Wirawila Bird Sanctuary: A Bird Paradise

Wirawila National Park where the most amazing animals come to gather.

Bird lovers, Wirawila Bird Sanctuary is a haven for you!

The Wirawila National Park or Wirawila Tissa Sanctuary is located in southern Sri Lanka, and boasts two main reservoirs; the Wirawila reservoir and the Tissa reservoir.

Thousands of migratory birds (both aquatic and jungle species) come to the sanctuary each year to roost and nest. While visiting, keep an eye out for water birds like the lesser flamingo, the spoonbill, the painted stork, the pelican, the grey heron, the purple heron, the darter, and the rare black necked stork.

Migrating waterfowl who visit the park include the piontail, the eurasian curlew, and the whimbrel. They harmoniously share the space with the wetland portion of the sanctuary residents like the red wattled lapwing, the great stone ployer, and other forest species such as the orange breasted green pigeon, the hornbill, and the flycatchers.

Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or just a nature love, Wirawila is an unforgettable sanctuary to visit.

Things to Do

Jeep Safari

Jeep Safaris are the only permitted way to enter Wirawila, for your own safety. These safaris are available at the entrances, or you can pre-book them on various websites or government websites. Other than elephants, large numbers of small mammals can be spotted during the safaris. Keep an eye out for fishing cats, sambar deer, the sloth bear, and rusty spotted cats. You have the option for half-day or full day safaris, where you can enjoy the beauty of nature!

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Price depends on number of people

Opening Hours: 8 am to 6:30 pm

How to get there: 10 km from Hambantota

Sightseeing

Weerawila National Park is located few miles away from Bundala and is rich with ancient reservoirs inside the park. Watchtowers are built in the park in several areas to help as observation points. From these towers or from the tour jeeps you can enjoy the beauty of nature, and see the wonderful animals as the gather around the reservoirs. Make sure you do not bother the animals with loud noises, and that you are respectful towards nature. Don’t miss the sunset at these reservoirs!

Bundala Bird Sanctuary

Bundala Bird Sanctuary is the first RAMSAR wetland in the country and is located a few miles away from Bundala town. Bundala Bird Sanctuary is a famous place to spot aquatic migratory birds during the migratory season. Around one hundred and ninety seven species of birds have been recorded here. One hundred of them are aquatic birds and fifty eight of them are migratory birds. The great flamingo is one of the migratory birds that arrive in large flocks. This is a great place to learn about birds and spend some great time in nature.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Price depends on number of people

Opening Hours: 8 am to 6:30 pm

Location: Tissamaharama Road, Hambantota, Tangalle

How to get there: 10 km from Wirawila

Website: https://www.yalawildsafaris.com/bundala.html

Debarawewa Tank

The Debarawewa tank is a small reservoir located in Tissamaharama. It’s believed that by King Mahanaga built it to supply water for the ancient town of Tissamaharama. The Sinhalese kings developed an irrigation system through which the water of rivers could be utilized to the maximum, so the soil could stay fertile in the dry season, animals wouldn’t have to suffer and people would be able to get water. Such an amazing thing to observe! Hire a guide to learn more about the rich culture and history of Sri lanka.

Museum and Observation Center

The museum and the observation center of Tissamaharama is located next to the famous Tissamaharama pagoda which is the second largest pagoda in Sri Lanka! It exhibits ancient statues, parts of antique plates, and antique jewelries that have been recovered from excavations of the Tissamaharama area. Two statues of King Dutugemunu and his mother Queen Vihara Maha Deviya also can be found at the Tissamaharama museum. Hours of the observation centre vary, as it depends on the caretaker.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Free of charge

Opening Hours: 8 am to 6:30 pm

Location: Tissamaharama town center, Tissamaharama

Tissa Wewa Tank

North of the modern town lies the beautiful Wewa Tank, an expansive artificial lake built by King Kavantissa in the 2nd century. The shore nearest the town is often busy with crowds of people swimming among the flock of aquatic birds including bitterns, herons and egrets skimming across the waters. A beautiful walk leads along the massive embankment which encloses the lake’s southern shore, shaded by a procession of majestic old trees. This man-made reservoir is home to aquatic birds in the dry zone. Another fantastic place for a beautiful sunrise.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Free of charge

Opening Hours: 8 am to 6:30 pm

Location: North of Tissamaharama Road, Tissamaharama

Kirinda

Kirinda is a small but beautiful village only 10 km south of Tissa. It has a beautiful beach and a Buddhist shrine built on a huge round rock. The area is also close to the Great and Little Basses reefs which provide some of the most spectacular scuba diving in the country, so make sure to book a tour. Kirinda was used as a land base by Arthur C. Clarke’s party when diving for the Great Basses wreck. What an exciting place to visit!

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Free of charge

Opening Hours: 8 am to 6:30 pm

Location: Kirinda

Yatala Wehera

This dagoba was built by King Mahanaga over 2,300 years ago, as a way of saying thank you for his safe escape from an assassination attempt, as well as for the birth of his son. It is not known what was enshrined in this stupa but a large number of relic caskets has been discovered in the stupa. This quiet and peaceful dagoba is much enjoyed by tourist who walk by. Pay your respects to culture and religion and look around the beautiful whitewashed building.

