National Parks Sri Lanka

National Parks and Wildlife Safaris Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the best places in Asia for seeing wildlife. It is also one of the best all round wildlife destinations in the world for a mix of big game, marine life and varied landscapes, all packed into a compact area with a very good tourism infrastructure.The island’s isolation from the mainland, the heavy rainfall of the two diagonally blowing monsoons, and the country’s wide range of altitudes, have given Sri Lanka a variation in climate and biodiversity normally found only across an entire continent. On top of that, the island has become known as the easiest place in the world to see the hitherto elusive blue whale, the largest animal to have ever lived in the planet. 

Sri Lanka is proud of its natural bounty. For over 2,000 years, swathes of land have been preserved as sanctuaries by Sri Lankan royalty – Mihintale, the world’s first reserve, was created here in the third century BC. Now there are 100 areas of protected land in the country, and this is the pick of the bunch…!

National parks are allowed for public to see & study wildlife. There are 22 National Parks declared in Sri Lanka. Introduce rules & regulations in order to ensure the maximum protection of wildlife & habitats within National parks.


Ruhuna National park or more affectionately known as Yala, has been the most celebrated wildlife park in Sri Lanka for over a century, along with its first self appointed Boer prisoner of war game warden H.E.Engelbrecht, quiet a story in itself. “Yalagama” as it was known at the turn of the century, was in effect the “Resident sportsman’s” shooting reserve! A wild country reserved for the “Sporting pleasure” of the British residents in Sri Lanka. It is located in a tract of land covering approximately 1260 km2, between Kumbukkan River & Menik River, and shares its borders with Yala strict nature reserve, Kumana, Kataragama, Katagamuwa and Nimalawa sanctuaries.

Yala has been declared as a protected area in 1900 and it was a 389 km2 at that time. In 1909 Yala was declared as Sanctuary and gain gazette as a National Park in 25 th February 1938. Today, of about 140 km2 in extent, is open for public viewing from 05:30 am to 06:30 pm after which you have to vacate the park, unless you have opted to stay in one of the camp sites or bungalows inside the park.

Yala Wildlife

The top draw is the Sri Lankan leopard, a sub-species endemic to the country, in certain areas of the park, the average leopard density is as high as one cat to every square kilometer. During the fruiting of the palu trees in June and July, sloth bears are often observed. Other animals you might spot include sambar (a large deer), spotted deer, buffalo, wild pig, stripe-necked and ruddy mongooses, langur monkey, toque monkey, golden jackal and Indian palm civet. The combination of freshwater, marine, scrub and woodland areas ensures a high diversity of birds.


Kumana National Park spreads over an area of 35,664 hectares. In the west, the park is bordered by River Kumubukkan Oya; to the south is south-eastern coast that runs to Panama. A 200 hectares mangrove swamp called “Kumana Villu” within the Park is subject to occasional inundation with sea water. It is at this swamp that many water birds nest, during the months of May and June. Scattered in the Kumana National Park are several water pools that are favorite spots of the wildlife: Kudawila lake, Thummulla lake and Kotalinda lake.

Reaching Kumana National Park

The gateway to Kumana National Park is at Panama. The park office is located at Okanda, 22km south of Panama.

Kumuna receives 1,300 millimeters (51.18 in) of annual rainfall. The mean annual temperature is 27 degrees Celsius.

Birdlife at Kumana National Park

Sri Lanka records more than 430 bird species comprising endemic, resident and migrant birds. Of these, the bird watchers are able to watch over 200 species easily. The wide variety of birds found in the numerous wildlife parks of Sri Lanka makes the tropical island a prime bird watching destination in the world. The Kumana National Park is the most important and most popular bird sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Kumana bird life supported by Some 20 lagoons and tank is an ornithologist’s paradise. During April–July, tens of thousands of birds migrate to the Kumana swamp area annually nearly 255 species of birds have been recorded in the National Park. Regular sightings of birds include pelicans, painted storks, spoonbills, white ibis, herons, egrets and hundreds of little cormorants. The very rare black-necked stork has also been spotted at the swamp.

