National Parks in Sri Lanka
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the oldest national park in the Sri Lank, is extended over two provinces, namely Uva & Southern. In 1909 Yala was declared as Sanctuary and gain gazette as a National Park in 25 th February 1938. Yala combines a strict nature reserve with a national park. Divided into 5 blocks, the park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land consisting of light forests, scrubs, grasslands, tanks and lagoons.
Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. Among its more famous residents are the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted dear, peacocks, and crocodiles. The best time to visit Yala is between February and July when the water levels of the park are quite low, bringing animals into the open.
Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu means ‘natural lakes’ in Sinhala and ’10 lakes’ in Tamil and is among the oldest and most important of protected areas in Sri Lanka. It also contains a number of important cultural sites. The sanctuary lies inland from the coast and is entirely within Northern Province. It is contiguous with the park, the intervening boundary being marked by the Moderagam Aru.
Wilpattu National Park is home to 31 varieties of mammals including Leopards (Panthera pardus kotiya), Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus), Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, jackals, sambhur, barking deer, mouse deer Wild Pig, Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and Mugger Crocodiles. Moreover, countless species of birds and butterflies can be found and the park plays host to numerous winter migrants from November to March, while menacing crocodiles top the list of reptiles. The best time to visit Wilpattu National Park is during the months of February and October.
Gal Oya National Park
After Independence Sri Lanka’s first significant irrigation project is the Gal Oya Valley project. Within it was built the biggest reservoir in the country, the Senanayake Samudra which is considered the key feature of the Gal Oya National Park. In fact the Gal Oya National Park has the distinction of being the only park in the country where boat safaris are also an option.
Catching sight of elephants swimming across the lake being one of the most exciting aspects of the boat safari. That is if you are not already impressed with the picturesque hill-forests, the leopards, water buffaloes, wild boar, crocodiles, and different species of deer that inhabit the park. There are also many little islands on the Senanayake Samudra which are dwelling place of numerous birds species. It is estimated that from 430 bird species on record in Sri Lanka a 150 of them reside at Gal Oya. It is approx. 4.5 hours drive from Sigiriya and approx.. 7 hours drive to Colombo. The best time to visit Gal oya National Park is from March to July. During this period, the boat safaris bring the spectacle of herds of elephants swimming from one island to another island in the great Senanayaka Samaudra reservoir.
Yala East National Park (Kumuna)
Kumana National Park in Sri Lanka is renowned for its avifauna, particularly its large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds. The park is 391 kilometers (243 mi) southeast of Colombo on Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast.
Kumana is contiguous with Yala National Park. Kumana was formerly known as Yala East National Park, but changed to its present name in 2006. The main physical feature of Kumana, which covers over 18,100 hectares, is the world famous mangrove swamp which covers some 200 hectares and is surrounded by plains and jungle. The flat terrain of the east coast is broken by numerous rocky outcrops and large saline lagoons often surrounded by extensive plains.
You can visit this park all year. However, during the first half of the year the is ideal as the water lands are lush.
Udawalawa National Park
The Udawalawe National park which has acreage of 30,821 hectares, was declared as a National Park in 30 th June 1972 under the Fauna and Flora Protection ordinance. The park lies in the Rathnepura District in Sabaragamuwa Province Monaragala District in Uva Province. It forms of the largest conservation areas within these districts and largely comprises the lower and the immediate catchments of Udawalawe. The walawe reservoir is situated in the park and surface area of it at full supply level is about 3405 hectares.
Udawalawa National Park is home to many herds of elephants while the main attraction of the park include Water Buffalo, Wildboar, Spotted Deer, Sambur Deer, Jackal, Samber, Black-naped hare, mongooses, bandicoots, foxes, s the endemic Toque Macaque and Gray Langers. Sighting a Leopard and other smaller cats like Fishing cat & Jungle cat would be a bonus.
The most prominent feature is the Kalthote escarpment and spectacular Diyawinne fall to the north Ulagala and in the west of the park. The park is situated in the dry zone. There is a short dry period in February-March. Sometimes that period is prolonged from mid May to end of September. This is mences with intermonsoon in the month of September. This is followed by Northeast monsoon rain in November to mid January. Due to conventional activity, the rainfall can occur during April-May.
