Sri Lanka wildlife & what you can see where

The relative isolation of Sri Lanka from India has engendered an environment of unique and contained wildlife. Sri Lanka’s geography is comprised of long sweeping coastline and rolling hill country with large tracts of forest and grassy plains in the south central regions. This makes this magical island the ideal habitat for leopards, elephants, stunning birdlife and some of the healthiest populations of marine life left on our planet.

There are several national parks, all of which provide a fantastic opportunity for your Sri Lanka wildlife safari holiday.

Yala and Uda Walawe national parks

Yala National Park is perhaps the most famous for wildlife safaris and with the highest density of leopard in the world, it is no wonder! People come from all over the world specifically to track this elusive creature in a landscape filled with varied ecosystems, supporting a vast array of wildlife. Wild elephants are another popular resident, as well as wild water buffalos, civets, crocodiles and an amazing variety of birds, including 33 endemic species.

Another well-known national park is Uda Walawe. Popular thanks to its plentiful wildlife and sizeable population of Sri Lankan elephants which experts suggest stands at around 500.

The huge area of the park which covers almost 31,000 hectares is best navigated via jeep safari where you can cover large distances and hopefully spot deer, wild boar, jackals, monitor lizards, crocodiles, bandicoots, macaques and mongooses.

The Elephant Gathering and Marine Wildlife of the Coast

Towards the north of the inland circuit, Minneriya is the setting for the gathering of elephants that occurs between July and October each year. This can be a remarkable sight, as you witness herds of up to 150 elephants and their sheer collective might as they wash and feed and care for their young. Perhaps not so large, but as endearing to some, there is a wonderful array of frogs and lizards, some of which are endemic and endangered and all tongues at the ready. You may also see spotted deer and sambar, the latter of which is a deer with no spots, sporting a very appropriate scientific name, carves unicolour.

On the coast some of the region’s most thrilling marine life encounters beckon, with the largest animal on earth - the blue whale - and dolphin spotting possible from Mirissa and Kalpitiya. In Rekawa the Turtle Conservation Project provides a sanctuary for nesting female turtles until their hatchlings make a break for the ocean.

From November to April there are opportunities to see turtles come ashore to nest on the west and south coasts of the country.

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