Among the breeding inhabitants of the Kumana villu are the rare species such as Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Eurasian Spoonbill, and Great Thick-knee are breeding inhabitants of the Kumana villu.


Located in southern Sri Lanka, Udawalawe National Park is the island’s 6th-largest reserve, created in 1972 to house wildlife displaced by the building of the Udawalawe Reservoir. Spot animals such as elephant, buffalo, deer, crocodiles, leopards, and exotic bird life among the park’s 119 square miles (308 square kilometers).  

The Basics  Udawalawe centers on the reservoir of the same name, which provides water for many of its animals, including its biggest draw—around 500 wild Asian elephants. Explore Udawalawe via 4×4 jeep game drives with a park driver-tracker. The park’s low scrub makes it perfect for spotting the elephants, as well as sambar deer, boar, waterbirds, and other animals. For more elephant interaction, visit the nearby Elephant Transit Home, an orphaned-elephant rehabilitation center.

Udawalawe opens daily from dawn to dusk. The best times for game drives are early morning and late afternoon, when the animals are most active. While wildlife can be spotted year round, October to May is best for viewing elephants and migratory birds. The June to October dry season, however, also draws animals to specific waterholes, so is ideal for viewing elephants, buffalo, deer, and boar.


Lahugala National Park is Sri Lanka’s smallest, but also one of it’s most valuable conservation areas for elephants and endemic birds.

The park was declared as a sanctuary in 1966 and upgraded to national park status in October 1980. It was closed to visitors during the civil war due to security issues but it is now re-opened to tourism.

Lying in the basin of the Heda Oya, 16km inland from Pottuvil on the east coast, Lahugala has a total area of 1,554 hectares, encompassing three tanks (ancient reservoirs), Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa. These tanks are largely silted up and support an abundance of beru grass – the Asian elephant’s Favorited. 

Nearby to Lahugala is the historic sight of Magulmahavihara, built for the King Kavantissa’s marriage to Viharamaha Devi. A visit to this monument is possible to combine with a trip to Lahugala National Park.

As the park lies in the dry zone, the vegetation surrounding the tanks is a dry mixed evergreen forest with scrubs. Beru, a tall reedy grass, covers the tanks. The park is traditionally used as a feeding ground by elephants, with herds of up to 150 known to be observed between June and August. Other mammals include endemic toque macaques, grey langurs, sloth bears, golden jackals, the Indian muntjac and spotted deer among others. The birds life is diverse and includes a variety of waterfowl, raptors and the usual dry zone forest birds.


The Sinharaja Forest Reserve currently spans 8,864 hectares (21,903 acres) in the island’s southwest and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 because of its rich and unique plant and animal life.

Sinharaja, the largest great lowland Rain forest in Southern Asia is the richest store of biodiversity in Sri Lanka making it a unique site for scientists, naturalists and Eco tourists. Sinharaja covers a narrow silver of land 21 km long and 3.7 km wide, covering an area of roughly 11,187 hectares. This rain forest is home to the highest concentration of endemic species of plants and animals, several of which are rare or endangered. It contains 36 percent of all vertebrates found in Sri Lanka and 43 percent of all endemic species found on the island.
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve represents Sri Lanka’s only rain forest and is a living repository of a pristine ecosystem. The forest’s high biodiversity includes flora endemic to the country as well as some endemic to the forest itself.

Location Of Sinharaja

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is bordering three districts of the island, namely Galle, Matara and Ratnapura districts. The Rakwana Massif with its mountain ranges are part of the area covered by Sinharaja rain forest.

Bio Diversity of Sinharaja Rain-forest

Researchers helped Sinharaja be recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot, identifying more than 60% of its trees as endemic and many of them as rare. They also estimate the forest reserve is home to more than 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of mammals and butterflies, as well as many birds, insects, reptiles and rare amphibians.