Lahugala Kithulana National Park
Lahugala Kitulana National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Sri Lanka. Despite its land area, the park is an important habitat for Sri Lankan elephant and endemic birds of Sri Lanka. The national park contains the reservoirs of Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa and they are ultimately empties to Heda Oya river. Originally it was designated as a wildlife sanctuary on July 1 of 1966. Then the protected area was upgraded to a national park on October 31 of 1980. When visiting, be sure to stick close to your tour guide, and pay attention to the wildlife experts as they guide you along the paths where you will discover the wonder of wildlife in Sri Lanka.
There are three tanks found in this park, namely Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa which eventually unite in Hedaoya. The land here is flat with occasional rocky outcrops. Since the park lies in the dry zone of the island, it receives rain mainly from north east monsoon during the months November to December and its vegetation represents dry mixed evergreen forests. The grass species called Beru(Sacciolepisinterrupta) dominates the land, being a main food source for elephants.
Maduru Oya National Park
The park was established as a catchment area for the five reservoirs under the Mahaweli project and provides habitats for wildlife, inclusive of elephants. The park lies between the Polonnaruwa-Batticalo road and Mahiyangana-Padiyathalawa road in the districts of Ampara Buddulla and Polonnaruwa and spans the border between Eastern and Uva provinces.
Maduru oya National Park is well known for its elephant habitat. Other than elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambur, spotted and barking deer, wild boar and wild buffalo are also found here. Torque Macaque, Purple face leaf monkey and nocturnal slender Loris is also found in the park. Lesser Adjutant, Wooly necked stork, open bill, painted stork, Racket tailed Drongo, Yellow fronted barbet, Sri Lanka Junglefowl & Spurfowl are among the over 100 species of birds found within the park. All dry zone vegetation is found in abundance at Maduru Oya Park.
Wasgamuwa National Park
Wasgamuwa is well known its abundant wildlife population, wilderness setting and home of several interesting ancient sites. Wasgamuwa is distinguished from other parks by having a full complement of predators of which bears are particularly noteworthy. Ecological research undertaken in the park suggests that the density of bears in Wasgamuwa is probably higher than anywhere else in Sri Lanka. The name Wasgamuwa may also derive from an ancient meaning as a gathering place for bears. Part of Wasgamuwa was declared a Strict Nature Reserve in 1938 and additional areas added to become Wasgamuwa National Park on 07th August 1984. The park covers almost 37,062 hectares of which most is wilderness areas with no visitation.
The centre of the attraction is herds of elephants up to 150. The best time to enjoy the sight of large herds is during November to May. In the rest of the year the elephants tend to migrate to nearby Minneriya and Kaudulla national Parks. Other wildlife includes Purple faced langur monkeys, wild boar, sambar and spotted deer, buffalo and rarely sighted leopards and sloth bears.Among the reptiles are water monitor, mugger crocodile, estuarine crocodile and python (Python Molurus).
Flood Plains National Park
Flood Plains National Park is one of the four national parks set aside under the Mahaweli River development project. The park was created on 7 August 1984. The national park is situated along the Mahaweli flood plain and is considered a rich feeding ground for elephants. The rich vegetation in the villus attracts large numbers of grazing animals and birds, supporting a higher annual biomass than any other type of habitat within the Mahaweli Development Project area.
The floodplains are an important habitat for the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) as well as providing a corridor for the elephants of Wasgomuwa and Somawathiya Chaitiya to move between the two parks. Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), jungle cat (Felis chaus), rusty-spotted cat (Felis rubiginosus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) are also present, along with water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and many species of deer. For reptile lovers the villus support a large population of herpatofauna including natricine water snakes, mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) and estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus).
Somawathiya national park
Somawathiya National Park is one of the four national parks designated under the Mahaweli River development project. Somawathiya Chaitya, a temple said to be containing a relic of the tooth of the Buddha, is situated within the park. The park was created on 2 September 1986, having been originally designated a wildlife sanctuary on 9 August 1966. The park is home to many mega herbivores. The national park is located 266 kilometres (165 mi) north-east of Colombo. The water basins or the villus located in the central flood plains are reflected by the prevalence of water-tolerant grasses and aquatic flora.
The significance of Somawathiya National Park is mainly attributed to the wealth of elephants, which are estimated to be 400 within the park and the rich birdlife. The park is a home to mammals as the Sambar, Golden Jackal, fishing Cat, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo and porcupine amongst others. Resident birds as the painted Stork and purple Coot amongst others frequent the park.
