Sri Lanka is not just about endless beaches, rolling surf and eternal sunshine, there’s a lot more to this Indian Ocean destination. Its sprawling national parks are among its major draws. The unique and diverse wildlife including Asian elephants and Sri Lankan leopards attract wildlife and nature lovers from far and wide. Here are some of the top national parks of Sri Lanka:
Pigeon Island National Park
A place where you can experience beach vibe as well as exciting wildlife, Pigeon Island National Park is one of the most famous marine national parks in the island country. It is the only place in Sri Lanka to discover a variety of blue rock pigeons. The park comprises two islands – the small pigeon island and the large pigeon island; and you can spot plenty of sea life including blacktip reef sharks and Hawksbill turtle. Besides, water sports enthusiasts can indulge in excellent snorkelling opportunities offered here.
Yala National Park
Considered to be the second largest and the most popular eco-tourism destination in Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is a true wildlife delight in the country. It is famous for spotting elephants, birds, buffaloes as well as the big cats, the leopards. You can plan a visit to the park with your family and friends at any time of the year and can enjoy the beaches, safaris, bird watching and a host of other things to do amidst its diverse landscape.
Udawalawe National Park
Lying on the boundary of the dry and wet zones of Sri Lanka, Udawalawe National Park is the third-most visited national park in Sri Lanka. If you wish to witness elephants in the wild, this is the place to be. Apart from the Sri Lankan elephants, you will also get a chance to spot other habitants including sambar deer, mongooses, wild buffalo, water monitor lizard, jackals, leopards, sloth bears, snakes and turtles. Bird watchers can enjoy spotting endemic bird species here such as red-faced malkoha, brown-capped babbler, Sri Lanka spurfowl and Sri Lanka grey hornbill and more.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is a UNESCO biosphere reserve and is home to nearly 200 species of birds making an excellent choice for birders. The park is open all year-round; and most of the people visit the park on jeep tours from Tissamaharama, a town in the Southern province of Sri Lanka. The Greater Flamingo, Painted Stork and Eurasian Spoonbill are the major bird species to spot here. Reach the park early morning to start your jungle exploration, and you will have a good chance to spot crocs, wild boar, monitor lizards, mongooses, monkeys and elephants.
Minneriya National Park
One of the best places in Sri Lanka to see Asian elephants, Minneriya National Park is popular among tourists for its wonderful safaris and camping. It is situated in the dry zone of Sri Lanka; and May to October is the best time to visit here when you can spot the largest gathering of the wild elephants. Plenty of scrub, forest and wetlands within the park draw huge crowds of nature lovers from all around. You will also have an opportunity to witness toque macaques, sambar deer, buffalo, crocodiles and leopards.