Sri Lanka has an abundance of wildlife and is one of the best locations for a safari outside of Africa.
National parks are home to an incredible diversity of animal life from leopards, elephants, sloth bears, to reptiles and birds. Incidentally, the leopard, elephant, sloth bear, blue whale, and sperm whale are known as Sri Lanka´s Big Five.
Sri Lanka is also known as a bird watchers’ paradise with an array of endemic, migratory, and resident birds found in its diverse landscape. The island is also famous for its abundance of exotic flora.
Yala is the most popular national park in Sri Lanka amongst locals and tourists. Yala is known for the highest possibility of leopard sightings in the world. The expansive Yala Park is divided into five blocks and only blocks I and II are open to visitors. It was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900. Yala plays an important role in the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, leopards, and aquatic birds.
Wilpattu, the largest national park in Sri Lanka, comprises a wide range of habitats including thick jungle, grassy plains, a section of coastline as well as a series of ‘Villu‘ (natural small lakes). Counted as one of the most important protected areas in Sri Lanka this is one of the best places to spot sloth bears.
The Uda Walawe park was created in 1972 to protect the catchment area around the enormous Uda Walawe reservoir. The park’s landscape consists of scrub jungles, grasslands, and an abandoned teak plantation. The park harbours a variety of wildlife, ranging from water buffalo and sambar deer to the rarely sighted leopard and sloth bear. Uda Walawe is also a great place to observe birds of prey and elephants in their natural habitat.
Minneriya, Kaudulla and Hurulu Eco Park
These three parks are interconnected via elephant corridors. At the height of the dry season, elephants congregate in the dried-out reservoirs of the parks. Their numbers peak during September – as many as 300 elephants have been recorded here during this period, and it is considered the world’s largest Asian elephant gathering.
Known as the largest undisturbed rainforest in Sri Lanka, the Sinharaja forest was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1989. The forest receives an annual rainfall of 600 mm, and the climate inside is mildly warm and humid. 60% of the trees and 21% of the birds in Sinharaja are endemic to Sri Lanka. A wide variety of rare butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles, such as the rough-horned lizard can also be glimpsed on leaf litter. The giant squirrel, the national animal of Sri Lanka, and the endemic purple faced leaf monkey are quite common sightings in Sinharaja.