Naturally, the marshes of the food plains are home to a collection of avifauna, including 75 migrant species, which are known to winter in the marshes.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton plain, its surroundings forests and the adjoining Peak Wilderness, consolidate Sri Lanka’s most important catchment area of almost all the major rives. The plains are also of outstanding the habitats and endemic plants and animals representatives of the country wet and montage zones. Horton plains comprises a gently undulation highland plateau at the southern end of the central mountains massif of Sri Lanka.
Two escarpments filling from the Horton Plain have contributed immensely to its awe inspiring physiognomy, “big worlds end” by 884m. The charm of the verdure of the mountains encircling he plains as intermittently concealed by mist is heightened by the sparking Baker’s fall. Horton Plains is well recognized for its rich biodiversity, its flora given to a high level of endemism. 5% of species are found to be endemic to Sri Lanka. The plateau supports grassland fringed and interspersed with patches of dense montane cloud forest. A rich herbaceous flora flourishes on the patanas with numerous species of both temperate and topical origin.
Large mammals could seldom be seen at Horton Plains. Samber is common sight at dusk and in the early morning hours. Mammals which still occur in reasonable numbers include Kelaart’s long clawed shrew Feroculus feroculus slender loris loris tardigradus endemic to the montane toque macaque Macaca sinica , purple faced langur Presbutis entellus, rusty-spotted cat felis rubigimosus and etc. Horton Plains National park harbors 12 species of endemic birds the following birds are recorded only for Horton Plains. The park is a paradise for butterflies, reptiles, and endemic fresh water fish too.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National park is lies on the Hambantota District of the southern province. This is the last refuge in the greater flamingo in this part of the island, as well as being important for elephant and a variety of threatened reptiles. The park contains five shallow, brackish lagoons with salt pans in three interconnecting channels and marshes including the adjacent coast. This unique area of picturesque lagoons and inter tidal; mud flats where the wintering birds rest and fees, golden beaches and sand dunes frequented by nesting sea turtles. The park is also a paradise for 149 species of resident migratory birds.
The phytoplanktons in all the lagoons are dominated by blue-green alga, the arid vegetation consist largely of grass flats studded with a forest scrub. The forest still harbors a few elephant and migratory herds of upto 80 animals have been recorded in the area. The park is the home of every species of water bird resident in the country and during the in the northern winter, it is the final destination for countless numbers of waders of most species recorded in Sri Lanka. The best time to visit Bundala National park is during September to March as it is the period which migratory birds arrive at the park.
Lunugamvehera National Park
Lunugamvehera National Park in Sri Lanka was declared in 1995, with the intention of protecting the catchment area of the Lunugamvehera reservoir and wildlife of the area. The national park is an important habitat for water birds and elephants. The catchment area is vital to maintain the water levels of the five tanks in the down stream of Kirindi Oya and wetland characteristics of Bundala National Park. This national park also serves as a corridor for elephants to migrate between Yala National Park and Udawalawe National Park. The national park is situated 261 km (162 mi) southwest from Colombo.
Lunugamvehera is in the Dry zone of Sri Lanka, therefore the park is exposed to annual drought, relieved by the south western monsoon. This park is home to 21 fish species, 12 amphibians, 33 reptiles, 183 birds and 43 mammals. Sri Lankan elephant, water buffalo, Sri Lankan sambar deer, wild boar, Sri Lankan spotted chevrotain, grizzled giant squirrel, Sri Lankan axis deer, and Asian palm civet are some of the common mammals. Bufo atukoralei, and Fejervarya pulla are endemic among amphibians found in the forest. Mugger crocodile is one of the aquatic reptiles. Large water birds such as grey heron, black-headed ibis, Asian openbill, painted stork, and spot-billed pelican live here.
Minneriya National Park
Located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa, the 8890 hectares of Minneriya National Park is an ideal eco tourism location in Sri Lanka . The park consists of mixed evergreen forest and scrub areas and is home to Sri Lanka ‘s favourites such as sambar deer, leopards and elephants.
However the central feature of the park is the ancient Minneriya Tank (built in 3rdcentury AD by King Mahasena). During the dry season (June to September), this tank is an incredible place to observe the elephants who come to bathe and graze on the grasses as well as the huge flocks of birds (cormorants and painted storks to name but a few) that come to fish in the shallow waters.
