Yala (Ruhuna) National Park
Situated in the southeast region of the island in a dry zone boarding the Indian Ocean is one of the most known national parks of Sri Lanka. Yala National Park or Ruhuna National Park is positioned within the provinces of South and Uva, this park has a total land area of 979 sq km which has been divided into five blocks however, only two blocks are open for visitors. Proclaimed in 1938, the Yala National Park is the largest National Park in Sri Lanka and it houses most of the large mammals of the country.
The park’s climate is usually hot and dry. The rainfall is highly seasonal and usually received its annual rainfall during the north east monsoon from November to January, the unpredictable inter-monsoonal rains usually occur on the months of March, April and September. The dry season begins in June and last until September or mid-October.
The vegetation of the park comprises primarily of semi-arid thorny scrub with scattered secondary forest. There are also diminutive patches of mangrove vegetation along the coastal lagoons, sand dunes and dry grasslands. Secondary forest can be classified as multifarious, gamut from monsoon forest, semi deciduous forest to thorn forests.
The blocks I and II of the park are open for visitors, the Block one is the most visited area since it contains the highest concentration of leopards. Aside from leopard, there are also a great number of Asian Elephants, buffalos, crocodiles, sloth bears, deer, mongoose, pangolins and wild boars. The parks also serves as a habitat for over 120 species of birds, from flamingo to flycatchers, crested hawk eagles to black bitterns, Indian Peafowl to Sri Lanka jungle fowl.
The park also boasts some legendary archaeological interest such ancient monastery of Sithulpahuwa settle on top of a beautiful rocky platform and the Debarawewa Wetland and Palatupana Saltpans. The coastline within the park also serves as a major nesting ground for marine turtles.
When to visit:
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season, February to August.During these months the herds are gathered in a certain area for water supply, while during the month of May is the much awaited sloth bear season. The park closes its gate during mating season usually on the months of September or October and so November and December is a pleasant time to visit wherein one can have a glimpse of the cubs.
How to get there:
The best way to get to the park is by Train. Park can be reach from the South coast via Tangalla, Tissamahara and Hambantota or via Uda Walawe from Ratnapura, Haputale via Bandarawela, Tanamalwila from Nuwara Eliya. There are two entrances to the reserve, the main gate at Palatupana, 20 km from Tissamahara and the other gate at Kataragama -Situlpahuwa road. There are four wheeler jeeps with soft-tops that can be hired to explore the park. One can have a full day safari or a morning or afternoon trip to explore the park.
Uda Walawe National Park
Located 170 km South East of Colombo surrounded by Ratnapura and Morangala districts is the Uda Walawe National Park. The park lies on a dry zone and small section lies within intermediate zone. It has an area approximately 306 sq km and was established in 1972 to acts as a catchment area of the Uda Walawe Reservoir. The park’s vegetation comprises of dry lowland forest, grasslands, scrublands and rich teak forest.
The park is known as a sanctuary to the wild elephant and best place to observe Asian Elephants.There are about 500 elephants roaming freely around the reserve. An elephant fence within the area keeps the elephants and the cattle out as well as a shield to protect the other resident mammals from danger.
Large herds of elephants and deer species such as spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, as well as water buffalo, langur, wild boar, sloth bears, jackals are some of the attraction of the park. There are also sightings of leopard in the area; they are usually seen on rocky outcrops. One can also have a glimpse of some species of reptiles including water monitor lizards. There are also wide diversity of birds nesting in the area such as spot-billed pelican, Indian cormorant, grey heron, cattle egret, black-winged kite, crested serpent eagle, jungle fowl, flycatcher and others.
Situated within the reserve is the Elephant Transit Centre, this centre was founded in 1995 by the Department of Wildlife in Sri Lanka to foster the abandoned, injured or orphaned baby elephants before releasing them back to the wild. The centre provides welfare and conservation of wild animals.
How to get there:
The park is about 4 to 5 hours drive from Colombo and can easily be access via Ratnapura Road, Pelmadulla or Colombage Ara junction, or from Downsouth via Tangalla or Hambantota. From central hills the park is closer to Haputale and Bandarawela. There are buses from Embilipitiya to Tanamalwila that could drop the tourist to the entrance of the park. The main entrance of the park is about 7th milepost of Uda Walawe- Thanamalwila road.
