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List of National Parks in Sri Lanka
There are approximately 21 National Parks in Sri Lanka where tourists to Sri Lanka can spend an adventure holiday spotting wild animals to their heart’s content (including bird watching), while safari camping. This small island has much to offer the animal enthusiast, as much as India, Malaysia and the great Africa put together! Less costly, more laid back and less commercialized, Sri Lanka has been described as ‘one of Asia’s top wildlife destinations’.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the oldest national park in the Sri Lanka and it is extended over two provinces, namely Uva & Southern. It lies within Monaragala & Hambantota districts. The gateway to Yala National Park is Tissamaharama. Yala National Park covers about 97,880.7 hectares, the multifarious Eco system ranging from the Moist Monsoon Forest to other natural compartment. Yala has been declared as a protected area in 1900 and it was a 389 km 2 at that time. In 1909 Yala was declared as Sanctuary and gain gazette as a National Park in 25th February 1938. The park provides jeeps with soft–tops which gives the opportunity to view wild life. Dawn and dusk bring about the best timing for Safari tours in the Yala National Park. Being located in one of the arid regions of Sri Lanka, the Climate of Ruhuna National Park is usually hot and dry. The mean annual temperature is 27 Celsius, although in the dry season the temperature could go as high as 37 Celsius. The rocky outcrops scattered over the park provides vantage points to enjoy the sprawling areas with Sri Lanka’s dry zone landscape: low scrub and woods. Still more, the southern border of the park being the south-eastern coast, the brackish lagoons and dunes enhances the distinctive charm of the National Park. Of all the National Parks in Sri Lanka, Yala National Park gives the best opportunity to witness Sri Lanka’s broad variety of wildlife: colorful painted stork in troops are seen perched at the shores of lagoon where the crocodiles too have chosen to doze off; lovely fan-tailed peacocks in their resplendent blues and greens parade about amidst the woods where monkeys hang, leap and chatter; in the bush jungle are the Elephants; crossing the tracks and wandering off into the thorny scrub jungle is the star attraction of the park: the leopard. A total of 32 species of mammals have been recorded. The threatened species include sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), elephant (Elephas maximus), water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), Wild boar (Sus scrofa), spotted deer (Axis axis ceylonessis), sambar (Cervus unicolor) and golden jackal (Canis aureus), Birds and Reptiles.
Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu National Park is located 25km north of Puttalam or 30km west of Anurdhapura. The park that lies on the northwest coast spans the border between North Central Province and North Western Province of Sri Lanka. To the south of Wilpattu National Park is River Modergam Aru; to the north is River Kalay oya. Wilpattu was declared a wildlife sanctuary on the year 1905. On 25th February 1938, the sanctuary was elevated to the status of National Wildlife Park. On 7th November 1947, the northern area of Wilpattu was declared as Wilpattu North Sanctuary. Wilpattu National Park and its surroundings are of history that runs as far as back to the arrival of Prince Vijaya in Lanka from East India in 543 BC. The landing beach of prince Vijaya is believed to be the area today known as Kudriamali. Kali Villu is said to be location of the palace of Kuveni, a princess of a native tribe in the island. Wilpattu National Park, the largest wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka span an area of no less than 131,693 hectares with altitude ranging between the sea-level and 152 meters. It’s situated in the dry zone, and is unlike any other wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka. A unique complex of over 50 wetlands called “Villu” is the most prominent topographical feature of the national park. ‘Villu’ are shallow natural lakes filled with rainwater surrounded by open grassy plains amidst the dense scrub jungle. Three types of vegetation can be distinguished: Littoral vegetation including salt grass and low scrub immediately adjacent to the beach, a 5-10km coastal belt of monsoon scrub of very low stature; and further inland, monsoon forest with tall emergent. Wilpattu National Park’s varying natural habitats; coastal belt, natural lakes (villus), rocky outcrops, scrublands, open grasslands and dense forest provide for numerous species of animals. Among the species are 31 mammals. The biggest draws in Wilpattu are Leopards (Panthera pardus kotiya) and Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus). Apart from those two mammals are Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus), Spotted Deer and Barking Deer, jackals, sambhur, barking deer, mouse deer Wild Pig, Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and Mugger Crocodiles, Butterflies, Countless species of birds can be found, Also roaming on the grasslands are Star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) at Wilpattu. In the large Villus are Pond turtle (Melanonchelys trijuga) and the Soft shelled turtle (Lissemys punctata). Jeep Safari is the regular norm in exploring the Wilpattu National Park. While Leopards, Elephants, Sloth bear, Deer, endemic birds can be sighted easily during a half day safari, of course, the full day safari at National Park affords greater joys with wildlife.
Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park in Sri Lanka was established in 1954 and serves as the main catchment area for Senanayake Samudraya, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka. Gal Oya National Park allows the visitors to enjoy its beauty and wild life by Boat safari as well as by Jeep safaris. Boat safari affords the opportunity to land in an island within the reservoir called “Bird Island” swarming with birds. The Jeep safaris that consist of two tracks of 5km and 13 km are ideal to catch the sights of elephants and leopards. Gal Oya National Park spreads over an area of 25,900 ha. Together with Senanayake Samudra Sanctuary, Gal Oya Valley North-East Sanctuary, Gal Oya Valley South-West Sanctuary and the whole Gal Oya Reservation makes an area of 62, 937 ha of wildlife conservation. Gal Oya National Park is a sanctuary to 32 species of terrestrial mammals. The highest populations are common Langur (Presbytis Entellus), endemic Toque Macaque (Macaca Sinica), Leopard (Pathera Pardus kotiya) sloth bear (Melursus Ursinus), Elephant (Elephas Maximus), Wild Boar (Sus Scrofa), three species of deer and Water Buffalo (Bubalus Bubalis). About 150 species of birds of 334 species of Sri Lanka are seen at Gal Oya National Park. The Park‘s butterfly species include the endemic Lesser Albatross.
Kumana National Park
The Kumana National Park also known as Yala East National Park is located in the Ampara district of south-east of Sri Lanka at a distance of 391 kilometres from Colombo. The park spreads over an area of 35,664 hectares. In the west, the park is bordered by River Kumubukkan Oya; to the south is south-eastern coast that runs to Panama. A 200 hectares mangrove swamp called “Kumana Villu” within the Park is subject to occasional inundation with sea water. Its provides excellent feeding and resting habitats for a large number of threatened wetland species, including three turtle species such as the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta), and the Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivaceae). Sri Lanka records more than 430 bird species comprising endemic, resident and migrant birds. Of these, the bird watchers are able to watch over 200 species easily. The wide variety of birds found in the numerous wildlife parks of Sri Lanka makes the tropical island a prime bird watching destination in the world. The Kumana National Park is the most important and most popular bird sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Apart from being abound with the bird life, Kumana is also home to some of the mammals found in the adjacent Yala National Park such as Elephants, Leopards, Golden Jackal, Wild Boar, European Otter as well as the endangered Fishing Cat.
Udawalawa National Park
Udawalawa National Park, the sixth largest animal sanctuary of Sri Lanka is located 180 km from Colombo in south-central sector of the island. The park is situated just south of the Central Highlands, of which escarpment brings about an enrapturing backdrop. At the center of the park lies the Udawalawe Reservoir. Udawalawa National Park established in the year 1972, with the objective of protecting the catchment area of Udawalawe reservoir, which provides water for agriculture and hydro-power generation spreads over an area 30,821, resembles an African game park: it is mainly thorny-shrub jungle with grasslands. Keeping company to the herds of elephants, the main attraction of the park are the Water Buffalo, Wildboar, Spotted Deer, Sambur Deer, Jackal, Samber, Black-naped hare, mongooses, bandicoots, foxes, s the endemic Toque Macaque and Gray Langers. Sighting a Leopard and other smaller cats like Fishing cat & Jungle cat would be a bonus. Udawalawe is undoubtedly the best place in Sri Lanka to see wild Asian Elephants throughout the year: there are about 500 elephants in the park and they often roam in herds of up to 100. Udawalawe National Park is one of the best places to see Raptors in Sri Lanka and afford excellent opportunities for photography. Satin trees in the park attract butterflies. While the crocodiles doze off on the banks of the reservoir, the water monitor lizards are abound in the park. The Udawalawe Elephant Transfer Home is an Elephant orphanage located within the Udawalawe National Park. Established in 1995 by the Department of wildlife Conservation, it is home to over 40 orphaned elephants. Once they are released to the park, the Park authorities take upon themselves to keep constant track of the beasts till they get used to the new life in the wild. Bird life is in plenty, but once again difficult to observe when on the ground due to the tall grass.
