Ultimate Guide to Wildlife in Sri Lanka: The Best Outside Africa

National Parks of Sri Lanka

Yala National Park

Image of Wild Spotted deer in Yala National park
Wild Spotted deer in Yala National park | Source:  Dhanu Narenthiran/Shutterstock.com

Thanks to a river running through it, Yala National Park is divided into two sections: Ruhuna National Park (referred to as Yala) and the most well known block, Kumana National Park (referred to as Yala East). Because the river makes crossing to the other side difficult, Yala is really treated as two separate parks. But that doesn’t change the fantastic offerings! From elephant rides, leopard sightings, Jeep safaris, and many historical and religious ruins to explore, there are so many things that will keep you busy. Keep an eye out for other mammals, such as the sloth bear, elephants, and many birds that flitter through the trees. Local resorts and hotels offer comfortable places to sleep and delicious, local cuisine. We can’t wait to see you at Yala National Park—on either side!

Image of Wild pigs in national park Yala
Wild pigs in national park Yala | Source:  Jelena Ivanovic/Shutterstock.com
Image of Panthera pardus kotiya Yala national park Sri Lanka
Panthera pardus kotiya Yala national park Sri Lanka | Source: Ondřej Prosický /Dreamstime.com
Image of Wild Elephant In Yala National Park
The Most Visited And Second Largest National Park | Source:  SamanWeeratunga/Shutterstock.com
Image of Family of monkeys sitting in a tree
Family of monkeys sitting in a tree | Source:  GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock.com
Image of Sri Lankan national bird Ceylon Junglefowl
Gallus lafayetii, very colorful male with golden plumage,red comb and long metallic blue tail, standing in dry blurred grass. | Source:  Martin Mecnarowski/Shutterstock.com

Wilpattu

Image of Wilpattu National Park at Puttalam Sri Lanka
Wilpattu National Park at Puttalam Sri Lanka | Source: Kathrine Rajalingam/Dreamstime.com

Wilpattu National Park is also known as the land of the lakes because of the sixty plus lakes dotting the landscape. Not only that, but it juts up against the ocean, giving it a long stretch of golden, sandy beach. Wilpattu is the oldest and the largest National Park in Sri Lanka—which makes this one place you don’t want to miss! It’s also known to have the most dense population of leopards in Sri Lanka. If you want to see one of these beautiful, elusive creatures, just take a Jeep safari at the park entrance. The guide will take you around the willu’s (or lakes) and help you spot other endemic bird species, as well as mammals such as elephants and sloth bears. There are campsites to rent or resorts to stay at (don’t forget an ayurveda treatment!) and many delicious places to get local fare.

Image of Wild Elephant In Yala National Park
“Yala Is The Most Visited And Second Largest National Park | Source:  SamanWeeratunga/Shutterstock.com”
Image of Eagle in Wilpattu national park
Crested serpent eagle Wilpattu national park | Source:  Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com
Image of Road through Wilpattu national park sri lanka
Road through Wilpattu national park sri lanka | Source: Vidu Gunaratna/Dreamstime.com
Image of Tropical lake at Wilpattu National Park Sri Lanka
Tropical lake at Wilpattu National Park Sri Lanka | Source: Vidu Gunaratna/Dreamstime.com

Udawalawe National Park

Image of Uda Walawe National Park
Uda Walawe National Park | Source:  Libor Píška/Shutterstock.com

Udawalawe National Park is an incredible place to visit! You will be surprised by the wonderful nature and the unique atmosphere. The national park is close to some big cities so you can be there in a few hours. Jeep safaris and bird watching tours will blown you away. Make sure to spend at least half a day here to enjoy everything to the fullest!

Image of Spotted male horned deer of Udawalawe
Spotted male horned deer of Udawalawe | Source:  ra.photo/Shutterstock.com
Image of Mugger crocodile in Udawalawe national park
Mugger crocodile water pond in Udawalawe national park | Source:  Efimova Anna/Shutterstock.com
Image of Wildlife in Udawalawe national park
Wildlife in Udawalawe national park | Source:  ProMedia Sudath/Shutterstock.com

Minneriya

Image of Safari jeeps in Minneriya National Park
Safari jeeps in Minneriya National Park | Source:  Thomas Wyness/Shutterstock.com

Minneriya National Park is a calm, scenic, and peaceful place to visit. If you’re an animal lover and a thrill-seeker, come try out a hot air balloon ride! You can catch glimpses of the elephants at the reservoir as they eat the long grasses. Jeep safari’s are available for those who prefer to stay on the ground. Trek to the observation huts for the best view of the landscape, or go bird watching. There are over one hundred and sixty different species of birds in Minneriya, and some of them are endemic to Sri Lanka. Local cities provide warm, comfortable accommodations and plenty of delicious places to eat. We can’t wait to see you at Minneriya National Park!