The Minneriya National Park lies 182 km from Colombo in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The park is home to 24 species of mammals and out of which the most important is the wild elephant (Elephant maximus) the population of which of about 150-200. Minnerya reservoir and its surrounding wetlands habitat are inhabited by large number of an aquatic bird species. Early morning and late evening are the optimum observation of the day for resident and migratory birds. Three species of fishes are endangered out of four endemic species recorded in the reservoir, while the introduced Thilapia species are dominant.
Kaudulla National Park
Kaudulla national park established in the heart of the cultural triangle has excellent potential for viewing elephant and other species of wildlife. The location is situated in 30km away from Polonnaruwa District in North central province. The national park vegetation consists of tropical dry mixed evergreen forests, abandoned chena cultivated lands, grasslands and wetlands. Tropical dry mixed evergreen forest predominated. Twenty four species of mammals in Sri Lanka have been reported from this park. The most important of them is the wild elephant the population of which is about 200. Twenty six species of fish are found in the reservoir, this fish are economically important. In this park 435 species of birds reported to be them endemic birds to Sri Lanka.
Along with Minneriya and Girithale, BirdLife International has identified Kaudulla as an Important Bird Area. Historically Kaudulla was one of the 16 irrigation tanks built by King Mahasen. The best time to visit Kaudulla National Park is between August and December, with the population of elephants peaking to over 200 in September to October, following the period of the famous elephant gathering at Minneriya National Park.
Hikkaduwa National Park
Hikkaduwa National Park is one of the three marine national parks in Sri Lanka, situated on the south west coast in Southern province, approximately 100km from south of Colombo. The national park contains a fringing coral reef of high degree of biodiversity. Hikkaduwa coral reef is a typical shallow fringing reef with an average depth of around 5 metres (16 ft). The most interesting fauna are found in the marine ecosystem of the coral reefs. These include the non-reef fish ornamental and rare reef fish, molluscans species and diverse live coralline species. Sixty coral species representing 31 genera are found. A total of 113 species of fish has been recorded. This park is home for eight butterfly fish species too. Inter-monsoon season (July to August and December to March) is a dry period which is considered the best season to visit the park.
Pegion Island National Park
Pigeon Island National Park is one of the two marine national parks of Sri Lanka. The national park is situated 1 km off the coast of Nilaveli, a coastal town in Eastern Province. The island’s name derives from the rock pigeon which has colonized it. The national park contains some of the best remaining coral reefs of Sri Lanka. This national park is the 17th in Sri Lanka. 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.
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. Its highest point is 44.8 m above mean sea level. The small pigeon island is surrounded by rocky islets. The national park is situated within the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Many of the 100 species of corals and 300 coral reef fishes recorded around the Trincomalee area are found in the national park. Juvenile and adult blacktip reef shark are seen around the shallow coral areas. Hawksbill turtle, green turtle and olive ridley are the visiting sea turtles of the coral reef. The island is important breeding ground for the rock pigeon.
Horagolla National Park
Known to be one of the latest national parks in Sri Lanka, Horagolla National Park is so called because of an abundance of Dipterocarpus zeylanicus (hora) trees. The area was originally declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1973 due to its rich biodiversity. Later in 2004, Horagolla was elevated to national park status. Horagolla is the only urban park in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. The park is situated some 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Colombo.
The mammals found in the park include fishing cat, Sri Lankan spotted chevrotain, golden jackal, and grizzled giant squirrel. Horagolla is considered a birdwatching site. The number of bird species recorded from the park is 68. The most common are parakeets, black-crested bulbul, barbets, and Asian koel. Some of the other bird species seen in the park include Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka hanging parrot, Layard’s parakeet and Oriental dwarf kingfisher. The rare clipper, Ceylon birdwing and blue Mormon are the butterflies known from the park. Many threatened species including tortoises are found in Horagolla. Pythons and cobras are among the many reptiles found in the park.
Galways Land National Park
Galway’s Land National Park is a small national park situated within the city limits of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka and has been declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. The Galway’s Land was elevated to the national park status in 2006. The park was declared to conserve the montane ecosystems. Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka considers that the Victoria park of Nuwara Eliya and the Galway’s Land as two of the most significant birding sites in Sri Lanka.
