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The Call of the Wild – A Guide for the Best Wildlife Experiences in Sri Lanka

With its diverse ecosystems and abundance of endemic flora and fauna, Sri Lanka is blessed with some of the best wilderness the world has to offer and is a haven for nature and wildlife enthusiasts.

One of the more remarkable aspects of Sri Lanka is that it is a year-round destination for wildlife excursions. Whether you visit during the dry season or the wet season, there are always fascinating wildlife encounters waiting to take place. From the lush jungles to the coastal regions, every region of Sri Lanka offers a plethora of wildlife experiences throughout the year.

So make your way to our island nation to experience a wildlife expedition of a lifetime.

Best destinations for wildlife safaris in Sri Lanka

Embark on an exhilarating wildlife safari and venture into the heart of Sri Lanka’s renowned national parks and reserves, as you immerse in diverse ecosystems and witness amazing wildlife.

Here are some of the must-visit destinations for wildlife safaris:

Yala National Park

Located in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is renowned for its high density of leopards, making it one of the best places in the world to spot these big cats. Considered the second-biggest national park in the country, Yala is home to over 200 species of birds and over 40 species of mammals, and consists of 5 blocks where two are open to the public. As you venture through the diverse landscapes of the national park, keep your eyes peeled for leopards, elephants, sloth bears, deer, and a plethora of bird species. Whether you want to go on a guided bush walk, camp under the stars or go on a game drive with the rangers, you are in for a real treat.
The ideal time to visit Yala is from January to July.

Wilpattu National Park

Covering an impressive expanse of land on Sri Lanka’s northwest coast, Wilpattu National Park is the largest national park on the island and a wilderness sanctuary teeming with natural lakes, dense forests, and abundant wildlife. Here, you can camp, go on nature walks or embark on thrilling jeep safaris, passing through the park’s network of dirt roads and track leopards, elephants, deer, crocodiles, and an incredible array of birdlife. As you explore Wilpattu’s untamed beauty, be sure to visit the “Willus,” or natural lakes, where animals gather to quench their thirst, creating stunning wildlife viewing opportunities.
The best time to visit Wilpattu is between the months of February and October.

Wasgamuwa National Park

Nestled in the central province of Sri Lanka, Wasgamuwa National Park offers a tranquil escape into the heart of nature. This lesser-known gem is a sanctuary for elephants, and a sighting of these gentle grey giants against the backdrop of scenic landscapes is a truly magical experience. Traverse through the park, accompanied by expert naturalists as you keep an eye out for other animals’ such as deer, and numerous bird species that call Wasgamuwa their home.
The ideal time to visit here is from January to March.

Udawalawe National Park

Step into Udawalawe National Park, an expansive reserve in the southeastern part of the country, renowned for its population of elephants. Embark on an exciting safari and witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. The park is also home to a variety of other wildlife, including leopards, deer, crocodiles, and an abundance of bird species. Immerse yourself in the serenity of Udawalawe, with its picturesque landscapes, pristine reservoirs, and remarkable wildlife encounters.
The ideal time to visit here is from March to September.

Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks

Prepare yourself to witness “The Gathering” in Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks. Every year, during the dry season, hundreds of elephants migrate to the lush green surroundings in the north central province of Sri Lanka. This unique phenomenon happens during August – September and provides an unparalleled opportunity to observe these gentle giants up close. While on a safari tour, you could also spot an array of bird species.
The ideal time to visit here is from August to September.

Where to go for bird watching experiences in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and is home to over 400 bird species, including numerous endemics. With its rich biodiversity and diverse habitats, the island offers fantastic year-round birdwatching opportunities, although the best time for birding is between November and April.

Here are some top birdwatching destinations.

Kumana National Park

Renowned as the ultimate birdwatching haven, Kumana National Park is located in the southeast of Sri Lanka and stands as the premier destination for bird enthusiasts. With a remarkable collection of over 200 bird species, including migratory and endemic varieties, this park is a paradise for avid birdwatchers.