Wasgomuwa National Park
Wasgomuwa National Park is another haven to discover. The park covers an area of approximately 39, 322 ha and situated within the districts of Matale and Polonnaruwa. Adjoined by rivers, Mahaweli from the east, Amban from the west and north, the park is endowed with diverse micro habitat of flora and fauna, the only National Park in the Central Province where one could observe elephants in their natural habitats.
In 1938 a part of the park was proclaimed as a Strict Natural Reserve while the adjoining section was declared as an intermediate zone in 1945. The clearing of the large part of the forest due to the implementation of the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Project restricted the animals in the Wasgomuwa area, thus in 1984 the Wasgomuwa was declared as a National Park.
The vegetation of the park is mostly monsoonal forest consisting of riverine forest, dry mixed evergreen forest, grasslands, wetlands and scrublands. Wasgamuwa Park houses 23 species of mammals in Sri Lanka, primarily the wild elephants, there are also monkeys, buffaloes, bear, leopards, sambar, wild boar and spotted deer. The park also houses 35 species of reptiles, including water monitors, crocodiles and lizards like red lipped lizard and earless lizard. Other faunas nesting in the area are the 8 species of amphibians among them is the endemic and endangered Slender Wood Frog.
Found within the reservoirs of the area are 17 species of fish including the endemic stone sucker and combtail. There are also 52 species of butterflies found in various sites of the park, 9 of which are endemic. The park is also populated by 143 species of birds in which 8 are considered endemic.
Aside from the rich faunas, the park is a home for a diverse species of plants. About 150 species of flora that have been identified in the park, some of them are the important medicinal plants, Athi, Udayan and Bin Kohomba, there are also palu, weera, woodapple, Eragrostis viscose, satin, ebony, as well as gal siyambala.
The park is an ideal place for retreat and meditation. In which one could enjoy moments of solitude away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The place is also known for its historical significance. The giant canal of Kalinga Yodha Ela which was built during the reign of King Parakrama Bahu in the 12th century and the ruins of Malagamuwa Wilmitiya is also location in the park.
How to get there:
The Wasgonuwa National Park can be reached via Matale and Hettipola. Visitors from Polonnaruwa or from Matale can reach the park via Laggala and Wilgomuwa. From Mahaweli the best way to reach the place is via Wilgomuwa Japan Bridge.
Madura Oya National Park
Located in the Dry Zone 300 k.m. away from Colombo is the captivating scenery of Madura Oya National Park. This park has a total area of 58,849 ha extending to the Districts of Ampara, Badulla and Polonnaruwa in Eastern, Uva and North-central Provinces.
The park was established in 1983 for biodiversity and catchment conservation for Maduru Oya, Ulhitiya, Ratkinda, NDK and Henanigala Reservoirs. It also serves as a hunting ground for the indigenous Veddahs.
The vegetation of the park, consist primarily of scrublands and tropical dry mixed evergreen forest flanked by prominent rock outcrops. The park has a wide diversity of fauna and flora.
The freshwater fish in the reservoirs are dominated by exotic species giant gourami and tilapia. There are also aquatic reptiles such as tortoise, pythons, mugger and estuarine crocodiles, as well as numerous species of aquatic birds including the painted stork, cormorants and white-bellied sea eagle. The reserve also serves as a habitat for species of elephants, sloth bear, leopard, buffaloes, slender loris, toque monkey, grey langur, porcupine and sambhur.
The evergreen forest exhibiting extensive variety of floras, the noteworthy one is the Vatica obscura which is rare and endemic species of Dipterocarpaceae, other species are weera, burutha or satinwood, palu, welang, woodapple, ehala and weliwenna.
Aside from the breath-taking features of the park, the social and cultural heritage seen within the area makes this place truly unusual. Lying within the area are ruins of Henanigala, Kudawila, Gurukumbura, Uleketangoda, Werapokuna, and several ancient Buddhist shrines, temples and dagobas, statues and hermitages from different eras in Sri Lanka’s history. Indigenous Veddhas reside on the southern part of the Maduru Oya.
