Nature and Wildlife
Yala (Ruhuna) National Park
The Yala National Park is the second largest national park found in Sri Lanka. Encompassing 979 sq km, this park is around 300 km from the capital of Colombo. Designated as a wildlife sanctuary, the Yala National Park is of great significance, since it plays a pivotal role in the conservation of aquatic birds and elephants. It is interesting to note that this particular park is known for having one of the largest leopard densities globally. There are also 215 bird species present, out of which six are endemic to Sri Lanka; the park also is home to 44 different mammals. Moreover, this national park presents varied ecosystems, such as semi deciduous forests, moist monsoon forests, grasslands, wetlands and also beaches. Being the most visited part in Sri Lanka, the Yala National Park is found in an area that was part of different ancient civilizations. Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara are two vital pilgrim sites, found within the park.
Wilpattu National Park
What is unique about the Wilpattu National Park is that there are natural lakes that fill up with rainwater. Regarded as the largest park, it is found around 180 km from Colombo. Famed for its leopard population, the Wilpattu National Park is home to 31 species of mammals. Some of these are the: elephant, sloth bear, leopard, water buffalo, sambhur, spotted deer, mongoose, mouse and shrew. With an annual rainfall of 1000mm, the Wilpattu National Park has inter-monsoonal rains in the month of March, and in the months of December to February, the northeast monsoon. Additionally, this park is blessed with various flora like Salt grass, Palu, Satin, Milla, Weera, Ebony and Wewarna. With so much on offer at the Wilpattu National Park, it needs to be stated that bespoke tours and safaris are quite popular. This is a location that certainly deserves to be on your agenda.
Gal Oya National Park
At 314 km from Colombo, the Gal Oya National Park was founded in 1954. A significant phenomenon that can be witnessed throughout the year is its elephant herd. The Sri Lankan Axis Deer, Sri Lankan Elephant, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Water Buffalo, Muntjac, Sri Lanka Leopard, Wild Boar and Toque Monkey are just a few of the 32 terrestrial mammals that have been found at the Gal Oya National Park. Tourists who do visit this park may catch a sight of the Mugger Crocodile and the Star Tortoise as well. There are over 150 bird species recorded here, including the Lesser Adjutant, the Spot-billed Pelican and the Red-faced Malkoha. The Senanayake reservoir is home to the Oriental Darter, Indian Cormorant, Grey Heron, and the Lesser Whistling Duck. The White-bellied Sea Eagle and Grey-headed Fish Eagle may also be found in this area. Also located within the vicinity are ancient ruins, such as the Dighavapi stupa, where Buddha is supposed to have meditated.
Uda Walawe National Park
Touted as the third most visited park in Sri Lanka, the Uda Walawe National Park is of great significance since it is home to Sri Lankan Elephants and water birds. Located 165 km from Colombo, this national park was created as a sanctuary for wildlife that has been displaced by the creation of the Uda Walawe reservoir. At present, there’s a 250-strong herd of elephants that resides in this park, attracted by the reservoir. The park is also ideal for bird watching and is home to bird species, such as the Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Spot-billed Pelican, Asian Openbill, Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis and the Eurasian Spoonbill. Tourists should make it a point to visit the Uda Walawe Elephant Transit Home, which was set up in 1995 to care for abandoned elephant calves. Surely a popular tourist destination, this is a location that is assured of offering you fond memories.
Kumana Bird Sanctuary
Having been a victim of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict and even the tsunami, the Kumana Bird Sanctuary is found 391 km southeast of Colombo. There are close to 20 water tanks and lagoons that offer sustenance to the large species of birds present here. Officially, there is a record of 255 species of birds including the following: Asian Openbill, Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Spot-billed Pelican, Indian Cormorant, Little Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, and Little Stint. However, it must be said that the number of birds observed in this sanctuary has fallen since of late. There is a certain degree of cultural significance here for both the Sinhalese and Tamil communities. The Kumana area lies on the same route that needs to be taken in order to reach the Hindu Temple at Kataragama.
Minneriya National Park
With Amban ganga being the strength of the Minneriya tank, which is created by King Mahasen during 3rd century, dominates the land area of 3000ha. This magnificent man made creation is also the main attraction of the said National Park. The area consists of mixed ever green forests & scrub areas, bamboo stands, patanas & talawas. Covering an area of 8,889ha Minneriya National Park is blessed with such diversity, that it becomes rather impossible to name another that represents high diversity within a single protected area.
During the dry season, which is from June-September the reservoir becomes the wild life hotspot, forming a unique annual event namely “the Gathering”. This is where more than 500 wild elephants come from neighbouring areas to graze on the lush green grass sprouts & to quenches the thirst. This unique phenomenon is the largest congregation of wild Asian Elephants in the world. Minneriya is also one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBA) of Sri Lanka, which joins the list with Kaudulla and Giritale.
Bundala National Park
As one of biodiversity hot spots in Sri Lanka, Bundala National Park is the first Ramsar site (is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands; that is to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future, recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value.) that is spread in an area of 6,216ha, which has been declared due to the complex wetland system that attracts the wintering birds that come to rest tired, weather beaten feathered bodies and to fill their empty birdie stomachs. Hence Bundala is the ideal grounds to observe the colourful migratory and local Air dominators, in which the glory of being in the highlighted spot is taken by the greater flamingo.
Horton Plains National Park
Belonging to the Central Province of Sri Lanka, this is the highest plateau in the country. Situated between the altitudes of 2000-2300 with lot of wonderful attractions that highlights this place is a must see from different point of views. Horton plains also becomes the home ground for lot of endemic species, especially the mouse-deer; one of Sri Lanka’s least known mammals.
Being outstanding in scenic beauty & high conservation importance, it constitute Sri Lanka’s most important catchment area of all most all major rivers.
Knuckles Mountain Range
Knuckles mountain range is another natural marvel in Sri Lanka that just proves how blessed the Sri Lankan isle is. Informally known by many names, the mountain range is christened as Knuckles mountain range due to its appearance from an angle. It appears as a clenched fist with knuckles protruding. But the natives have named it differently as “Dumbara Kanduvetiya” meaning misty-mountain-range. What is truly astonishing about this topography is its high concentration of biodiversity. Spanning across a small area of 30,000ha the biodiversity hot spot homes 160 endemic flowering plants where some of them are not capable of growing anywhere else in the world. With many endemic flora and fauna including rare and endangered species, harbouring the salubrious mountain air of the mountain range Knuckles is affirmed as a conservation area recorded as “Knuckles National Heritage and Wilderness Area”.
Ritigala is renowned for the ancient Buddhist monastery and the mountain. Currently what catch the eyes of the tourists are the glorious ruins remaining here. This is rooted in the city of Anuradhapura which resides various religious significances.
Sinharaja Rain Forest
Sinharaja is a national park which is rich with the diversity of flora and fauna. This park is a hotspot to explore the bio diversity in Sri Lanka. As an admiration this site has been declared as Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This is a hillside virgin forest which is located in the low land side of Sri Lanka.