Kumana

Image of Leopard Strutting His Stuff
Leopard Strutting His Stuff | Source:  NaturesMomentsuk/Shutterstock.com

Bird lovers and nature enthusiasts will love Kumana National Park! Not only are there hundreds of birds that call this place home—some rare and endemic species—but there are hundreds of thousands of birds that stop here during the migratory season. Kumana is also less crowded, even during the high season, as opposed to the other National Parks, so you can enjoy a quiet visit. There are plenty of monasteries and ruins scattered throughout the verdant jungle forest, including ancient inscriptions describing a giant warrior that helped them build it. Arugam Bay provides plenty of comfortable accommodations and delicious food. If you want a peaceful experience of bird watching and animal spotting, make your way to Kumana!

Image of Sri Lankan elephant
Sri Lankan elephant | Source:  Lee Gillion/Shutterstock.com
Image of Monkey in Kumana National Park
Monkey in Kumana National Park | Source:  Ragul JB/Shutterstock.com

Gal Oya National Park

Image of Giant Asian Elephant feeds at Gal Oya National Park
Giant Asian Elephant feeds a National Park | Source:  ThePhotographerSL/Shutterstock.com

If you are a lover of nature and love to explore, then don’t pause a single moment to visit Gal Oya National Park! This protected space is acclaimed as one of the pride gems of Sri Lanka. Discover the beautiful, variegated backdrop of flowers and greenery on a jeep safari—and keep an eye out for leopards and local birds! When you take a boat tour on the Senanyake Samudraya Reservoir, you can catch a glimpse of water buffalo as well as swimming elephants between islands. If you want a little adventure, head into the jungle to catch a glimpse of the Buddhalanga Sanctuary and Monastery. At the end of the day, there are plenty of places to say, including the beautiful Gal Oya lodge, as well as delicious places to eat in Ampara. This stunning national park awaits you, so book your trip today!

Image of Beautiful Lake Mountain Landscape in Galoya National Park
Beautiful Lake Mountain Landscape in Galoya National Park | Source:  ThePhotographerSL/Shutterstock.com
Image of Gal Oya Reservoir In Ampara sri lanka
Gal Oya Reservoir In Ampara sri lanka | Source: Yasiru /Dreamstime.com

Lahugala National Park

Image of Wild elefants in the jungle in Sri Lanka
Wild elefants in the jungle in Sri Lanka | Source: Meinzahn /Dreamstime.com

Bird spotting, animal watching, and reconnecting with nature, these are your best laid plans while traveling to Lahugala National Park! The best times to visit are early morning and evening, as the big elephant herds that grace the reservoirs tend to come out most then. And if you love birds, then this is a bird watcher’s paradise! Be sure to run your fingers through the grass and enjoy your time here, even if you’re only stopping on your way to Yala. Don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the nearby ruins and legendary moonstones. Sri Lanka is full of history everywhere you go! Nearby accommodations and restaurants in Arugam ensure that this will be a comfortable and delicious stop on your trip to Sri Lanka.

Wasgamuwa

Image of View of wasgomuwa national park
View of wasgomuwa national park | Source:  EMJAY SMITH/Shutterstock.com

Wildlife sanctuaries are one of the famous attractions of Sri Lanka and a great opportunity to see the wild side of the country. Wasgamuwa National Park is a perfect place for nature lovers. From ancient Buddhist ruins, to massive herds of elephants, and maybe an elusive leopard or sloth bear, there is so much to see here. Visit the Wasgamuwa Reservoir for a glimpse at endemic or migratory birds, or appreciate the grandeur of the giant canal of Kalinga, which feeds water to the whole park. There are campsites available for the more adventurous travelers that want to sleep under the stars, and delicious places to grab some food and get you ready for your next stop. Come to Wasgamuwa and see the wild side of Sri Lanka for yourself!