How to get there:
Maduru Oya can be reached through Matale and Hettipola or from Polonnaruwa or Mahiyangana via Dehiattakandiya. Tourist coming from Colombo can also take Kurunegala, Dambulla, Habarana, Polonnaruwa or Manampitiya route.
Trains and buses are available from Colombo. Tourist cab can also be hired, but the best way to reach the destination is by the railway. The park is close to Wasgomuwa National Park.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains is situated on the highlands of the country belonging to Central Province and considered to be the highest plateau in the country with altitudes between 2,000 to 2,300 m. It is the only national park situated in the wet zone of the country and falls within the Nuwara Eliya district.
The park covers around 31.60 sq km of undulating lands covered in a tropical cloud forests or verdant montane savannah grasslands. The diversity of vegetation in the plains is quite impressive from grasses to ferns shrubs and large flowering trees. The montane forest is very distinct with all the trees reaching a similar height protecting each other against excessive precipitation, while the western slopes have an extensive area of cloud forest.
Horton Plains National Park serves as a catchment area and the birthplace of the three major rivers in the country; the Kelani Ganga, Walawe and the Mahaweli Ganga, the longest river in Sri Lanka. The two of highest peaks of the country are found within the borders of the park, Kirigalpotta (2,387 m) and the Totupolakanda (2,357 m). In 1969 Horton Plains was established as a Nature Reserve but due to its unique watershed and biodiversity it was declared as a National Park in 1988. Its exotically beautiful scenery can not be found elsewhere in Sri Lanka.
The Horton Plains National Park is the only National Park in Sri Lanka in which visitors are allowed to walk. The most tremendous physical feature of the park is the World’s End, trilling escarpment at the edge of the plateau that falls within 800 m to the lowlands of the southern region of the island. Further hike from the World’s End will lead the walkers to the Baker’s falls, an enthralling cascade that intensifies the undoubtedly wonderful scenery of Horton Plains.
The park is also a good destination for birders since a lot of endemic birds are residing in the area. Some of the endemic species of birds are Sri Lanka blue magpie, Sri Lanka dull-blue flycatcher, Sri Lanka white-eye, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, Sri Lanka spur fowl, Sri Lanka bush warbler, Sri Lanka jungle fowl and yellow-eared bulbul.
There are also a wide variety of animals in the area such as purple-faced leaf monkey, toque monkey, Sri Lanka rusty-spotted cat, Indian fishing cat, southern Indian otter, slender loris, mongoose, barking deer, mouse deer and Sri Lanka giant squirrel as well as dwarf chameleon and horned lizard.
When to visit:
The best months to visit the place is during the month of February to April and July to September, the winter months though dry can be very cold while the early morning is the best time for observing the panoramic scenic beauty of the Hill.
How to get there:
From Colombo it will take 5 to 6 hours by road. From Nuwara Eliya one can reach the park via Ohya or towards Ambewala and Pattipola. This continues to the park. From Haputale, take the road via Ohiya.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is located at the south-eastern coast near Hambantota, 256 km away from Colombo. With a total area of 6,216 ha, the park might be small compared to Yala and the others despite its size, this park has a very high concentration of mammals and bird species. Bundala National Park is known as refuge to the massive amount of aquatic birds and one of the best sites to view Sri Lanka’s wild life.
The park was recognized as a Sanctuary in 1969 and was proclaimed as a RAMSAR Wetland in 1990 due to its importance to migratory birds. In 1992 the sanctuary was declared as a national park.
The park area consists mainly of dry thorny scrublands and brackish lagoons, salt pans and inter-tidal mudflats. There are streams, seasonal water holes, tanks, mangroves, and seashores that intensify the diversity of habitat and richness of its biodiversity.
The climate of Bundala National Park is hot and dry since it falls within the southeastern arid zone. Its climate and the abundance of lagoons have made the park an ideal place for wildlife and wetland for migratory shore-birds including the greater flamingo. It is a home for more than 20,000 migrant bird, 383 plant species including the 6 endemic and 7 species that are considered nationally threatened, and 324 species of vertebrates in which 11 are endemic and 29 are nationally threatened species.