Tissa Dagoba

The Tissamaharama Dagoba which is situated in the premises of the monastery is one of the largest stupas in Sri Lanka. It is thought to have held a sacred tooth relic and forehead bone relic. It’s attractively lit up at night. A statue of Queen Viharamahadevi stands next to it. Check out this amazing structure, especially at night. Hire a guide to learn more about history and Buddhism. There are also some great legends you could learn about when visiting Tissamaharama.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Free of charge

Opening Hours: 8 am to 6:30 pm

Location: Tissamaharama town center, Tissamaharama

Where to Sleep

Here are a few suggested accommodations:

Wila Safari

Located in front of Weerawila Lake, this hotel offers standard air-conditioned rooms that are built around a beautiful garden. It’s within proximity of Yala National Park and the Bundala Bird Sanctuary. Your drive toward the hotel will take you through a span of stunning scenery.

Hibiscus Garden Hotel

With a variety of birds frolicking around in the nearby National Park, this hotel is a perfect adventure getaway.

Where to Eat

New Cabana Restaurant, Thissamaharama

This open-sided restaurant is located on Kataragama Road. It offers rice and curries that are not only delicious, but also well-priced.

The Eagles Café, Weerawila

This is a professionally run restaurant managed by Sri Lanka Air Force.

When to Go

The Wirawila National Park is amazing all year around, and it is not really affected by monsoons, so you can get very nice sunny days. The average yearly weather is 20-25 degree, with the highs of 32 degrees as well, there is a little rain each month, but mostly dry weather. The best time to visit is from May to September, because the dry season brings all the animals to the national park for water. There are also plenty of holidays to celebrate in Sri Lanka – it is said that there are more holidays here than anywhere else in the world! If you wish to travel with less tourists around, make sure to book outside of the peak periods, such as Christmas and Easter. Whenever you decide to visit Sri Lanka, it is going to be a great time!

Dress Code

Be aware of the cultural standards and habits while staying in Sri Lanka, as it is a religious place with a very rich history -and warm weather. To be respectful towards culture, cover your shoulders and knees when visiting temples and sacred places. Do not forget to take off your hat when you enter a building. Swimwear is only acceptable near the beach, do not enter shops and restaurants in bathing suits. A casual top and jeans should be a great option for everyday activities, but bring a jacket with you if you plan on hiking or being outside in the later hours, especially while on the Safari. The average temperature is around 25 degrees in each month, so plan your outfits accordingly.

Getting In and Around

Wirawila National Park lays next to Yala National Park and Kumana National Park. You can access it from multiple large cities via busses and trains.

Colombo: Colombo is 260 km away from Wirawila National Park, on the west coast of Sri Lanka. Travel via the hourly bus to Kataragama, then go with a tuk tuk or a taxi to the national park, total trip time around 9 hours. Via taxi or a private car you can reach Wirawila in 4 hours.

Negombo: Negombo is 220 km west of Wirawila National Park. Take the hourly bus to Kataragama through Colombo to be there in 10 hours. You can also directly fly to Wirawila in 1.5 hours. Via taxi or private car you can reach the national park in 4.5 hours.

Kandy: Kandy is 230 km north of Wirawila National Park, in the heart of Sri Lanka. Unfortunately public transportation is not the best in this particular area. Via local buses with multiple transfers you can reach the national park in about 13 hours. Via taxi or private car you can be at Wirawila National Park in 5.5 hours.

Ella: Ella is 85 km north of the national park.  Travel to Buttala with a local bus then transfer to a taxi or a bus towards Kataragama to reach Wirawila National Park in 4 hours. Via taxi or a private car you can be there in 1.5 hours.

Galle: Galle is 150 km away from Wirawila National Park, on the south coast of Sri Lanka. A local bus departs every two hours to Hambantota, where you can grab a taxi to the national park to reach it in less, than 4 hours. Via taxi or a private car you can be there in 2.5 hours.

Dambulla: Dambulla is 250 km away from Wirawila National Park in north central direction. From Dambulla take a local bus to Dehiattakandiya, where transfer to the once a day bus towards Matara. From Matara take a local bus towards Kataragama to reach Wirawila National Park in 15 hours. Via taxi or drive you can be at the national park in 5 hours.

Budget

This beautiful island with a rich religion and amazing culture is a fantastic place to visit, not to mention the wonderful nature. If you plan a visit, make sure to prepare yourself for some expenses. Sri Lanka is relatively not expensive in everyday things, like transportation ($1-10) and street food ($1-3), and you can also hire a driver for around $50 to take you around town.

You can easily find beautiful luxurious hotels with an unforgettable view, spas and restaurants ($100+),  mid-range hotels which are more family oriented ($20-60) or camping in national parks ($65+), and there is also an option for budget friendly hostels ($10-15). These prices help families, luxury lovers and backpackers to enjoy their trip to the fullest.  Safaris and entrance fees are on the more expensive side, but you can get good deals if you have a larger group. Jeep safaris are around $75 per person which includes the entrance fees as well, and elephant back riding is $55+. You can also enjoy activities like snorkeling ($50+) and boat rides ($50) as well.

Conclusion

Weerwila is clearly the best place for nature enthusiasts and bird lovers to flock! Not only does it offer literally hundreds of different bird species (and true hunt for any birdwatcher), but other animals as well. When you come, keep an eye out for elephants, sambar deer, birds, and many more. Ruins, stupas, and nearby museums can satisfy the history palate after a long day of bird watching. Don’t forget to take a Jeep Safari and enjoy your time in the luxurious jungle. With comfortable accommodations and good food in a downtown setting, you’re sure to enjoy your time at Weerwila Bird Sanctuary.