The dominant natural vegetation of the area is characteristic of Lower Mountains Wet Evergreen Forests while its species composition is typical to what is found in a mid-elevation primary rain forest. The presence of species habitats on different layers of the canopy clearly indicates a healthy forest ecosystem at work.

Each layer of the forest canopy has a unique set of environmental conditions and organisms. The emergent layer comprises of tall trees such as Shorea congestiflora, Sorea stipularis, Shorea affinis soaring as high as 45m above the forest floor inhabited by eagles, monkeys, butterflies and insect-eating bats. Many species of flower simultaneously giving habitat to Monkeys, Flying Squirrels, Bats, Tree Frogs, Ants, Beetles and birds such as Flycatchers.


Horton Plains and Worlds End is a National park in the highlands of Sri Lanka. Known as “Maha Eliya” in ancient times, it lies about 20 kilometers south of Nuwara Eliya and 20 kilometers west of Haputale, 2000 meters above seat level among the second and third tallest mountains in Sri Lanka – Kirigalpotta and Totapola. The mean annual temperature for the area is about 13C . One can expect temperatures as high as 27C during day and 5C during nights. The distance to Horton Plains from Nuwara Eliya is 32 km. . The park covers 31.60 km², and is a mixture of highland forest and wet grassland. This is the only National Park in Sri Lanka where visitors are allowed to walk on their own on the designated tracks. This Horton Plains National Park is ” Mixed Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site” since 2nd August 2010.

The Small World’s End

The time taken to reach Small worlds End was about 25 minutes from the brick sign post at trail division and 37 minutes from the Park Entrance Watch Post. The nature had been exceptionally kind for this fascinating tour and the Small World’s End view was fabulous as can be seen above.The escarpment at Small Worlds End drops 274 m at this point.

The Big World’s End

It takes about another 30 minutes to reach the Big World’s End from the Small World’s End. The obstructiveness view from Big World’s End made it possible to photograph Udawalawa reservoir and beyond with a shear drop of 2000 meters from the point of observation and the plains of Dry Zone.The escarpment at Big Worlds End drops 884 meters at this point.

Baker’s Falls

The 22 meters Baker’s Falls (sinhalese original name Gonagala Ella) is noted for the tremendous noise created by water pounding the large rock formation at its foot. Forming part of the Belihul Oya, it is surrounded by copious giant ferns. Baker’s Falls derives its name from Sir Samuel Baker, a British man who discovered it in 1845.

Leopard (Panthera pardus) in the Horton Plains

It’s considered a big cat in the cat family. Leopards are mostly solitary beings, but they do get together for mating purposes and also in the case of mothers and cubs. They also communicate among themselves a lot, so they know what’s happening on the landscape even though we call them solitary.

Sambar Deer at Horton Plains

Sri Lankan sambar deer (Rusa unicolor unicolor) is a sub-species of sambar deer that lives in Sri Lanka. This subspecies is one of the largest sambar deer species with the largest antlers both in size and in body proportions. Large males weight up to 270 – 280 kg.

Flora of Horton Plains

The vegetation of Horton Plains areas is partly of Upper Mountain Rain Forests or a Cloud Forests and Wet Patana Grasslands. There are narrow transition zones called Eco tones in between the two, comprising of shrubs and herbs. The lower elevations of Horton Plains comprises with areas of Grasslands and hills of upper elevation with Cloud Forests. Around 188 varieties of Plant species had been identified at Horton Plains of which 63 are endemic to Sri Lanka. The Forest area of Horton Plains has around 57 tree species belonging to 31 families.


In the central and southern parts of Sri Lanka there are several peaks that are highly ecological and rich in bio diversity. These mountains are preserved as forests and are the starting points of many rivers. Knuckles is one the most important bio diversity environments with range of mountains and a great water and wild life resource. Loved by travelers for it’s beauty Knuckles mountains has become a hot spot in Eco tourism in Sri Lanka.