Bandula National Park houses about 197 species of bird including the endemic Sri Lanka bron-capped blabbler and the Sri Lanka jungle fowl. There are also the white-bellied sea eagle, the brahminy kite, cattle egret, great egret, intermediate egret, Eurasian spoonbill, black-winged stitlt, yellow-wattled lapwing and the rare black-neck stork. Other migratory birds in the reserve are ringed plover, broad-billed sandpiper, common avocet, and Eurasian oyster-catcher which are usually seen in large numbers during the months of October to December.
Elephants can easily be seen in the area. The other common animals of the park are leopards, spotted deer, mouse deer, sambar and barking deer, langur, Sri Lanka jackal, Sri Lanka rusty-spotted cat, Indian wild boar, giant squirrel, Sri Lanka small civet-cat and Indian crested porcupine. One can have a glimpse of the notable reptiles like marsh and estuarine crocodiles, in addition to monitor lizards, star tortoise, rare sand boa and others.
How to get there:
There are two regular routes from Colombo to Bundala viz: Along the coast via Galle, Mataram Tangalle and Hambantota; and via Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Embilipitiya, and Hambantota.
The park can be reached within 75 minutes east of Tangalle and about 15 kilometers east of Hambantota.
Bundala National Park is a short distance from Yala National Park on the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka.
Willpatu National Park
Located 176 km north of Colombo, about 30 km west of Anuradhapura, lies between Modergum Aru in the North and the Kala Oya in the South is Sri Lanka’s largest reserve, the Wilpattu National Park. The park is approximately 1,908 sq km and spans the border of North West and North Central Provinces. It has a dense jungle cover which makes it a more exciting park where animals have to be tracked. There are numerous delightful little lakes – known as villus – the main feature of the park are the leopard and sloth bear rather than elephants.
The park was created as a sanctuary in 1905 and was declared as a National Park in 1938. It is considered to be the oldest and most important among the protected areas in Sri Lanka. Derives its name from the Villus (natural lakes) found within the park, the existence of these inland salt-lakes is in fact a unique feature of Wilpattu. In 1988 the park was closed to visitors due to the prevailing situation in the country and the unstable security condition within the area. Reopened to visitors in 2003, the park is now increasingly recognized eco-tourism destination.
The main physical feature of the park is the Villus, formed in shallow depression over an impervious layer and filled by rainwater during the monsoons. Another remarkable feature of the park is the fertile reddish brown earths. The parks vegetation consists mainly of: littoral vegetation which includes salt grass and low scrublands adjacent to the beach; monsoon forest with tall trees such as palu, ebony, wewara and satin; and the thorny bushes.
The park has a wide diversity of natural habitat. There are 31 species of mammals seen in the area, including the elephants, sloth bear, leopard, water buffalo and spotted deer. The villus support a multiplicity of resident and migratory waterfowl such as painted stork, open-billed stork, garganey, pintail, spoonbill, white ibis, white egret, cattle egret, kingfisher, nightjar, the endemic Sri Lanka junglefowl, serpent eagle, white bellied sea eagle. There are also numerous reptiles seen in the area such as monitor lizards, mugger crocodile, Sri Lanka’s largest snake (Python molurus pimbura), and species of turtles.
The park has a rich ecosystem as well as cultural heritage. Legend says that the King Vijaya (543 BC) landed at Kudrimalai in 500 BC and founded the Sinhalese race. King Vijaya married Kuveni, the jungle princess whose palace lies in ruins at Kali Villu. While over 2000 years ago, Prince Saliya son of King Dutugemmuni lived with Asokamala in Maradanmaduwa in Wilpattu. Pomparopau is an archeological site where sealed urns have been found. There are also ruins of an ancient Hindu temple on top of Kudrimalai Point.
How to get there:
From Colombo Wilpattu National Park can easily access by train, although buses are also available. From Colombo the park can be reached via Negombo, Chilaw and Puttalam with a turn-off to Anuradhapura Road which is 10 km away from the entrance of the park.