Galway’s Land is home to 20 rare migrant bird species and 30 native species as well as buffalo, wild boar, barking deer and other mammals, as well as buffalo, wild boar, barking deer and other mammals. Apart from the avifauna, the park has valuable floral species of both native and foreign origin.
Ussangoda National Park
Ussangoda National Park is the newest and the 21st national park in Sri Lanka. The objectives of establishing the new national park are providing long term protection for the area’s biological, archaeological and geographical values. The park borders the Kalametiya Wildlife Sanctuary in the east.
In Hindu mythology, Ussangoda is believed to be the place where King Ravana lands his peacock chariot. Ussangoda is an important breeding ground for sea turtles and covers both land and sea areas. The red earth forms the soil of the area and the stunted vegetation is a feature resulted by heavy sea breeze. There are several archaeological sites of the origins in the pre-historic times also. The explanation for red soil is a high concentration of Ferric oxide in the area. Ussangoda is one of the four serpentine sites in Sri Lanka.
Angammedilla National Park
Known to be one of the new national parks in Sri Lanka, Angammedilla National Park was designated national park in 2006. Originally Angammedilla was a forest reserve within the Minneriya-Girithale Sanctuary declared in 1988. The park is declared mainly to protect the drainage basin of Parakrama Samudra. It also secures the drainage basins of Minneriya and Girithale irrigation tanks, water sources in Sudu Kanda (Sinhala for “White hill”) and habitats and wildlife of the adjacent forests. It is located 225 kilometres (140 mi) away from Colombo in Polonnaruwa District.
The park is home to many varieties of animals including Sri Lankan elephant, Sri Lankan sambar deer, Indian muntjac, Sri Lankan axis deer, water buffalo, wild boar, and peafowl. However Sri Lanka leopard, sloth bear, grizzled giant squirrel and Sri Lanka junglefowl can be witnessed at times. Furthermore, primate species including red slender loris, tufted gray langur, and purple-faced langur can also be seen in Angammedilla National Park.
Madhu Road National Park
Madhu Road National Park is a national park in northern Sri Lanka, approximately 25 km (16 mi) east of Mannar. Numerous varieties of birds are found in Madhu Road. Some of them are; Alexandrine parakeet, ashy-crowned sparrow-lark, ashy prinia, ashy woodswallow, Asian koel, Asian palm swift, baya weaver, black drongo, black-hooded oriole, black-rumped flameback and black-winged kite.
Chundikkulam National Park
Chundikkulam National Park is a national park in northern Sri Lanka, approximately 12 km (7 mi) north east of Kilinochchi. The peninsula has a natural heart that throbs wildly, and anyone can discover it at its pristine best at Chundikulam. The name may ring a bell only for a few people. But Chundikulam National Park became a bird sanctuary as far as 1938. It is the best place to capture birds in their most unguarded, spontaneous, intimate or dramatic moments. Throw in some rare and elusive mammals like the fishing cat, the sloth bear and the jungle cat, and anyone will agree it is a naturalist’s paradise
Chundikkulam Lagoon is partly surrounded by mangrove swamps and sea grass beds. The surrounding area includes palmyra palm plantations, scrub forests and a variety of dry zone flora. Numerous varieties of water and wader birds are found in the park and some of them include; bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit, black-winged stilt, brown-headed gull, common sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, eurasian coot.
Adam’s Bridge Marine National Park
Adam’s Bridge Marine National Park is a national park surrounding Adam’s Bridge (Rama’s Bridge) in northern Sri Lanka, approximately 30 km (19 mi) North West of Mannar. Many migratory birds follow the Pamban Island-Adam’s Bridge-Mannar Island route when flying to/from Sri Lanka. The sand dunes of Adam’s Bridge are also used as breeding grounds by birds such as the brown noddy. Numerous varieties of fish and sea grasses thrive in the shallow waters Adam’s Bridge. Sea life found around Adam’s Bridge includes dolphin, dugong and turtle.
Delft National Park
Delft National Park is a national park on the island of Neduntivu (Delft) in northern Sri Lanka, approximately 35 km (22 mi) south west of Jaffna. The Delft Island can be reached after an hour’s boat ride from Karaikattuvan Jetty near the historic Nagadeepa Island. Delft Island is the only place in the world with wild ponies. They are believed to have been brought to the island by the Portuguese.