Sri Lanka has been given many sobriquets that try to encapsulate its natural beauty, be it the Pearl of the Indian Ocean and even the Emerald Isle. With one of the highest biodiversities in Asia, Sri Lanka packs a punch when it comes to wildlife, flora and fauna. Despite it diminutive size, Sri Lanka boasts extremely rich natural diversity. One of the best ways to travel to Sri Lanka is by booking a customized holiday package that centers on the wildlife and nature of Sri Lanka. With a plethora of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reservoirs, Sri Lanka is one of the best places on earth to experience nature in its wildest and most pristine form. Let’s talk about some of the popular as well as offbeat wildlife destinations in Sri Lanka that should be a part of every traveler’s itinerary.
Pinnawala elephant orphanage
Sri Lanka is well known for its endemic population of the Asian elephant. The Pinnawala elephant orphanage, located about 90km from the capital Colombo, is a nursery and breeding ground for Asian elephants. At this orphanage, visitors can feed the baby elephants with a milk bottle and watch them splash around and bathe in the river.
Horton Plains National Park
The Horton Plains National Park is a protected area in the highlands of Central Sri Lanka. Apart from being a natural beauty with lush vegetation, abundant forests and a variety of wildlife, the biggest highlight of this park is called the World’s End, a sheer 880m cliff drop at the end of a plateau. A paradise for trekkers and walkers, this park offers great paths and even more spectacular views.
Minneriya National Park
Located in northern part of central Sri Lanka, this national park is a haven for wild elephants. It also is home to several varieties of monkeys, sambar deer and birds. In peak season, tourists can be presented with hundreds of elephants hovering around the Minneriya Lake, bathing themselves and their little ones.
Kaudulla National Park
Along with Minneriya and Girithale, Kaudulla has been designated as an Important Bird Area of Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka after Wilpattu National Park; however it is the most visited in the country. It is very popular owing to the diversity of its wildlife. Located on the coastline, the park has several wetlands and aquatic birds. A part of the park was altered due to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The park has over 200 species of birds and one of the highest densities of leopards.
Wilpattu National Park
About four hours drive from Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest national park is known for its leopard population and rare sightings of the elusive sloth bear. The park is dotted with several lakes and is a pleasure to discover.
Uda Walawe National Park
This park contains the gigantic Uda Walawe water Reservoir and boasts vast stretches of grasslands and riverine jungle. Sightings of wild elephants are virtually guaranteed in this park, and it is a haven for birdwatchers.