Minneriya National Park
Situated in the north-central plains of Sri Lanka between Habarana and Polonnaruwa is one of the smallest national park in the country with 8,890 ha but has the largest concentration of elephants, the Minneriya National Park.
The park encompasses the stunning Minneriya tank. The tank was built by King Parakarambahu during the height of Polonnaruwa’s glory which at present serves as an important gathering place for Sri Lanka’s large population of elephants. In late 1970’s the park was declared as a biosphere reserve and in 1997 it was proclaimed as a National Park and a year after the reserve was opened for public viewing.
Minneriya is surrounded with picturesque landscapes, rich grassy marshes, low wooded steeps and lush evergreen grassland with the mountains of Matale slowly fading from a distance. The ecosystem of the park is dominated primarily of dense evergreen forest, grassland and scrubland, which serve as a home for 24 species of mammals, with elephant as the most important being, spotted deer, Sri Lanka sloth bear as well as species of monkey; 160 species of birds, including the endemics such as Sri Lanka brown-capped babbler, Sri Lanka hanging parrot and Sri Lanka jungle fowl; 25 species of reptiles which includes the endangered red-lipped lizard; about 26 species of fish; 9 species of amphibians; and 75 species of butterflies.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season (June to September) wherein huge herds roam around the tank. The largest concentration and gathering of Asian elephants in which 300 elephants gathered around the tank usually happens during the late August and September, this amazing phenomenon cannot be seen elsewhere.
How to get there:
The Minneriya National Park can be reached from Dambulla or from Polonnaruwa. The main entrance is situated at Ambagaswewa along Habarana-Polonnaruwa road.
Safari jeep and four-wheel drive are the best used transportation in exploring the area.
Yala East (Kumana) National Park
Yala East national park is located in the southeast corner of Sri Lanka, it is separated from Yala West (Ruhuna) National Park but joined linked to Yala on the west side by the Block 2 SNR (Strict Natural Reserve). This distinguished bird sanctuary and well known eco-tourism destination has a total area of 18,149 ha. Extending across the sea westwards to Galge with the Kumbukkan-Oya as its southernmost border, the park is an enthralling wilderness made up of plains, scrub jungle, high forest and several rocky outcrops.
One of the main attractions of the area is the Kumana villu, a 200 ha natural swamp lake that serves as a nursery for indigenous water birds. During the dry season the sand bar forms at the mouth of the Kumbukkha Oya, the level of the water in the river rises and the surplus is carried along a channel into this Villu or mangrove swamp in which is covered by mangrove trees. The teal, grebe, herons, pelicans, cormorant, storks, ibis, spoonbills as well as pheasant tailed jacana gathered in the area and used it as a nesting ground. When the villu become congested the aquatic avian population spilled over into the nearby Kumana Lake.
Gather within the park are multitude of birds breed and roost. The months of May to June is the height of the breeding season in which familiar sightings of pelicans, flamingos, painted storks, spoonbills, black-winged stilt, whistling teal and moorhen as well as a glimpse to the rare black-necked stork. Before the rainy season comes all the birds are gone.
The Yala East National Park is not only a birds’ paradise, numerous other wildlife are recorded in the area such as leopard, bear, elephants, species of deer, wild boar and buffalo.
The park is also a great archeological site. Most of the rock outcrops on the northern border of the park are cave with some have an inscription dated back in 1st to 2nd century BC. In a large cave at Bambaragastalawa, ruins of 9 m reclining Buddha stature was found and other interesting places to around the area.
How to get there:
One can reach the park through Yala National Park. From Colombo the distance is 391 km, and can be access via Beragala and Koslanda or via Thimbolketiya, Udawalawe and Thanamalwila. It can also be access via the Wellawaya-Potuvil Road, passing Panama to Okanda. The park office is situated at Okanda, permit and guide should be obtained before the entry.
*Kumana National Park is such a paradise to explore but due to security reasons the park was closed to the public since 1985. In 2003 was reopened to the public, however it is rarely visited.
Lahugala National Park
Situated 16km west of Pottuvil, within the basin of Heda Oya, near the east coast of Arugam Bay is Lahugala National Park. Established as a National park in 1980 with a total area of 1,554 ha, the park is considered to be one of the smallest parks in the country. Despite of its size, the park houses a huge number of elephants and served as an elephant passage between Yala and Gal Oya.