Lahugala Kithulana National Park
Lahugala Kitulana National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Sri Lanka. Despite its land area, the park is an important habitat for Sri Lankan Elephant and endemic birds of Sri Lanka. The national park contains the reservoirs of Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa and ultimately empties to Heda Oya River. It was designated as a wildlife sanctuary on July 1st 1966 and then the protected area was upgraded to a national park on October 31st 1980. Lahugala Kitulana is situated 318 kilometres east of Colombo. This national park is used by elephants traditionally as a feeding ground. A herd of 150 is attracted by Sacciolepis interrupta grass which is common around the Lahugala tank. Endemic Toque Macaque, Tufted Gray Languor, Sloth Bear, Golden Jackal, Rusty-spotted Cat, Fishing Cat, Sri Lanka Leopard, Wild Boar, Indian Muntjac, Sri Lankan Axis Deer, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Indian Pangolin and Indian Hare are the other mammals found in the park. Many wetland birds found in Lahugala Kitulana. Lying in the dry zone, the vegetation surrounding the tank is dry mixed evergreen forest with scrub. Common species include weera Drypetes sepiaria, palu Manilkara hexandra, halmilla Berrya cordifolia, milla Vitex pinnata, satin Chloroxylon swietenia and ehala Cassia fistula. Beru Sacciopelsis interrupta, a tall reedy grass, covers the tanks. Rivers are fringed by gallery forest.
Maduru Oya National Park
The new park is designed to protect the immediate catchments of five reservoirs developed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme. The park area provided refuge for wildlife. The park lies between the Poloinnaruwa-Batticalo road and Mahiyangana-Padiyathalawa road in the districts of Ampara Buddulla and Polonnaruwa and spans the border between Eastern and Uva provinces. Maduru Oya National Park which is 58,849 hectares in content is located in the dry zone and 314 kms from Colombo. It is situated by Kuda Sigiriya, a great Eco location yet to be explored. Maduru Oya is well known for its elephant habitat. Other than elephants, leopards, sloth bears, Sambhur, spotted and barking deer, wild boar and wild buffalo are also found here. Torque Macaque, Purple-faced leaf monkey and nocturnal slender Loris are also found in the park. The park is located entirely within Sri Lanka’s dry zone, although its southern edge borders on the intermediate zone. The climax community of the area is tropical dru, oxed evergreen forest. The rare and endemic tree vatica obscura, the only species of the Dipterocapaceae to occur in the dry zone, is found in restricted location on the banks of the Madury Oya and Gallodai Aru.
Wasgamuwa National Park
Wasgamuwa is well known its abundant wildlife population, wilderness setting and home of several interesting ancient sites. Wasgamuwa is distinguished from other parks by having a full complement of predators of which bears are particularly noteworthy. The entrance to Wasgamuwa National Park is at Handungamuwa. The park can be conveniently reached from several tourist attractions. Wasgamuwa National Park (Wasgomuwa) spanning over 36,900 hectares is bordered by River Mahaweli Ganga and River Amban Ganga in east and west. Tropical dry mixed evergreen forest predominates, characterized by tall trees: Weera (Drypetes sepiaria), Palu (Manikkara hexandra), Wa (Cassia roxburghii) Ehala (C. Fistula), Buruta (Satin), Chloroxylon Swietenia, Velang (Pterospermum canescens), the endemic Galsiyambala (Dialium ovoideum), Milla (Vitaex Pinanata) and Kaluwara (ebony) (Diospyros Ebenum). Wasgamuwa National Park’s (Wasgomuwa) climatic conditions are that of the dry zone. The center of the attraction is herds of elephants up to 150. Other wildlife includes Purple faced langur monkeys, wild boar, sambar and spotted deer, buffalo and rarely sighted leopards and sloth bears.Among the reptiles are water monitor, mugger crocodile, estuarine crocodile and python (Python Molurus). Twenty three species of mammals have been reported from the park. The park is especially known for its high abundance of sloth bears (Melursus Ursinus) and a reputation for housing some of the largest Asian elephants and the “marsh elephant” of Wasgamuwa are reputedly the largest of the Sri Lankan elephants, Some 143 species birds have been recorded of which 5 are endemic to Sri Lanka. Fifteen species of amphibians have been reported including the endemic, there are also 35 reptiles, many butterflies can be seen flitting around the park and 52 different species have been recorded, out of which are endemic and 17 species of fish have been recorded.
