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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Top Wildlife Parks in Sri Lanka – Go Wild!
Joanna James Joanna James
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Top Wildlife Parks in Sri Lanka – Go Wild!

As one of the world's greatest Biodiversity hotspots, Sri Lanka, is an excellent place to witness wildlife. The island has numerous, amazing wildlife sanctuaries, here are the top 5.



The Udawalawe National Park stretches over 190 square kilometres of light, arid scrubland. There is very little forest cover in the park, but it is still home to a large number of species including Toque macaques and grey langurs, giant flying squirrels, crocodiles, jackals, wild boar, fishing cats, sloth bears, deer and leopards. The park is particularly popular for its elephants, with many herds usually seen in close quarters, and is an important habitat for the country's waterbird populations. As with most of the terrestrial national parks in the country, it's best to visit the park either during the early hours of the morning or during the evening.



Wilpattu is undoubtedly one of the, if not the most, beautiful wildlife park in the country. Situated about 30km from Sri Lanka's ancient capital, Anuradhapura, Wilpattu is the nation's oldest national park and its largest one (the park covers more than 1,300 square kilometres of land!). The National Park's most prominent feature is its unique complex of more than 50 natural lakes, called 'Villus' which largely contribute to both its natural beauty and its lush fertility. Wilpattu is one of the best places to spot Sri Lankan leopards and the elusive sloth bear and a half-day safari provide plenty of time to spot both these species as well as deer, elephants, water buffaloes, a myriad of birds and much more.



Minneriya National Park is small compared to Udawalawe and Wilpattu, only 89 square kilometres, but it is historic both in Sri Lanka and around the world – it is the site where the phenomenon known as the 'The Gathering' takes place. During the dry season, between July and September of each year, elephants from across the island migrate to the shores of Minneriya tank, within the park, to form the largest known congregation of Asian elephants in the world. This marvel is said to be caused by the receding waters of the tank giving way to the growth of fresh new grass shoots, which the elephants very much enjoy. To witness these gentle giants, socializing, bathing, playing and feeding in numbers that sometimes exceed 400, is an experience of a lifetime. Minneriya is also home to more than 170 species of birds and more than 20 species of reptiles and other mammals.



Yala National Park is the most popular and most visited of the wildlife parks in Sri Lanka. It is the second largest park in the country, occupying more than 970 square kilometres of grassland and dry woodlands, and is divided into 5 blocks. Only 2 of the 5 blocks are open to the public with block one offering day tours and block two providing camping opportunities. The park has a more diverse range of species over a smaller space than most of the other parks in the country and is especially popular for its leopard populations (Yala has one of the greatest leopard densities in the world!). Most wildlife tours Sri Lanka has on offer, provide round trips to Yala, so it is quite easy to visit the park! Cantaloupe Hotels, for instance, offer tours to Yala and to Udawalawe as well.


Pigeon Island

Of course, terrestrial wildlife isn't all there is to the country, there's fantastic marine life as well! Pigeon Island is a Marine National Park located about a kilometre off the coast of Nilaveli to the East of the country. The park is home to some of the island's best remaining coral reefs which are overflowing with reef fishes like cleaner wrasse, parrotfish, emperor angelfish, butterfly fish and humphead wrasse as well as blacktip reef sharks and turtles. Snorkelling and diving here never disappoint!

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