The park consist of 9 protected areas and within the park are the three ancient tanks, the namely, Mahawewa, Kitulana and Sengamuwa. The most known of the three is Mahawewa also known as Lahugana. The terrain around the park is typically dry zone with secondary forest. One unique vegetate feature of the area is the species of grass (Beru) that grows around the Lahugala tank which delighted the elephants.
During the dry season, elephants can be spotted at dawn and dusk, drinking and bathing in the reservoir or grazing in the tall grasses. Aside from the elephants one can also have a sight of herds of spotted deer or group of wild boars near the tank. There are also sightings of leopards, bears, toque macaque, langur, jackal, rusty spotted cat, fishing cat, pangolin, black nape hare and others.
The park serves as a nestling ground for wetland birds such as pelican, heron, storks, white bellied sea eagle, common kingfisher, stork billed kingfisher, the endemic comb duck, Sri Lanka spur fowl and the unusual rare red faced malhoka.
The park borders by numerous sites of Cultural heritage. Situated on the north edge of the park is the Magula Maha Vihiraya, an ancient temple built by King Devanmpiyatissa during the Anuradhapura periods. A few km away are: Mahudu Maha Viharaa, on the beach off Pottuvil; and the venue of the wedding of the patents of the King Duttugemunu (165 BC).
How to get there:
From Kandy Mahiyangana road and Polonnaruwa the park can be reached via Baticaloa. While from downsouth the route via Monaragagala- Pottuvil road is about 5 km from Pottuvil.
Somawathiya National Park
Somawathiya National Park is a prime elephant habitat of Sri Lanka which occupies an area of 17,350 ha that spans the Eastern and North Central provinces in the deltoid plain of Mahaweli Ganga. It was declared as a national park in 1986. Renowned for the Somawathiya Chaitiya temple built 2,300 years ago and considered as one of the oldest temples in the country.
With its distinctive landscape mainly consist of villus and flood plains, the park became an important area for the group of elephants and their tranquil life. In winter there are around 75 species of birds that settles in the park.
A soothing atmosphere along the journey to the lush evergreen forest on the north of the park and the flood plains on the south of the park, aside from the elephants and birds there are also a number of mammals such as water buffalo, sambhur, leopards and rusty spotted cats that can be observed within the area.
Despite the exploitation of the area, there are numerous efforts being done by different organization to regenerate the area for the protection of the unique diversity of habitats and the large concentration of elephants.
How to get there:
The park can be reached via Polonnaruwa or Minneriya. From Minneriya one can take the route that passes the Higurakgoda town to Sungawila, the last town on the route to Somawathiya.
From Polonnaruwa, one must turn of at Polonnaruwa Hospital Junction on Polonnaruwa- Habarana Road towards Sungawila.
Flood Plains National Park
This park was formed along part of the River Mahaweli, the largest river in Sri Lanka, with the river flowing along the middle of the park. It occupies an area of 17,350 ha. The park serves as a link between the Wasgomuwa National Park in the south and the Somawathiya Chaitiya National Park in the north, providing a safe corridor of passage for migrating wildlife, especially elephants between the two parks.
The park was declared as a national park in 1984. Its unique landscape and the rich vegetation surrounding the floodplains attract large animals while the marshes within the area preserve the reptiles in the area while villus houses freshwater sharks, climbing perch and other fresh water fish.
The parks was connected to the ancient irrigation channel surrounded the area. Ruins of an ancient cave monastery dating back between 2nd to 7th Century BC can be found at the edge of Mutugall Villu.
How to get there:
From Colombo the fastest route to take is via Kurunegala, Dambulla, Habarana and Polonnaruwa.
*At present the park is closed to visitors.
Gal Oya National Park
Situated at Inginayagala, 314 km from Colombo is the Gal Oya National Park. The name of the park was derived from the Gal Oya, the river that flows all the way through out.