Bundala National Park

For bird enthusiasts, Bundala National Park is a haven that cannot be missed. With its diverse landscape encompassing marshes, lagoons, sand dunes, and lush subtropical forests, this park is home to over 200 endemic and migratory bird species and is recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the first wetland to be designated as a Ramsar site.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve

A renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is nestled in southwest of Sri Lanka. A biodiversity hotspot and a tropical rainforest, this natural haven is flocked by many endemic species, especially avian creatures, making it an ideal spot for birding.

The best destinations for snorkelling and diving in Sri Lanka

Explore the stunning coasts of Sri Lanka and embark on a marine adventure of your dreams. Blessed with stunning and diverse marine ecosystems and turquoise blue waters that will surely take your breath away, the southern and eastern coasts of the island is a must-add to your travel itinerary.


Kalpitiya is home to Bar Reef, the largest coral reef and protected marine area in Sri Lanka. As you snorkel your way through the crystal-clear waters, enter a world of stunning marine ecosystem and witness a myriad of marine life unlike ever before. Shallow dives are also possible in this area, making it a must-visit for divers.
Best time to visit is Kalpitiya is from October to May.


Hikkaduwa, located on the southern coast, is widely regarded as one of the top destinations for snorkelling and scuba diving. Home to over 60 species of hard coral and 170 species of reef fish, the turquoise blue waters and the coral reefs surrounding Hikkaduwa are exceptionally diverse and easily accessible, making this a haven for snorkellers.
Ideal time to visit Hikkaduwa is from January to March.


A famous coastal destination on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Unawatuna is famous for its diverse marine flora and fauna and offers marine enthusiasts the perfect playground to explore coral reefs, observe a wide range of marine life, and engage in shipwreck diving.
Ideal time to visit Unawatuna is from February to April.


Nestled off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, Trincomalee is yet another hot-spot for snorkelling thanks to its captivating coral reefs and intriguing shipwrecks.
The best to time to head here is during the months of May to October.

Where to go for whale and dolphin watching in Sri Lanka

Whales and dolphins await you as you set sail on an unforgettable marine safari and witness the incredible marine life that thrives in Sri Lanka’s coastal waters.

Here are some of the best places for whale and dolphin watching in Sri Lanka.


Known as one of the prime spots for whale watching, Mirissa is located in the south coast of Sri Lanka and offers encounters with magnificent blue whales, as well as sightings of dolphins and sea turtles. It’s most common to witness to blue whales here also you could also witness other species such as the humpback whale, byrde’s whale and fin whale. You could make way to Mirissa during December to April.


Starting in May and stretching all the way through to October, the whale watching season on the east coast is not to be missed. Explore the pristine waters of Trincomalee and witness the magnificent blue whales and even some dolphins.


Discover the north-western coastal wonders of Kalpitiya, where you can witness marine mammals like the blue whale, the byrde’s whale, and the majestic humpback whale. For the best chance to encounter these magnificent creatures, plan your whale watching expedition between November and April. During these months, a significant number of whales migrate from distant waters, often accompanied by a group of playful dolphins.

Tips For an Unforgettable Wildlife Experience

To make the most of your wildlife expedition in Sri Lanka, here are some useful tips to keep in mind.

1. Research and plan your wildlife excursions in advance, especially during peak seasons, to secure the best accommodations and ensure availability for safaris and activities.

2. Dress comfortably and wear light, breathable clothing in earthy tones that blend with the natural surroundings when you go bird watching or on a wildlife safari. Don’t forget to bring a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, sturdy footwear, and binoculars for birdwatching.

3. Follow the advice of your guides and adhere to park rules and regulations. Respect the wildlife and their habitats, maintaining a safe distance and refraining from any harmful or disruptive behaviour. Remember, you are a guest in their home.

4. Since wildlife can be sensitive to loud sounds, it’s important to maintain a calm and quiet demeanour to increase your chances of spotting elusive animals and observing their natural behaviours.

5. Carry an ample supply of water to stay hydrated throughout your adventures. Also, don’t forget to pack snacks to keep you energized during long safaris or walks.