This park spans right over the Southern and Uva provinces and is one of the most visited national parks in the country. Jeep safaris with expert guides will help you seek out the eclectic wildlife here, and for those who really want to seek out adventure, there are a number of overnight luxury camping options available.
Best time to visit: December- April as well as August and September.
Landscape: Made up of a mixture of lowland rainforest and tropical evergreen forest, cut through by a number of rivers and waterfalls.
Wildlife: The wildlife found here is extremely diverse, but given the size and layout, it can be particularly hard to spot the forest’s more illusive animals such as leopards, whose tracks are usually the only giveaway of their existance within Sinharaja. More commonly sighted animals, however, include the purple-faced leaf monkey, the Sambar Deer, and the Mongoose. There is also a large bird population, and a plethora of interesting insects and amphibians such as the Sri Lankan Reed Frog, and the Torrent Toad.
This murky and mysterious protected forest reserve sits on the edge of the highland area in the country’s wet zone and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Fed by the surrounding rivers, the ancient forest is home to a vast array of wildlife and has some carefully mapped out routes to suit all levels of hikers. Waterfall pools within the forest also make excellent places to stop and cool off with a refreshing swim.
Best time to visit: January to May
Landscape: Stretching high up into the mountains, Horton’s Plains is made up mostly of montane grassland and cloud forest.
Wildlife: The most commonly seen mammal in Horton Plains is the sambar deer, however it is also home to a diverse range of other animals including the rusty-spotted cat, stripe-necked mongooses, giant squirrels, and European otters, amongst other. Horton Plains is also an excellent place for spotting birds, and contains 21 bird species that can only be found in Sri Lanka as well as some which can only be found in Horton Plains, such as the blue magpie, and the dull-blue flycatcher. There are also many migrating birds which can be spotted in the park such as the peregrine falcon, the black-winged kite, and the crested serpent eagle.
The serenely beautiful area that makes up Horton’s Plains form a 2000m high plateau that comes to an abrupt stop, known as World’s End. There are plenty of different hiking routes in the area, and the scenery and fresh air offered makes it a prime spot for nature lovers. If you get up early enough in the morning, the views from World’s End are simply stunning. In the afternoon, however, a layer of cloud usually obstructs the view.
Best time to visit: May-September
Landscape: Plains, mountainous areas, wetlands, forests, grasslands, a reservoir, the Walawe River and its tributaries, and marshes spanning 119 sq miles.
Wildlife: There are many elephants in the Uda Walawe national park, drawn here by the reservoir. There is also a diverse range of other mammals including everything from the golden jackal, to the sloth bear to the leopard. The park is also home to a wide variety of endemic birds such as the brown-capped babbler and the red-faced malkoha, as well as a large number of water birds and some birds of prey such as the changeable hawk-eagle and the pied cuckoo.
After Yala, Uda Walawe is a firm favourite for tourists visiting Sri Lanka’s national parks. The park’s large elephant herd is what usually draws the crowd, but the scenery in the park itself is also very striking. Jeep safaris with expert guides are on offer to help you explore the park. The best time to visit is the early morning when the heat is still manageable, and the herds of elephants are usually on the move.
Best time to visit: May-September
Landscape: The second largest national park in Sri Lanka, Yala spreads over 378 sq miles and is made up of beaches, rocky outcrops, grassland, wetland, jungle, lagoons, mangrove swamps and reservoirs.
Wildlife: Yala is famous for having the highest leopard density in the world. It is also home to an elephant herd numbering around 300, alongside many other mammals such as the golden palm civet and the fishing cat. Over 215 species of bird have been recorded in Yala including the Sri Lankan junglefowl, the Asian openbill and the Asian paradise flycatcher. Yala also has a large reptile population including the flying snake and the painted-lip lizard. It’s beaches are also regularly visited by Sri Lanka’s five types of marine turtles: the leatherback turtle, the olive ridley, the loggerhead sea turtle, the hawksbill turtle, and the green turtle.