The park extents over a land area of 62,936 ha and was established in 1954 to protect the catchment areas of the Senanayake Samudra, the largest inland body of water in Sri Lanka. The park’s vegetative structure consists mainly of dry evergreen forest, grassland with some remnant chena areas in the west and savannah dominated by the tall grass species of iluk and mana.
Although the park is known for its elephant population, the park also boast a wide diversity of natural habitats; there are about 32 species of mammals including langur, endemic toque macque, leopard, slot bear, wild boar, water buffalo and species of deer. There are also quite a number of reptiles in the area, such as the Sri Lanka swamp crocodile which usually seen around the irrigation canals, water monitor and species of snakes. Around 150 species of birds are also recorded in the area such as the endemic red-faced malkoha, Sri Lanka spurfowl, cormorants, spot-billed pelican, grey-headed fishing eagle, white-bellied sea eagle, wooly necked storks, and serpent eagles.
The forest within the Gal Oya National Park is dominated by tree species of Trincomalee wood, etamba, calamander and ebony while its grasslands are colonized by the species of aralu, balu and gammalu.
Aside for its natural wonders the Gal Oya also houses several ancient ruins and interesting archeological sites. Though Gal Oya National Park is not fully developed for visitors the natural beauty of the reserve is awe-inspiring. One can have a tour within the park through Jeep Safari or boat trip. Boat trip is best way to explore the area for it makes every moment worthwhile.
How to get there:
Gal Oya can be reached from Kandy Mahiyangana via Ampara or via Monaragagala coming from Down South or via Batticaloa coming from the North.
From Colombo the park can be reached via Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Udawalawe, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Moneragala and then north from Siyambalanduwa to Inginiyagala.
Kaudulla National Park
In 2002 just before the immense Wilpattu reopened, the newest national park was opened to the public, the Kaudulla National Park. The park serves as a catchment area and provides a 6,656 ha jungle corridor for migrating elephants. The park is situated 190 km from Colombo, between the Somawathi National Park and Minneriya National Park and positioned around the ancient Kaudulla tank.
Kaudulla National Park offers a great wilderness experience, in which one can have a fantastic opportunities to see many elephants at close range; an excellent area for bird watching, some of the species of birds seen in the area are crested hawk eagle, jungle cock, peacock, spoonbills, egrets and cormorants. The park is also a popular destination for wildlife safaris that also take in leopards, sambar deer and the occasional sloth bear, fishing cats and endangered rusty spotted cat.
The best time to visit the park is at the end of the dry season (September to October) for during this period the elephants congregate around the tank. One can have a gaze at the assembled herds bathing in the open bed of the main tank under the soft radiance of the dazzling sunset that trickle the cloud-flecked sky. Another interesting feature of the park is the cataraman rides on the tank, in which one can have a close view of the wildlife within the area.
How to get there:
From Colombo the park can be reached via Kandy road, Kurunegala and Dambulla- Habarana Road. It is only 6 km from off the main Habarana- Trincomalee road.
Lanugamvehera National Park
The Lunugamvehara National Park is a catchment area which has a rich biodiversity and an important habitat for a large number of water birds as well as elephants. Established in 1995, it served as a passage for elephant migration between Yala National Park and Uda Walawe National Park, the park occupies an area of 23,499 ha.
The park is a home to a wide variety of wildlife such as elephants and buffaloes, fishing cat, grey mongoose, bears, wild boars and species of deer. There are 184 species of birds residing in the area such as pea fowl, jungle fowl and crested hawk eagle. Some of the threatened amphibians of the country are also present in the area, the Autkorale’s dwarf toad, the burrowing frog and the endemic Sri Lanka wood frog. There are also awesome sights of marsh crocodile, garden lizards, and common agamid lizard.
The parks vegetation includes different stages of forest succession along with patches of scrubs and grasslands. Predominantly dry mix evergreen forest covered by weera, Ceylon iron wood, Ceylon Oak and other significant timber species.
How to get there:
The park has 2 access roads off Colombo viz. via Ratnapura, Udawalawe, Thanamalwila and Lunugamvehera and via Hambantota, Tissamaharama, Thanamalwila and Lunugamvehera. The park’s headquarters is in the Strait of Hambantota to Wellawaya.