Sri Lanka’s National Parks and What They’re Famous For
Big cats, rare birds and shy elephants – Sri Lanka’s got it all! If you’re hoping to spot some of these elusive creatures during your holiday on the island, you’re going to want to hit up some of the country’s famous national parks. Sri Lanka has been identified as one of 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world, with a variety of different ecosystems that are enmeshed within its borders and that allow a diverse range of wildlife to build their homes. Here are some of Sri Lanka’s best national parks, and why you should visit them on your solo adventures in Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park
Famous For: Leopards
Yala gets the lion’s share of visitors every year when compared to Sri Lanka’s other national parks, and for good reason. It is the second biggest national park behind Wilpattu National Park, and is home to one of the highest population densities of leopards anywhere in the world. The park is located approximately 300 kilometres outside of Colombo (which is a journey of a whopping five hours by car) in the southeast corner of the island. It is known for the range of ecosystems that it provides for its wildlife, ranging from the sandy coast to the rugged terrain and rainforests deep within its borders.
There are more than 200 different species of birds that can be found in Yala, and more than 40 different species of mammals. In addition to leopards, visitors can spot elephants, sloth bears, monkeys, water buffalo, sambar deer and spotted deer, mongooses and jackals within the park. The weather generally permits visitors to visit all year round, but the park is known to close for maintenance in the month of September. The best time to visit if you’re looking to photograph leopards, elephants and wild boar tends to be between May and August; birds, deer and crocodiles are easier to spot between October and December.
Minneriya National Park
Famous For: “The Gathering”
Between the months of September and October, the lake in Minneriya National Park dries up and gives way to lush grasslands. This prompts the gathering: a congregation of more than 300 elephants within the bed of Minneriya Lake, one of the largest meeting places for elephants in all of Asia. The sight is a stunning one to behold, and not to be missed by elephant lovers who would find it difficult to discover its equivalent elsewhere.
Minneriya National Park is located 180 kilometres from Colombo in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, and is a major national park that hosts several other species of wildlife. These include endemic monkeys such as the purple-faced langur and the toque macaque; sambar and axis deer; leopards; and sloth bears, to name a few. The park is also home to more than 170 species of birds.
Horton Plains National Park
Famous For: World’s End
Located on the highest plateau in Sri Lanka’s central highlands, Horton Plains National Park sits at an altitude of between 2,100 to 2,300 metres and is home to more than 20 species of mammals and more than 80 species of birds. The area is covered by montane grasslands and cloud forest, and is located nearly 200 kilometres away from Colombo. It is the source of three major rivers: the Mahaweli River, the Kelani River and the Walawe, and is home to animals such as the sambar deer, purple-faced langurs, leopards and, more recently, elephants.
The most famous attraction within Horton Plains is World’s End, a sheer cliff with a drop that goes down about 1,200 metres. Close to this main cliff is a smaller one called Mini World’s End, that features a smaller 300 metre drop.
Bundala National Park
Famous For: Birds, especially Flamingos
This national park was the first wetland in Sri Lanka to be declared as a Ramsar Site, giving it the honour of being designated as a wetland site of international importance. Located in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province, about 245 kilometres outside of Colombo, it is home to 15 species of vertebrates, 32 species of mammals, 48 species of reptiles and a whopping 197 different species of birds. There are also more than 50 different types of butterflies that flit through the park.
Bundala National Park is perhaps best known however for its large population of greater flamingos, which visit in flocks of over a thousand at a time. Birdwatchers from all over the globe stop by Bundala for glimpse at some of the varied bird species that can be seen here, including waterfowl, cormorants, herons and storks.