The Knuckles Mountain Range is part of the hill country of Sri Lanka which is also above 3000 Ft or 915 meters. from sea level and covers an area of about 90 Sq.Miles or 234 Sq.Km of land extent. This is also called as Knuckles Range or Knuckles Peaks or simply as Knuckles. The reason to call it Knuckles is because,there is a mountain with five peaks in itself, that looks like the knuckles of a clenched fist when seen from Kandy area ( or the SW direction of that mountain named as Knuckles with a height of 6112 Feet ). The Sri Lankan name for this mountainous area is ” Dumbara Mitiyawatha ” which means ” The Misty Vally “. Since this inner mountainous area is off the motoring roads, it remains as an unspoiled nature reserve even today.

Biodiversity of Knuckles Range

It has an amazing diversity of plants, and species that makes it stand out as one of the most amazing places to visit in Sri Lanka. A unique feature here is that the Knuckles seems to have its own climatic microcosm and is home to a higher percentage of the island’s biodiversity – despite its small size. The vegetation found at Knuckles is divided into five types, these are semi-evergreen, sub mountain, river, forests and the pathana and savannah grasslands.

31 species of mammals have been recorded in the Knuckles, four of which are endemic. Wild Buffalo, Wild boar, Black-napes Hare, Jackal, the endemic Toque Macaque & Purple-faced Leaf Monkey are commonplace. Fishing cats and mouse deer have also been seen.

20 species of amphibians have been recorded in the Knuckles wilderness of which 12 are both endemic and endangered. Rock Frog which is found nowhere else in the world. 53 species of reptiles have been identified here of which 23 are endemic. Over 130 species of birds inhabit the Knuckles Mountain Range and 20 of these are endangered. The endemics are represented by the Sri Lankan white eye, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Spur Fowl, Sri Lanka Spot Wing Thrush, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon and the rare Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush.


Explore the largest National Park in Sri Lanka – Wilpattu. Bordering three cities (Mannar, Anuradhapura and Puttalam), the park is about 130,000 hectares in size and also features massive coastlines of Sri Lanka. Natural fresh water lakes known as ‘Villus’ are what the park highlights as these are breeding spots for animals to drink and bathe. Wilpattu is open from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. and is accessible by way of jeep safaris. February to October is the best time to visit the park but there is always a crowd throughout the year. For your day tour of Wilpattu National Park, you will be taken on a jeep safari around the park to spot Sri Lanka’s wild animals such as elephants, jackal, sloth bear, leopard, wild buffalo, spotted deer, mongoose and many other species. An experienced driver cum guide will take you along the routes that offer the highest probability of sighting these animals. The villus is what the park gets its name from and these are where most of the sightings are said to occur.

Wildlife in the Wilpattu National Park

There are approximately 30 species of mammals in the Wilpattu National Park which include the Sri Lankan Elephant, Sri Lankan Leopard, Lankan Sloth Bear, Sri, Spotted Deer, Buffalo, Sambar and Mongoose.

Birdlife in the Wilpattu National Park

Wetland bird species found in the Wilpattu National Park include the Garganey, Pin tail, Whistling Teal, Spoonbill, White Ibis, Large White Egret, Cattle Egret and Purple Heron. Also, many species of Gulls, Terns, Owls, Kites and Eagles are also lives here. The endemic Sri Lanka Jungle fowl, Little Cormorant and the Painted Stork can also Can be seen.

Reptiles and Amphibians in the Wilpattu National Park

Monitor Lizard, Mugger Crocodile, Common Cobra, Rat Snake, Indian Python, Pond Turtle and the Soft Shelled Turtle can be seen in Wilpattu National Park.

Flora in the Wilpattu National Park

Wilpattu is home for many species of flora and they are Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Satin (Chloroxylon swietenia), Milla (Vitex altissima), Weera (Drypetes sepiaria), Ebony (Diospyros ebenum) and Wewarna (Alseodaphne semecarpifolia).

Climate in the Wilpattu National Park

The annual temperature in the Park is between 27°C to 30°C and its annual rainfall is approximately 900 mm. The Wilpattu National Park is situated in the dry zone but most of the time flora is very greenish and has plenty of water sources. The period between September to December is the rainy season while inter-monsoonal rains are expected between March to May. The period of drought in the Park extends from June to early September.