Horton Plains in Sri Lanka, is the coldest and windiest location in the country. It consists of ecosystems such as Montane evergreen forests, grasslands, marshy lands and aquatic ecosystem. At an altitude of 2,100 meters above sea level, Horton Plains spreads across over 3,169 hectares of the highest tableland of the island. In view of the large number of endemic flora and fauna species, Horton Plains was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 30th July 2010. Horton plain, its surroundings forests and the adjoining Peak Wilderness, consolidate Sri Lanka’s most important catchment area of almost all the major rives. The plains are also of outstanding the habitats and endemic plants and animals representatives of the country wet and montage zones. Horton Plains is bounded by the country’s second and third highest mountain peaks of Sri Lanka: Mount Kirigalpotta Kanda (2389 m) and Mount Thotupola Kanda (2357 m). The escarpment with a depth of 900 meters called World’s End and Baker’s fall is one of the highlights of the Horton Plains. Horton Plains is spread over the southern ridge of the central highlands in between Nuwara Eliya and Haputale. Visitor’s center exhibits interesting displays on the history of flora and fauna of Horton Plains. The visitor’s center is significant in the sense, it has become the starting point for the 9km main trek of the Horton Plains. The main trek taking a circular route can be enjoyed within 3 hours. The trail opens up with an expansive view of flora: bare patina grassland here; densely wooded cloud forest over there. Once the grasslands are passed, the trek leads for about 2km through a fine expanse of cloud forest. Grown in the forest amidst nellu shrubs and keena trees are spices grown in the wild: pepper, cinnamon and cardamom. The most frequent site of wildlife at Horton Plains are herds of Sambar Deer. Among the other mammals in the park are Strip-necked Mongoose, Long-tailed Giant Squirrel Wild Boar, the endemic Bear Monkey and Toque Monkey, Fishing cat, Otter, Giant Squirrel are some of the other mammals found here. Horton Plains National park harbours 12 species of endemic birds the following birds are recorded only for Horton Plains Horton Plains is well recognized for its rich biodiversity, its flora given to a high level of endemism. This park is a paradise for butterflies too. Among reptiles are Snake Aspidurabrachyorrhos and the wide spread agamid Calotes nigrilabris. The only fish is the introduced rainbow trout Salmo gardneri. The distribution of the endemic fresh water shrimp Caridina singhalensis is believed to be confined to a 10k, stretch of river within the park.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National park is lies on the Hambantota District of the southern province. Bundala initially declared as sanctuary on 05th December 1969 and was upgraded to a National park on 4th January 1993. This is the last refuge in the greater flamingo in this part of the island, as well as being important for elephant and a variety of threatened reptiles. Bundala National Park is located 251 km southeast of Colombo, close to the City of Hambantota in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. The general climate of Bundala National Park is hot and dry. Bundala National Park spread an area of 6216 that consists of mainly of dry thorny scrub-lands, marshes and four brackish lagoons. The terrain is generally flat with sand dunes bordering the coastline. Nearly 200 species of birds have been recorded within the park, out of which 58 species are migratory birds. Bundala is home to 32 species of mammals. Among them are civets, wild boars, Grey & Ruddy mongoose, porcupine, giant Indian palm squirrels, black-nape hares, Spotted Deer, Wild buffalo, the endemic, jackal and fishing & Rusty Spotted cats. While most commonly seen mammals are the hordes of grey langur and Toque Macaque. The park shelters a small population of elephants that varies between 25 and 60 depending on the season. It is a habitat for several species of Reptiles. Bundala abounds with estuarine crocodile and mugger crocodile. Among the 383 species of plants that have been recorded in Bundala, six are endemic species. The forest still harbors a few elephant and migratory herds of up to 80 animals have been recorded in the area. The park is the home of every species of water bird resident in the country and during the in the northern winter, it is the final destination for countless numbers of waders of most species recorded in Sri Lanka.
