The temples of Sri Lanka may have helped this island nation secure a reputation as a spiritual retreat, but take the time to explore the national parks and you’ll see a whole new beautiful side to the island. Observing wildlife in its natural habitat is so much more inspiring than seeing it on TV and will deepen your appreciation of nature even further. Here are some of the best national parks to visit in Sri Lanka.
Wilpattu National Park
This national park is the largest in Sri Lanka and covers 1085 square kilometers. Wilpattu National Park lives up to its name – “Wilpattu” means “natural lakes” in Sinhala and “10 lakes” in Tamil – providing glistening bodies of water, referred to as “villus.”
One of the best things about going on a safari trip in Wilpattu is the peace and quiet. The park receives fewer visitors than several of the others in Sri Lanka, even in high season, and this infuses your visit with that genuine feel of being out in the wilderness. To boot, it also allows the wildlife to go about their business in the wild without feeling disturbed.
It’s possible to see leopards, deer, crocodiles, wild pigs and sloth bears at this park. They may, however, be a little shy at coming out!
Yala National Wildlife Park
Yala National Wildlife Park may be smaller than Wilpattu, but it stakes the claim to being the most visited wildlife park in Sri Lanka. This is partially due to its crowning attraction, the prime location to see leopards, for which there is more opportunity than in Wilpattu.
Don’t get hung up on just spotting and photographing leopards, though. Here you’ll also see sambar (large deer), elephants, buffalo, golden jackals and various types of monkey, such as the langur monkey and toque monkey.
Horton Plains National Park
Here we have another national park where silence reigns, adding an even more authentic vibe to the wilderness that visitors experience. Bird watching is the aim of the game at this national park, where you’ll be able to see winged wonders like the yellow-eared bulbul and the Sri Lanka warbler.
It’s not just about the wildlife at this park. Horton Plains is also home to the second and third largest mountains in Sri Lanka: Kirigalpotta (2395 km) and Totapola (2359 km). However, the plains come to an abrupt halt at the aptly named ‘World’s End’, leaving you facing an 880 meter escarpment if you step over the edge! Make your way there before the clouds start to appear, which is around 10.00, and you can enjoy an unspoiled view of the coast.
Wasgomuwa National Park
Located in the districts of Matale and Polonnuwara, Wasgomuwa National Park is the place to see elephants and you may also catch the sloth bear while you’re there too. The park is particularly good for observing families of elephants, and the best time to observe elephants in herds is between November and May.
As well as buffalo, sambar and spotted deer, you’ll also be able to see pythons, mugger crocodiles and estuarine crocodiles. Bird wise, there are plenty of red-faced malkoha and Ceylon jungle fowl in the park to see, but you’ll also come across storks and yellow-fronted barbets.
Visiting the national parks is just one of the many activities you can try out while you’re on holiday in Sri Lanka. Other interesting places include the capital, Colombo, and the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, in Polonnuwara. Why not check them out?