Minneriya National Park is a national stop in North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The region was assigned as a national stop on 12 August 1997, having been initially pronounced as an untamed life haven in 1938.The explanation behind proclaiming the region as ensured is to secure the catchment of Minneriya tank and the natural life of the encompassing territory. The tank is of recorded significance, having been worked by King Mahasen in third century AD. Minneriya shapes one of the 70 Important Bird Areas of Sri Lanka. The recreation center is arranged 182 kilometers (113 mi) from Colombo.

Elephant Gathering at Minneriya National Park

More spectacular than possibly any other wildlife event in Sri Lanka is what is known as the ‘The Gathering’. During the dry season (July to September) when water supplies start to diminish, more and more animals congregate around the Minneriya reservoir where grasses are rich and fertile. For several months of this drought season different herds of wild elephants gather at the reservoir. They come from the areas beyond Minneriya, and at any one time it is possible to witness up to 300-400 elephants. They are not migrating, they simply ‘gather’, to socialize, bathe, feed and possibly mate. 

Wildlife at Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park is also home to Sri Lankan leopards and Sri Lankan Sloth Bears. It is listed as one of the important bird areas in Sri Lanka. The wildlife here comprises of 26 species of mammals, 160 species of bird, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish and 75 species of butterfly.
The park is an important habitat for the two endemic monkeys of Sri Lanka- the Purple-faced Langur and Toque Macaque. It is also home to large herbivorous mammals such as Sri Lankan Sambar Deer and Sri Lankan Axis Deer. Rare and endangered species such as Sri Lankan Leopard and Sri Lankan Sloth Bear also inhabit in Minneriya and the Gray Slender Loris has been reported here as well.


Kaudulla National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s youngest national parks, having only been designated a protected area in 2002. It’s certainly not the largest national park to be found in the country either, or the most visited, but it is one of the most spectacular and diverse.

If you are looking for a quieter outdoor safari experience than you would get by visiting the busier parks in the south, then Kaudulla is the place to go. This beautiful area is centered around an old water tank that was constructed by a Sri Lankan king in the 3rd century AD. It’s an ancient structure that has long watered the region’s people and wildlife.

These days, the water tank supports the huge ecosystem that’s found here, from lush, green forests to drier grasslands. This is a bird watcher’s paradise, and it’s one of the best locations in the country to see a huge number of different species in one place. Kaudulla National Park is also renowned for the number of elephants found here, as well as other unique animals such as crocodile, deer, wild boar, and the rare Sri Lankan sloth bear and the Sri Lankan leopard.


The national park contains some of the best remaining coral reefs of Sri Lanka. This national park is the 17th in Sri Lanka. The island was used as a shooting range during the colonial era. Pigeon Island is one of the several protected areas affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

Pigeon Island consists of two islands; large pigeon island and small pigeon island. The large pigeon island is fringed by a coral reef, and is about 200 m long and 100 m wide. The national park is situated within the dry zone of Sri Lanka. You can see over 100 species of coral and 300 coral reef fish recorded in the area. Sea Turtles and Blacktip Reef Sharks are also commonly seen in the shallow coral areas.

The island gets its name from Blue Rock Pigeon, a native endangered bird who lives within the rocks in these islands. The islands were declared a sanctuary in 1963 for the purpose of protecting these birds. In 2003 this area was upgraded to the status of a National Park and the boundaries were extended to include coral reef around them. The islands are situated about 1 km off the Nilaveli coast in Trincomalee District.

This Pigeon Island National Park has one of the best remaining coral reefs with high live coral cover in the country and is an ideal location for scuba diving and snorkeling.

The Pigeon Island National Park can be reached through Dambulla and is approximately 280 km from Colombo. If you are traveling from Colombo You will have to reach Kurunegala through Kandy Road or Negambo Road. From Kurunegala take the Dambulla – Habarana Road.


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