Lunugamvehera National Park
Lunugamwehera National Park in Sri Lanka was declared in 1995, with the intention of protecting the catchment area of the Lunugamvehera reservoir and wildlife of the area. Lying in the dry zone, conditions is characterized n y an annual drought coinciding with the south-west monsoon. The national park is an important habitat for water birds and elephants. The catchment area is vital to maintain the water levels of the five tanks in the downstream of Kirindi Oya and wetland characteristics of Bundala National Park. This national park also serves as a corridor for elephants to migrate between Yala National Park and Udawalawe National Park. The vegetation includes different stages of forest succession along with scrub, grasslands mosaics. The shifting cultivation has caused degradation of the forest communities to open thorny shrub and grassland communities. Twenty one (21) species, 12 amphibians, 33 reptiles, 184 birds and 43 mammals were recorded.
Minneriya National Park
The park is located 182km from Colombo on the main road to Polonnaruwa via Habarana. Giant tanks and irrigation system have been built to utilize for cultivation. Out of the massive tanks built in Sri Lanka dowered with a long cultivate heritage symbolized by the tanks and the dagaba. Minneriya is second to none. The park is situated in Higurakgoda Divisional secretariat in the District of Polonnaruwa in the North Central Province. The total of the Park is 8890 hectares. Minneriya was declared as a National Park on the 12th of August 1997 under the same ordinance opened for visitors in May 1998. Minneriya reservoir along with its surroundings, plays a vital role as a wetland, hence it has high biodiversity. Being part of the elephant corridor which joins up with Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa parks, Minneriya National Park gives the opportunity to see herds of Elephants throughout the year. It is the largest known meeting place of Asian Elephants in the world. During this period herds up to 300 elephants are seen at the park. Huge herd of elephants, sometimes numbering up to 300, converge together within a few square kilometers of the lake. The vegetation of the park consists of tropical dry mixed evergreen forests, abandoned chena lands, grasslands and wetlands. The open grasslands and old Chena lands are dominated by the many species of small shrub. Among the 24 species of mammals resident in the park are Elephants, Leopards, Sloth Bear, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, Wild Buffalo, Wild Pig, Grey Langers and Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, three species of Mongoose, Porcupine and Indian Pangolin. Minneriya National Park has recorded over 170 species of birds. Among the nine species of Amphibians at Minneriya National Park are the endemic and endangered Slender Wood Frog and the Common Tree Frog. Of the 25 species of reptiles recorded in the park 8 are endemic including the Red-lipped Lizard. Water and Land Monitors are also seen here. The Mugger Crocodile can be seen near the tank. Many species of fresh water fish are found in the Minneriya reservoir.
Kaudulla National Park
Kaudulla is the newly established national park in the heart of the cultural triangle. Kaudulla in the country and has excellent potential for viewing elephant and other species of wildlife. The location is situated in 30km away from Polonnaruwa District in North central province. A dry evergreen forest that spread over an area of 6656 hectares is connected to the corridor between nearby Minneriya Wildlife Park and Kaudulla. Kaudulla Reservoir (6675 ha), the centerpiece of the park is surrounded by the grasslands and scrubby forest. Two thirds of the park is under water during several months of the year. Kaudulla also connects Somawathiya National Park to the east. The centerpiece of the park, Kaudulla reservoir draws herds of elephants during the dry season. Apart from the elephants, Kaudulla National Park is home to 23 species of mammals including Sambar Deer, Sri Lankan Axis Deer, Chevrotain, Wild boar, Leopard, and Sloth Bear are other mammals. Very rarely one could spot leopard and sloth bears. 160 species of bird including large water birds such as Spot-billed Pelican and Lesser Adjutant visit the Kaudulla tank. One of the most spectacular sceneries in the park is hundreds of pelicans at the tank when it is about to sun set. Kaudulla National Park is a sanctuary to numerous reptiles including Freshwater turtles, Indian Flap-shelled Turtle and Indian Black Turtle. Twenty six species of fish are found in the reservoir, this fish are economically important. In this park 435 species of birds reported to be them endemic birds to Sri Lanka.
