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Family-Friendly Adventures In The Wild

The wilderness can be as enlightening as it is exciting. There is so much to learn from it, but only if we do so respectfully and with great care. A great place to watch and learn about Sri Lanka’s biodiversity would be at one of the island’s many national parks. We’ve got a few recommendations for a fulfilling family-friendly adventure in the wild.

1. Yala National Park

Yala National Park is a major tourist attraction in Sri Lanka, and covers an area of 978.8 km², making it the second largest national park in the country. It is located in the southern coast of Sri Lanka, spread over both Uva and Southern Provinces. Yala is divided into five blocks with two blocks open to the public. Over 40 mammals and about 215 bird species can be found in Yala, but the most popular residents are the Sri Lankan elephant and endemic leopard species. Yala is also home to jackals, sloth bears, peacocks and crocodiles. The recommended season for wildlife spotting is between February and July as the park’s water levels will be low, luring animals to more open areas of the park. Interestingly, the remnants of tanks built by kings of the ancient world provide water to the wildlife in the semi-arid Yala area, particularly during the dry season.

2. Wilpattu National Park

At 1,317km², Wilpattu is Sri Lanka’s largest national park. Located in the northwestern region of the island, Wilpattu is a relatively lush environment (as opposed to the aridity of Yala) and is dotted with natural lakes. At present, only 25% of the park is accessible by visitors, but that’s already quite a massive area. Over 30 species of mammals have been documented at Wilpattu, including sloth bears, sambar deer, spotted deer, and leopards. The national bird of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan junglefowl, is also a known resident of the park. A range of reptiles, such as the Indian rock python, mugger crocodiles, and the Indian flapshell turtle can also be found at the park.

3. Horton Plains National Park

Located in Ohiya, Central Province, the Horton Plains National Park offers visitors a stunning view of dozens of plains hidden amongst the ceaseless mist. The plains, reaching heights of around 6,900 to 7,500ft, are covered in cloud forest and grassland. The Horton Plains are the headwaters of Sri Lanka’s Mahaweli, Walawe and Kelani rivers. There’s a wide range of endemic plants that can be found at Horton Plains, as well as herds of sambar deer. The park is great for avid bird-watchers as many of Sri Lanka’s endemic residents as well as migratory visitors drop by the plains. It’s the coldest region in the country, with the average annual temperature being around 14-16⁰C.

4. Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe is sandwiched between the Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, and is the most consistent location for elephant spotting. There are about 500 elephants within the park and they roam in herds of about 100. There is no particular season at the park for spotting elephants as they’re around throughout the year. The park measures an area of 30,821 hA. A variety of endemic birds, such as the Sri Lankan grey hornbill, woodshrike and green pigeon can be glimpsed here. Gray langurs and black-naped hares are also common sights at the park.