Yala, situated in the south east corner of the island, is home to the greatest variety of Sri Lanka’s wildlife. Its varying habitats,
consisting of scrub plains, jungles, rocky outcrops, fresh water lakes, rivers and beaches, provides home to many species of animals including sloth bear,
herds of elephants, buffalo, monkeys, sambar, deer, crocodiles and the endangered leopard subspecies, Panthera Pardus Kotiya, which is only found in Sri Lanka.
Bundala is an important and beautiful Wetland Sanctuary combining 20km of beach, lagoons and scrub which host more than 150 bird species.
These wetlands are home to winter migratory birds and large flocks of flamingoes. The lagoons prove popular with crocodiles whilst on dry land herds of up
to 60 elephants can be seen, as well as civets and giant squirrels. From October to January the area, near Tissamaharama on the south coast, also receives
visits from the endangered marine turtles that lay their eggs on the shore. A visit to Bundala will reward all those who’ve sought out this lesser-known National Park.
Kumana, also known as Yala East National Park covers an area of about 18,000 hectares and can only be accessed from Okanda which is south of Arugam Bay on
the South East Coast. The villus (swamp lakes) of Kumana is nesting sites for water birds. During the nesting season which begins towards June, large colonies of
pelican, spoonbills, herons, painted storks, and egrets can be spotted here. The jungles of Kumana are also home to wild elephants, buffalo and deer.
Kumana is edged by the Indian Ocean. Often the endangered marine turtles come ashore to nest here on the secluded beaches.
The magnificent Sinharaja rainforest and the village of Kitulgala, which is popular for white water rafting, are situated in the western foothills,
sandwiched between the west coast and the central highlands. This is an area of rolling hills, tropical rain forests and winding rivers.
The Sinharaja tropical rainforest is renowned as a hotspot for birdlife. Trekking through this bewildering land of exotic colours and wonderful sounds is an
experience of a lifetime.
With herds of elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and leopards, Uda Walawe National Park is the
Sri Lankan national park that best rivals the savannah reserves of Africa. In fact, for elephant-watching, Uda Walawe often surpasses many of the most famous
East African national parks. The park, which centres on the 308.2-sq-km Uda Walawe Reservoir, is lightly vegetated but it has a stark beauty and the lack of
dense vegetation makes game-watching easy. It’s certainly the one national park in Sri Lanka not to miss.