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Updated by Joanna James on Mar 16, 2024
Headline for 05 Wildlife Sanctuaries to Explore in Sri Lanka - Journey Into the Exotic Wilderness
Joanna James Joanna James
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05 Wildlife Sanctuaries to Explore in Sri Lanka - Journey Into the Exotic Wilderness

Sri Lanka is blessed with a stunning array of exotic wildlife which can be witnessed in their natural habitats on a visit to one of the island's National Parks. Here are a few 'must visit' parks


Yala National Park

Coming face to face with the majestic Sri Lankan leopard is an experience many will treasure and is just one of the many you can look forward to when on wildlife tours in Yala. Ranked among the finest wildlife parks in all of Asia, Yala National Park is the most popular national park on the island. Home to countless elephants, the park is well-known for the large number of leopards and peacocks occupying its confines. Divided in to 5 blocks, the 97,880-hectare enclosure is located 300km from the capital.


Wilpattu National Park

The island's largest national park, Wilpattu National Park is known as the 'Land of Lakes' due to the fact that it features unique natural lakes (or "villus") that form an integral part of the diverse ecosystem here. Located in the northwestern area of the country, the park is approximately 180kms from Colombo and has a total of 30 freshwater lakes which also attract a wide range of animal and bird life. A combination of jungle and coastline, the park provides one the ideal opportunity to see the iconic Sri Lankan elephant along with many wildlife species who inhabit the immense landscapes within the park that include scrub jungles and dense pockets of greenery.


Minneriya National Park

As the site of the globe's largest elephant gathering the best time to visit the Minneriya National Park is the period between July and October. Renowned for its leopard, sambar deer and macaque population elephant gathering in the park was ranked as no.6 on Lonely Planet's list of the world's best wildlife spectacles. Tourists can gather more information on the island's best wildlife sanctuaries from Cinnamon Magazine which is a popular travel & lifestyle magazine amongst others.



Another popular National Park, Udawalawe provides as much wildlife adventures as the country's other parks. Located around 165kms from Colombo, the park encompasses an area that features the Udawalawe Reservoir. Home to grasslands, forest areas and even teak plantations, Udawalawe is famed for its elephants including tuskers that frequent the park. The best time to see elephants would be from May to September with the ideal time for elephant spotting being from 6.30am to 10am and 4pm to 6.30pm. On your adventures you also have a chance of seeing barking deer, spotted deer, wild boar, water buffalo, Indian civet cat, jackals and grey langurs, not to mention countless bird species be it white-bellied sea eagles, woolly-necked storks, Sri Lanka jungle fowl or sandpipers


Kumana National Park

Sri Lanka's self-proclaimed birding paradise the Kumana National Park is the country's finest bird sanctuary to date. Home to more than 255 species of winged beauties the popular safari and camping hub is home to a variety of migratory birds as well as those endemic to Sri Lanka. In addition to Purple Herons, Yellow Footed Green pigeons, Wood sandpipers and Eurasian Spoonbill the venue is also home to elephants, European Otters and Golden Jackals.