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Wildlife Sanctuary

Wilpattu National Park

No wildlife excursion can be truly experienced unless you go on safari and Wilpattu National Park is no stranger to expeditions thus far and you can be sure that leopards will almost always make a grand entrance here.

Jungle fowl scurrying along, peacocks on parade, a herd of spotted deer here and there, glimpses of barking deer… Crocodiles sunbathing, flycatchers catching flies and other insects, star tortoises and breathtakingly large monitor lizards, that keep you wondering what on earth they’ve been feeding on to get so big; elephants, make up only a few of the residents of Wilpattu.

Yala National Park

Wild yet powerfully majestic, Yala National Park is leopard country and is believed to have the highest concentration of these apex predators on earth. If the thrill of a safari through the rugged, unmerciful bush sounds elephant enough, then here’s the call of the wild with its truest dose of candour.

Moving on to the other love of the wilderness, the Asian elephant – a presence of sheer valour –amongst species of indigenous and migratory birds, ingeniously solitary reptiles, the crocodiles of course steal the show, and endemic plant life, are only a sneak peek into what’s in store.

Bundala National Park

Home to scrub jungle, wetlands, lagoons, salt pans, sand dunes and a long stretch of coast, Bundala National Park’s terrain is blessed with many faces of landscape in unison with unlimited yet protected fauna. Known for its incredible spectacles of migratory birds, the Park is a great friend to bird enthusiasts from the world over. While glimpses of elephants are not as common as the crocodiles (estuarine as well as saltwater), much anticipated are sightings of deer, langurs, the tusky (not to mention a tad touchy) wild boar, and even the spotted fishing cat.

Although Bundala National Park is a fairly small area of sanctuary, nearly 30 square miles, its diversity of species is rich and therefore can be a quick safari trip if you want to make the most of the island’s wilderness in a short space of time. Bundala is accessible via many coastal cities: Hambantota, Galle, Matara and also through routes from southwestern regions: Ratnapura, Pelmadulla and Embilipitiya. Opportunities to visit the Park span throughout the year, with December being the month for bird watching expeditions.

Horton Plains National Park

Up in the hills themselves, the best-known reserve is Horton Plains National Park. Quite unlike any other national park in the country, there’s relatively little wildlife here (though the park is one of the top spots in the island for spotting montane bird species), the main attraction being the scenery.

Wild, misty moorlands, studded with beautiful stands of cloud-forest, roll down to the breathtaking precipice of World’s End, where the cliffs marking the southern edge of the hill country fall sheer for the best part of a kilometre (0.5 miles) to the plains below.

Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks

The Cultural Triangle is home to another pair of popular parks, Minneriya and Kaudulla, close to Polonnaruwa. Both are built around two of the innumerable ancient man-made reservoirs that dot the north, and once again the principal attraction is elephants – the parks lie on an elephant corridor along which animals migrate seasonally between the two, as well as to nearby (though much less visited) Wasgomuwa National Park. Take a jeep safari in Minneriya on Insight Guides' Sri Lanka: Culture and Coast holiday to get up close to these magnificent animals in the wild.

August and September in Minneriya is particularly memorable, as hundreds of elephants congregate around Minneriya Tank, the largest meeting of Asian elephants in the world – popularly dubbed "The Gathering". Talk to our local expert today to take your trip to Sri Lanka in time for this incredible spectacle.

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