanka
While Yala in the dry zone of Hambantota remains the most famous wildlife park in Sri Lanka, other well-known wildlife parks include Kaudulla, Minneriya, Wilpattu, Wasgamuwa, Udawalawa and Gal Oya, to name a few. Drought seasons in different parts of the country mean that the animals move to different parts within the parks, or visit adjoining parks in search of food and water. Majestic elephants, deadly leopards, pythons and crocodiles, bears, deer, languor and wild boar are just a selection of the animals one could sight in the wildlife parks, in addition to the resplendent bird population. The Horton Plains National Park which is the highland from where 3 of the largest rivers of Sri Lanka originate, is also a mysterious paradise of wildlife.
Wilpattu National Park
131,693 hectares in extent Wilpattu is the largest national park in the country,. The main topographical feature in Wilpattu is the concentration of "Villus" or lakes within the park. These water bodies though looking similar to lakes are formed by flat basin like depressions with the surface containing pure rain water. The park is unique as there are a number of these with large sandy lake shores (Villus) which provide the animals with a continuous water supply during the dry season. Two of these "Villus" are
Kumana National Park
Kumana National Park in Sri Lanka is renowned for its avifauna, mainly its large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds. Kumana is contiguous with Yala National Park. Kumana was formerly known as Yala East National Park, but changed to its present name in 5 September 2006.
Kumbukkan Oya forms the southern boundary of the national park. Some 20 lagoons and tanks support the extensive birdlife of the national park. The elevation of the area ranges from sea level to 90 meters.
The park's wetland areas are surrounded by a dry zone tropical thorny forest. The inland forest's flora is dominated by Palu, Ehela, Burutha and more.
Horton Plains National Parks
The Horton Plains are the headwaters of three major Sri Lankan rivers, the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe. In Sinhala the plains are known as Maha Eliya Plains. Stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture have been found here. The plains' vegetation is grasslands interspersed with Montane forest, and includes many endemic woody plants. Large herds of Sri Lankan Sambar Deer feature as typical mammals, and the park is also an Important Bird Area with many species not only endemic to Sri Lanka but restricted to the Horton Plains. Forest dieback is one of the major threats to the park and some studies suggest that it is caused by a natural phenomenon.
Bundala National Park
Bundala is the first site in the country to get Ramseur status and is the most important site for resident as well as migrant water birds outside the northern part of the country. It is managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. It was declared as a sanctuary in 1969 and received Ramseur status in 1990. The park consists of 6,216 hectares of dense thorny scrub, sand dunes and five shallow brackish lagoons. The road network inside the park allows the birder to visit much bird sites located within the park in a vehicle. The Bundala Saltern which is adjoining the park has a few motor able roads and is a locality where thousands of migrant waders can be observed during the season. There are no bungalows inside the park but a few campsites are available in the park. Accommodation is available at private guest houses at Weligatta and Hambantota.
Lahugala Kitulana National Park
This is a dominant wet zone evergreen rainforest which forms the catchment area of the Labugama and Kalatuwawa reservoirs that provide water to the city of Colombo. Managed by the Forest Department this forest is 2,150 hectares in extent and is the largest forest reserve close to Colombo where many wet zone endemic species can be sighted. As in other wet zone forests in the country, leeches are found here too and any excursion into the forest should be with adequate protection
Minneriya National Park
Minneriya National Park is in the midst of three agricultural towns: Habarana, Polonnaruwa and Minneriya. This is a heavenly area for elephants coming from the neighboring jungles to enjoy the lush grass fields on the banks of the Minneriya reservoir, especially during the dry season. Reports of elephant sightings range from 100 to a surprising 700. Endemic monkeys as well as many resident and migratory bird species can also be spotted. There are endemic reptiles such as the painted-lip lizard and the other reptiles that dwell here are the saltwater crocodile, the Indian python and the water monitor. The park doesn't offer accommodation but excellent lodging can be secured in the adjacent areas of Sigiriya and Habarana. Minneriya National Park is in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. This became a national park in August 1997, having been declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. This was done to protect the catchment of Minneriya tank and the wildlife of the surrounding area and receives an average rainfall of 1,500-2,000 millimeters
Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawa National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces of Sri Lanka. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawa reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir.
The park is capable of sustaining a large herd of elephants. Udawalawa is an important habitat for Sri Lankan Elephants, which are relatively easy to be seen in the open habitats. Many elephants are attracted to the park because of the Udawalawa reservoir, with a herd of about 250 believed to be permanently resident. The Udawalawa Elephant Transit Home was established in 1995 for the purpose of looking after abandoned elephant calves within the park. A total of nine calves, on two occasions in 1998 and 2000, with another eight calves in 2002, were released in the park when old enough to fend for themselves.
Wasgamuwa National Park
Wasgamuwa, another national park in the island plentiful of large herds of elephants, offers ample chances to view Elephants, Leopards, Sloth Bear, Sāmbhar, Deer, Wild Buffalo, Purple-Faced Leaf Monkey and the nocturnal Slender Loris among other exotic species. Those who are interested in ecotourism can ask for camp sites within the park. Wasgamuwa has the highest biodiversity among the protected areas in Sri Lanka. More than 150 floral species have been recorded from the park. 8 being endemic species. The park is inhabited by a herd of 150 Sri Lankan Elephants and endemic Red-faced Malkoha is a resident bird in this national park. Sri Lanka Jungle fowl is another endemic bird that inhabits the park. There are 17 reptile species recorded in the park out of which 5 species are endemic water monitors, and mugger crocodiles are common in the water bodies of the park.
Yala National Park
Ruhunu National Park is one of the best and most popular in the country due to its diversity and density of mammals. it consists of five blocks covering an area of 97,881 hectares. Block 01 which was established in 1938 covers an area of 14,101 hectares and it is widely used by tourists due to its very extensive network of road. Block 02 was established in 1954, Block 03 in 1967, Block 04 in 1969 and Block 05 in 1973. The vegetation of the park is primarily semi-arid thorny scrub interspersed with riverine forests and fairly dense pockets of forests. There are many places to stay just outside the park in Palatupana as well as a number of bungalows inside the park. These bungalows, as with the case of all national park bungalows, and camp sites have to be booked beforehand from the head office of the DWLC.