highlights and main attractions of udawalawe national park

With an impressive concentration of animals across its open savannah plains, of which the most noted is its large and stable elephant population, Udawalawe is one of Sri Lanka’s more understated national parks. It was established in 1972 with the intention of safeguarding a reservoir, the waters of which are vital to the farming communities of the arid south-eastern zone. Spread across 199 miles square, the park now protects these waters at its centre. 

Many would say that Udawalawe National Park resembles those in Africa the most due to its topography and fantastic wildlife.

Where is Udawalawe National Park?

landscape, wildlife and conservation

The landscape of the park is distinctive, with the Horton Plains forming a backdrop that contrasts starkly to the otherwise open terrains. It is the sheer unending savannah that makes the wildlife spotting so rewarding here, and some would argue it is the best and most reliable place to see the Asian elephants interacting with one another in their wild habitat, with an estimated 500 roaming the plains at any one time. 

As well as the open plains, there are some areas of dense jungle and teak woodland which attract a variety of other fauna. Leopards have been spotted in the park, although these are rare sightings, but spotted deer, endemic toque monkeys, sloth bears, grey langur, sambar, jackal, crocodiles, monitor lizards and water buffalo are all regularly seen. Birdlife is just as prolific, and you stand a good chance of sighting a large number of the 100 species during the migrant season from October to March. These include wood sandpiper, common sandpiper, woodpeckers, kingfishers, sea eagles, egrets, wagtails, terns and storks.

You may wish to incorporate a visit to the Elephant Transit Home, where trained veterinary staff nurse baby elephants that have been separated from their herds across Sri Lanka until they are ready to be released into the wild. Having been released the tagged elephants are closely monitored to ensure they are accepted into a herd.

The best way to enjoy the park’s wonders is to go out on a private jeep safari with a local expert guide who can take you to the main wildlife areas. 

Those with a taste for adventure who wish to gain a greater understanding of the ecosystems of the park may wish to consider the luxury mobile tented camps of Kulu Safaris. This way you will placed in the heart of the action, surrounded by nature. Camping under the Sri Lankan stars, sharing stories around the campfire is a great way to reminisce about your day and experience the thrill of a night in the wild.

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