Nature Reserves You Must Visit
Paradise is often found in a place where nature flourishes. Our little island is just that. With over 22 national parks that can be explored, Sri Lanka is every nature lover’s dream. Admire the exotic species that reside in the protected nature reserves across the country as you embark on thrilling safaris. From Minneriya National Park to Pigeon Island National Park, visit these nature reserves to truly understand how exotic species thrive. When travelling in a group to these nature parks, keep your voices low and avoid playing loud music as it will deter the animals from coming out of the thick jungles.
Minneriya National Park
The Minneriya National Park is most famous for ‘The Gathering’, an annual congregation of over 400 elephants in a single area; around the Minneriya Tank. This natural phenomenon occurs between the months of June to September, during the drought season, where elephants leave the cool shades of the thick jungle in search of water. Embark on a safari through Minneriya National Park and be in awe as you watch more than 200 – 500 elephants gather around the tank, grazing and frolicking in the vast open plains. You can admire these wild beasts in their natural surroundings from a safe distance in your safari jeep.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park, located closer to the town of Hambantota, is most famed as being the best place to spot the elusive Sri Lankan leopard and sloth bear. Yala is home to Sri Lanka’s “Big Three”: elephants, leopards and bears, and has the highest density of leopards in a geographical area. The park can get quite crowded so make sure you leave Hambantota early because the best time to spot a sloth bear or leopard is either in the early morning or the late afternoon. You will definitely spot a few elephants, deer, peacocks and crocodiles too during your safari through the park.
Pigeon Island National Park
Trincomalee is located on the east coast of the island and is home to the Pigeon Island National Park. This protected marine park is a small island off the coast of Nilaveli which can be accessed by boat. Embark on a short boat ride and spend the rest of the day snorkelling through the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean as you discover a world of exotic life thriving beneath the surface. The island was given the name because of the rock pigeons that settled on it a long time ago, and the waters are home to an array of vibrant corals and colourful marine life. Take your own snorkelling gear or rent a pair from the Nilaveli snorkelling centres before your excursion. Before snorkelling, ensure that everyone in your group can swim fairly well in the open ocean waters, and always make sure to stay close to each other.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains National Park is located approximately 1.5 hours from the small town of Nuwara Eliya. Start your trek through Horton Plains National Park by 6 am (just as the gates open). The entire trail will take approximately 4 hours, where you’ll come across the famed Baker’s Falls and the World’s End precipice, the two main attractions! Although the whole trek takes about 4 hours, it depends on the group’s level of fitness too. Pack water and some snacks to keep you energised and hydrated during the trail. Those visiting in the early hours of the morning will even see herds of Sambar Deer grazing on the dry grass on the open plains. Remember not to approach these wild animals and refrain from feeding them anything.