Hikkaduwa National Park
The national park contains a fringing coral reef of high degree of biodiversity. The area was declared a wildlife sanctuary on May 18, 1979, and then on August 14, 1988, upgraded to a nature reserve with extended land area. A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium carbonate. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups.The national park is lies on the south west coast in Southern province, approximately 100km from south of Colombo. The reef at Hikkaduwa extends about 130m seawards before dropping sharply to soft substrate at 7-10m. A few rocky islets are located in the near shore area and the shoreline protection system is formed by coastal sandstone and submarine coral reefs. The area forms the Wet Zone receiving an average annual rainfall over 2000mm Very strong winds blow during the southwest monsoon. The most interesting fauna are found in the marine ecosystem of the coral reefs. These include the non-reef fish ornamental and rare reef fish, molluscans species and diverse live coral line species. Sixty coral species representing 31 genera are found. A total of 113 species of fish has been recorded. This park is home for eight butterfly fish species too.
Pigeon Island National Park
Pigeon Island National Park is one of the two marine national parks of Sri Lanka. The national park is situated 1 km off the coast of Nilaveli, a coastal town in Eastern Province encompassing a total area of 471.429 hectares. The island’s name derives from the rock pigeon which has colonized it. The national park contains some of the best remaining coral reefs of Sri Lanka. Pigeon Island was designated as a sanctuary in 1963. In 2003 it was redesigned as a national park. This national park is the 17th in Sri Lanka. The island was used as a shooting range during the colonial era. Pigeon Island is one of the several protected areas affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
Horagolla National Park
Horagolla National Park is one of the latest national parks in Sri Lanka. The area was originally declared as a wildlife sanctuary on 5 September 1973 due to its rich biodiversity. Later on 24 June 2004, Horagolla was elevated to national park status. Horagolla is the only urban park in the Western Province of Sri Lanka Haragolla is biologically, the most diverse and significant patch of forest in the wet zone of Sri Lanka. In addition, this park represents a special zonal vegetation complex which provides a natural refugee for many species that are extremely rare, possibly extinct, in other parts of the island. This park is situated approximately west of the Colombo- Kandy road near Nittambuwa town in the western province of Sri Lanka.
Hurulu Eco Park
The Hurulu Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka is a thriving eco system with a variety of creatures. It was designated as a biosphere reserve in 1977. The forest reserve is a very important habitat of the Sri Lanka n elephant. The animal is known for its migratory behavior and does so especially in the dry season between the forests situated around the area. The Hurulu forest reserve represents the dry-zone dry evergreen forests Sri Lanka. Cultivation is their main means of living. In Recent times the expansion of human settlements and forest clearance have resulted in a human–elephant clashes. Translocation is the conventional solution taken to solve the issue. The elevation of the area ranges from 90 m to 150 m above sea level.
Kalawewa National Park
Adding another national park to Sri Lanka’s protected areas, the government declared the wilderness around Kalawewa and Balaluwewa a sanctuary. The Kalawewa reservoir was built by King Dhatusena who ruled the country in the fifth century. He also built the Balaluwewa and linked them to make a very large tank to be used for ancient agriculture. These tanks were renovated and now hold water all year around, attracting wildlife. In the case of elephants, as happens at the Minneriya and Kaudulla tanks where the “Gathering” of elephants takes place as the water levels drop in the dry season, the tank bed becomes lush grassland, providing the animals with fodder.