Image of leucocephala on a dead tree in wasgomuwa
leucocephala on a dead tree in wasgomuwa | Source:  EMJAY SMITH/Shutterstock.com
Image of Elephant on a sandy track in wasgomuwa national park
Elephant on a sandy track in wasgomuwa national park | Source:  EMJAY SMITH/Shutterstock.com
Image of Water lilly lake at wasgomuwa national park
Water lilly lake at wasgomuwa national park | Source:  EMJAY SMITH/Shutterstock.com

WildLife Things to Do in Sri Lanka

Wildlife Safaris

Image of Safari jeeps at Kawudulla national park
Safari jeeps at Kawudulla national park | Source:  shutterlk/Shutterstock.com

Ready for a taste of the wild? A Sri Lankan safari is right up your alley! With over twenty national parks, there is no lack of opportunity to take in and appreciate these beautiful creatures.

Yala National Park is a wonderful place to safari, thanks to the many species of animals that live there. Don’t miss Wilpattu, which has over fifty villus, or shallow lakes, to draw the animals in to drink.

Want to catch sight of an elephant? Udawalawe National Park is the safari to book! Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks both provide yet another chance to glimpse elephants up and close.

Bring your family, book a stay in a nice hotel, and enjoy the great Sri Lankan outdoors on a safari today. You’ll be so glad you did!

Leopard Safaris

Image of Leopard crossing the road in Safari Yala National Park
Leopard crossing the road in Safari Yala National Park | Source:  Amateur007/Shutterstock.com

Being on a leopard’s trail in Sri Lanka is like being on your own nature show! Rolling through the deep forests amidst the early morning mists, animals playing hide and seek as your eyes roam keenly to check out even a distant dot. Excitement thickening with anticipation and finally climaxing with the encounter of your heart’s desire! And all of this in the world’s most natural setting.

So when you hit the country, a leopard safari should feature in your teardrop island itinerary for sure!

Bird Watching

Image of Dark bird in nature habitat
Bird in nature habitat | Source:  Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

Sri Lanka is named a birdwatchers paradise for many reasons—five of them, actually! Five of the main National Parks provide a safe refuge and home for many species of birds, whether migratory or endemic. Kitulgala, Yala, Bundala, Sinharaja, and Kumana National Parks are must-visit places for bird lovers from all over the world. Not only are there Jeep trails (and even walking trails) for you to go exploring, but access to other animals as well.

Keep an eye out for leeches and leopards while you go! Comfortable accommodations and local cuisine await at any of the National Parks. Bring your binoculars: the birds are waiting!

Elephant Watching in Jeep Safaris

Image of Elephant eating in the shallow lake with green leaves
Elephant eating in the shallow lake with green leaves | Source:  JBx/Shutterstock.com

The quiet, gentle giants of Sri Lanka are a national favourite! Sri Lankans love and respect the Sri Lanka elephant, which is a relative of the Asian elephant. Not only are conservation efforts ongoing, but continued protection—and even fosterage—of the elephants and their inhabitat ensure that we’ll keep these beautiful creatures safe.

Check out Yala National Park. Or do you want to see the annual Gathering when over three hundred elephants congregate? Stop by Minneriya National Park. Without a doubt, Udawalewe is the best place to observe elephants. There are so many living there, you’re almost guaranteed to see one!

As always, great hospitality and delicious Sri Lankan food awaits in nearby towns and villages. Come fulfil a dream you never knew you had—ride an elephant through the jungle today!

Elephant Orphanages

Image of Panorama of elephant herd in water Pinnawala
panorama of elephant herd in water Pinnawala orphanage | Source:  Honza Hruby/Shutterstock.com

Visiting an elephant orphanage is a truly inspiring and unique wildlife experience for anyone traveling to Sri Lanka. Especially when global warming is knocking right at our door and pieces of natural forests are lapped up by flames, conservation has become integral to saving the earth. We hope that with your visit to these elephant orphanages you are fired up with an urge to protect this precious species so that we don’t end up losing these beautiful creatures to the very clutches of development and modernity. After all, we should all travel responsibly!

Whale Watching and Dolphin Watching

Image of Blue whale diving in the Indian Ocean near
Blue whale diving in the Indian Ocean near | Source: sbedaux/Shutterstock.com

Sri Lanka offers many amazing things—including whale and dolphin watching! It’s been known the world over for sightings, and booking a tour here will surely help you see these graceful animals.

If you’re near Kalpitiya, start there! Dolphins congregate there in the thousands, and you’ll have the chance to see other animals such as orcas, blue whales, sperm whales, and more.

Another wonderful place is Dondra Point just of Mirissa, where you can find large groups of sperm and blue whales. If you go at the right time of year, you have a 95% chance of spotting a whale or a dolphin!

And finally, don’t forget Trincomalee! The shallow waters make it a perfect spot for whale watching or snorkelling. Why limit yourself—try all of them! Grab your binoculars and get ready to see some gentle giants!