Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the most famous and well known on the island. Yala is leopard country, the animals roam freely in the bush along with elephants, peacocks and hundreds of birds and animals. There are five sectors and two are open to the public. Yala was named a National Park in 1938 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1900. Yala National Park is located southeast of Colombo and extends from the coast to the jungle.
Kaudulla National Park
One of the most important areas in Sri Lanka for birdlife, this national park is obviously very popular with birdwatchers who flock to its boundaries to gaze in awe at the multi-coloured show before their eyes. Although visitors primarily head to the park to marvel at the birds that swirl above their heads in the bright blue sky, Kaudulla is also home to a number of large mammals.
Lucky tourists may spot, elephants, sloth bears, Sri Lankan leopards, deer and wild boar roaming around the forests as adorable lorises swing from the branches on either side. The abundance in fauna and flora which attracts the birds to the area is due to King Mahasen who set aside the park’s area as a water source for his people all the way back in the 3rd Century AD! When the irrigation tanks were finally abandoned sixty years ago, wildlife quickly sprung up around the water source and the area was thankfully turned into a national park in 2002. As you can see, history abounds everywhere in this beautiful country.
Wilpattu National Park
Meaning ‘Land of Lakes’, Wilpattu National Park certainly lives up to its name as nearly sixty of them are found within its boundaries. Due to these life-giving water sources, fauna and flora flourish in the wet environment and consequently a diverse array of animals also call the area their home.
Elephants, leopards, water buffalo and the delightfully quaint sloth bear all meander their ways through the dense forest and scrubland. Untouched and wild, the pristine environment is beautifully untamed and as such is lovely to gaze upon. With the sun setting over the shades of greens, yellows and browns that characterize Wilpattu National Park, visitors will undoubtedly want to return time and time again to this charmingly peaceful park.
Horton Plains National Park
Up in the hills themselves, the best-known reserve is Horton Plains National Park. Quite unlike any other national park in the country, there is relatively little wildlife here, though the park is one of the top spots on the island for spotting montane bird species. The main draw here is the incredible scenery.
Wild, misty moorlands, studded with beautiful stands of cloud forest, roll down to the breathtaking precipice of World’s End, where the cliffs marking the southern edge of the hill country fall sheer for the best part of a kilometre (0.5 miles) to the plains below.
Udawalawe National Park
Although there are a few mountainous areas that form a beautiful backdrop to the stunning scenery on show, it is mainly plains and marshes that dominate Udawalawe National Park. While the wild look of the park is certainly attractive, tourists mainly flock to its confines to see the Sri Lankan elephants that roam the flatlands. With birds circling overhead, the gigantic elephants kicking up a reddish-brown dust and the mountains in the distance framing the landscape; Udawalawe is certainly beautiful to behold.
Gal Oya National Park
The nearby Senanayake Samudraya reservoir is actually responsible for the establishment of this wet and wild park because Gal Oya National Park acts as a catchment area for the excess water that the reservoir does not store. Consequently the national park has a number of wetlands and lush forests that happily soak up the water, turning the life-giving source into verdant leaves and dense fauna.
Visitors to the park may catch a glimpse of some of the amazing animals that call the park their home with elephants, buffaloes and leopards all residing within its confines. Right next to the park is the sacred shrine of Dighavapi that attracts thousands of pilgrims each and every year.