The amazing biodiversity of Sri Lanka’s wildlife is easy to observe within the relatively small island. Elephants, buffalo, leopards, crocodiles and monkeys galore roam this tropical island paradise. The diversity doesn’t end on land. A diverse variety of bird species fill the skies above Sri Lanka while the seas are home to turtles, dolphins and migratory whales. Sri Lanka’s unique climate and topography make the island a nature lovers paradise. The sheer range of habitats here would normally only be found across an entire continent. The people are well aware of the natural treasures that surround them. Mihintale Sanctuary was founded in the 3rd century BC and is believed to be the first nature reserve in the world!
Wildlife in abundance and ease of access to makes Sri Lanka the perfect destination for wildlife safaris. There are over 100 protected areas available for visitors to explore within Sri Lanka. With so much choice it can be difficult to know where to begin. With YourTrip you can create a customised itinerary that will take you on an unforgettable tour of Sri Lanka’s flora and fauna. Read on to find out more about some of the incredible wildlife you could be seeing for yourself.
Leopards at Yala National Park
There’s nowhere better to spot these beautiful but elusive creatures. Yala National Park is famed for having the largest leopard population of any nature reserve on the planet. However, this does mean that it can get quite busy, and visitors can expect to wait in line for entry upon arriving there. Booking tickets online through a tour provider lets you skip the queue and head straight into the wild on the back of a private Jeep. The accompanying guides know this park like the back of their hands; they are familiar with every trail and rock that the leopards frequent, making sighting them much more likely. As you scour the landscape, make sure to also look out for the other wildlife on offer. Sambar and spotted deer herds are a common sighting across the park, and if you’re lucky you might get the chance to observe a crocodile or sloth bear in their natural habitats. Yala National Park is also home to a small but characterful group of elephants.
Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Accommodation
When the safari is over for the day, you can retire to a luxurious self-contained thatched hut with its own swimming pool and patio. This accommodation option is offered by Chena Huts, and while it is on the expensive side, you will experience world-class hospitality in harmony with the surrounding nature. The elephants have even been known to walk right up to the cabins! There are of course various other hotels conveniently located just a short 20 minute drive from the main park entrance.
Blue Whales along the South Coast
For the biggest animal on earth, the blue whale is surprisingly difficult to find. Sri Lanka is possibly the best place to watch these magnificent creatures. Their annual migration sees them pass through the warm coastal waters off the southern Sri Lankan coastline. Galle and Mirissa are both prime spots for viewing. You can enjoy a day trip out to sea on local boats along the southern coast. The best season to visit is from December to March. This season coincides coincides with the krill arriving to these waters. Krill are tiny floating crustaceans that form the bulk of the blue whales’ diet. When they are around, the whales will stay closer to the surface.
What makes Sri Lanka different from other whale watching hotspots is the fact that you could be spotting blue whales one day, and tracking leopards or elephants the next. You certainly couldn’t do that in Antarctica or the Azores!
Elephants in Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe Reservoir is the focal point and central landmark within the national park of the same name. Surrounded by dry plains and hills, this national park has been said to rival the savannah of southern Africa. As expected, the reserve’s animal inhabitants congregate along the shores to quench their thirst, allowing visitors to observe them up close. Jackals, water buffalo and crocodiles are some of the species that make their way into the open. The star of the show for most will probably be the elephant. Udawalawe is known for its thriving population, the majority of which are familiar with humans being in the vicinity. Elephant sightings are very common, and they might even wander up to the vehicles to get a closer look at you!
Remember to bring your binoculars, because the skies around here are equally rewarding when it comes to spotting wildlife; six eagle species nest within the park’s boundaries, as well as pelicans, lapwings and spoonbills.
Birdwatching on Mannar Island
Mannar Island is a world-famous destination for bird lovers, due to the marshy wetlands and estuaries it has. These make the perfect stopover destination for migratory wading birds like herons, egrets and flamingos. Watch out for Heuglin’s gulls; they would have flown over 6,500 miles from their homes in Siberia to get here! You will also get to enjoy cooling relief from the sky-high temperatures due to the island’s dry northwestern location. Mannar hasn’t yet entered into the typical Sri Lankan tourist circuit, so it’s also a great place to get a sense of the local traditional way of life that is so closely intertwined with the nature around it.
Exploring Sri Lanka’s wildlife with a tour group gives you the option of venturing out at night to try and find grey slender loris. Mannar Island is home to many of these peculiar, round-eyed, nocturnal primates. A sighting would give you another interesting story to tell about your already fascinating Sri Lankan journey.