The Dos and Don’ts When Visiting a National Park in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is home to a large and interesting array of wildlife species, making a visit to one of its many National Parks well worth your time when you visit the island. However, as the interest in the country’s National Parks grow, the resulting crowds that head to the wilderness also keep increasing. This has caused some concern about the health and wellbeing of the wildlife, especially when some groups of visitors do not heed the rules and regulations put in place for the safety and wellbeing of all.
So, here’s a list of what you should and shouldn’t do when you head to one of the National Parks located on the island. We ask that you adhere to the regulations put in place by the authorities, so that there is minimal impact to the natural ecosystem of these parks and the wildlife remains protected and able to thrive in their natural habitat.
Let’s start with the things that you should not do, or at least try and avoid doing, in a National Park.
- Don’t get too close to an animal; respect their space and privacy
At the end of the day you are entering the animal’s home and therefore, you must be respectful of their space. Don’t encourage your jeep driver to get you closer to an animal if it means you are invading their space. It is for both your safety as well as the animal’s.
- Don’t take any food into the park
While this rule varies from park to park, it is highly recommended that you do not take any food with you into the park, especially cooked food. The smell of food can attract animals towards your jeep; there have been many instances where elephants have stuck their trunk into a jeep to get food! If you need to bring a snack it is best to bring along food like biscuits or crisps. It is best to avoid fruits as well.
- Don’t leave any litter
This is the golden rule when going on a safari or even camping in a National Park. Do not litter! If you are bringing snacks or beverages along with you, make sure you take all empty bottles, wrappers and bags back with you. There are no trash cans inside the park so it is of utmost importance that you take your trash with you.
- Don’t feed any animals
Even though this rule may seem obvious, there are still many park-goers that feed the animals. While it may seem as though you are doing something good, it is actually a great disservice to the animals. Ultimately, they live in the wild, so if you feed them, you encourage them to become dependent on humans for food, leading to a higher risk of animal and human conflict.
- Don’t play music or make any loud noises
There are two things that will almost guarantee a good animal sighting: silence and patience. Don’t make any loud noises as it can scare animals away and some music may have a high frequency which can be very painful for the animals’ sensitive ears.
- Don’t drive fast within the park and do not stray from the designated road
Unfortunately, the primary focus for most visitors is getting a good picture, resulting in park rules being broken or overlooked. Jeep drivers often speed and stray away from the park roads to give their customers a better sighting. However, this is damaging to the animal, environment and yourself.
- Don’t use cell phones
Disconnecting from your phone will allow you to fully appreciate and connect with the beauty of the natural world that surrounds you. Discourage your jeep driver from using their phone as well, as they often call their friends if there is a good sighting and within minutes a small dirt road is full of vehicles!
- Don’t smoke or consume alcohol within the park
This is another rule that depends on the park, but it is best if you don’t smoke within the park, especially if you can’t properly dispose of the cigarette butts.
Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation has strict rules about not smoking, drinking, feeding the animals, bringing pets and lighting fires within parks. Defiance of these rules is punishable by law.
With that out of the way, here are some things that you can do which will enrich your safari experience and make you look like a wildlife pro.
- Talk with your park ranger
More often than not, park rangers end up being the highlight of your safari. These dedicated men and women know the park and its inhabitants like the back of their hand and they have many interesting stories about the park. The rangers are also very knowledgeable about the megafauna, the small creatures like birds, insects and frogs who are actually very fascinating.
- Avoid a spot if it looks very crowded
Stay away from the crowds at all costs! The crowds will ruin your safari, with so many vehicles around it is unlikely that you will have an enjoyable experience. The congestion will also scare off the animals so try and avoid that.
- Stay quiet
This doesn’t mean you have to be quiet for your whole safari drive, but at least for when you spot an animal.
- Listen to all the sounds of the jungle
Listen to the rustling of the leaves, the different bird calls and the sound of other various animals. This jungle symphony is truly a treat to the senses and should not be missed.
- Take binoculars and a camera (as well as a bottle of water)
This will help you capture the moment as well as make sure you don’t miss out on the smallest details of the park
Your time at a National Park should be more than just about capturing a good picture. It should be about taking a break from everyday life and enjoying the natural beauty of the wilderness. Be conscious of your actions and be mindful of the impact you make during your visit, and you will have a more fulfilling experience.