Defying the general trend that small islands do not have much wildlife, Sri Lanka is a powerful punch for its diverse wildlife. Sri Lanka boasts one of the highest biological endemism rates and is one of the top five hotspots for biodiversity globally. With over 120 species of mammals, 171 species of reptiles, 106 species of amphibians, 227 species of birds, and one of the world’s largest populations of blue whales and sperm whales, Sri Lanka is truly a wildlife enthusiasts dream come true. Here is our guide on some of Sri Lanka’s most exciting National Parks.
List of some of the amazing National Parks in Sri Lanka
Yala National Park
Spread over 979 square kilometers in the southeast corner of Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is the oldest and most famous national park in Sri Lanka.
Renowned for its wildlife variety, the major activities here are bird and game watching, especially elephants. The park has 32 species of mammals, and the lagoon fauna includes various species of prawns, crabs, and fish.
Yala houses many ruins, including an earlier civilization’s irrigation system, which indicates that once the area was prosperous and populated. The park’s vegetation is largely a secondary forest, possibly a few hundred years old, and is predominantly semi-arid thorn scrub interspersed with pockets of dense forest.
Udawalawe National Park
Renowned for its exceptional picturesque beauty and wealth of animal species, Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka is frequented by tourists throughout the year.
Situated in the dry zone, the park’s topography is defined by an annual drought that coincides with the southwest monsoon showers. The principal ecosystem of the park is the forest area with prickly shrubs and scattered grasslands. The park is populated by Elephant herds while the numbers of Sambar, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Water Buffalo, and Wild Boar are gradually increasing again.
Minneriya National Park
The Minneriya National Park, 30 minutes away from Sigiriya, is situated in the Northern province of Sri Lanka. The restored huge ancient Minneriya Rainwater Reservoir that irrigates the much area of Polonnaruwa’s district is the Minneriya National Park’s focal point. Since Minneriya National Park is part of the elephant corridor that joins Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa parks, it allows seeing herds of Elephants throughout the year. Interestingly Minneriya National Park is also known as ‘The Gathering,’ as many as 300 Asian Elephants come to the park’s reservoir, which is considered the largest meeting anywhere in the world.
The park’s flora consists of tropic dry mixed evergreen forests, abandoned shifting agricultural lands, wetlands, and grasslands. The open grasslands and old shifting agricultural lands are dominated by the many species of a small shrub.
Among the varied wildlife residing in this amazing park, some of the most famous animals are Elephants, Leopards, Sloth Bear, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, and three Mongoose species, Wild Pig, Grey Langurs, Porcupine, Wild Buffalo, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, and Indian Pangolin.
Wilpattu National Park
This beautiful national park, situated around 30 km west of Anuradhapura, is surrounded by River Modergam Aru in the South and by River Kalay Oya in the north. Wilpattu National Park is the biggest wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka that spans no less than 131,693 hectares with an altitude ranging between 0 meters and 152 meters above the sea-level.
Unlike the other wildlife sanctuaries in Sri Lanka, Wilpattu National Park comes under the dry zone. It is a unique complex of over 50 wetlands called “Villu,” which is the most famous topographical feature of this national park. ‘Villu’ are shallow natural lakes filled with rainwater surrounded by open grassy plains amidst the dense scrub jungle. The presence of these Villus with an abundance of water can best explain the weather patterns that prevail over the park.
Along with the big 4 of Sri Lankan wildlife, Elephant, the Leopard, Sloth Bear, and Deer, one can also sight the endemic birds here.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains is the coldest and windiest region in Sri Lanka. There are different ecosystems here such as Montane evergreen forests, marshy lands, grasslands, and aquatic ecosystems. It is situated at an altitude of 2,100 meters above sea level and spreads over 3,169 hectares. Because of many unique endemic flora and fauna species, Horton Plains, on 30th July 2010 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Horton Plains and the adjoining Peak forms the most critical catchment area of major rivers in Sri Lanka. The plains here have exceptional scenic beauty and importance. They represent the country’s wet and Montane regions. The western slopes support the most extensive area of the Montane cloud forest surviving on the island. Horton Plains is not just a place for nature enthusiasts. As the biodiversity of Horton Plains is still majorly underexplored, it provides invaluable opportunities to those involved in research activities.
It is said that preserving Horton Plains is a call of duty for all Sri Lankans.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
A unique lowland rain forest spread across 11,187 hectares, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a biodiversity hotspot and one of the least disturbed forests in Sri Lanka. Declared a National Heritage Area in 1988 and World Heritage Site, later on, the forest is bounded by rivers on three sides—Kalu Ganga in the north, Gin Ganga in the south, and Kudawa Ganga in the west. A series of unbroken ridges, aligned east to west, define the topography of this place.
The forest’s undergrowth is what one finds in a tropical lowland rainforest—dense and luxuriant. Several butterflies, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are unique to this reserve.
Since the Sinharaja Forest Reserve as is the last remaining relatively undisturbed remnant of tropical humid evergreen forest in Sri Lanka, and Endemism within the property is extremely high, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is also the first natural site of Sri Lanka which was added to UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is another beautiful national park situated in the southern province of Sri Lanka, between Yala National Park and Tangalle. Bundala national park is a paradise for bird watchers & nature enthusiasts. The National Park takes pride in being home to around 197 bird species and is declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve with diverse wildlife and a Ramsar wetland site.
Bundala is in a low country dry zone climate area that resulted in a tropical monsoonal climate. It also contains five shallow seawater lagoons, out of which three are used for salt production.
Flora and fauna of Bundala contain seven terrestrial habitat types and six wetland types. It boasts around 383 plant species belonging to 90 families dominated by dry thorny shrubs, acacia, and herb species. The lagoons are dominated by Hydrilla, blue-green Algae, and water lilies. On the east of Bundala Village lies the sand dunes, famous for its strip of unique Palu trees. Bundala is one of the most important bird areas as it is home to 324 recorded species of vertebrates and 52 species of invertebrates. This includes 197 species of birds, 48 species of reptiles, 32 species of fish, 32 species of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians.
Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park is spread over an area of 25,900 hectares. When combined with Senanayake Samudra Sanctuary (9,324 hectares), Gal Oya Valley North-East Sanctuary (12,432 hectares), Gal Oya Valley South-West Sanctuary (15,281 hectares), the whole Gal Oya Reserve sums up to an area of 62,937 hectares of wildlife conservation.
The park’s elevation varies from 30 meters to about 900 meters. The highest peaks of the national park are Danigala, Nilgala, and Ulpotha mountains. Rain is received during the Northeastern monsoon that brings in the rain the eastern coast and northern plains result in average annual rainfall of 1,700 millimeters at the park.
The flora of this national park is of three types: shrubs, forest, and grassland. Approximately 45% of the national park is covered by evergreen forest, 33% national park contains an area of Savanna like grasslands, 9% of the national park constitutes mountainous grasslands, and 10% is the water bodies. The Gal Oya National Park is a dwelling place for some rare plants used in herbal medicine. The evergreen forest is dominated by Artocarpus species, Halmilla, Etamba, Kalumediriya (Diospyros Chaetocarpa), and Ebony.
Gal Oya National Park is home to around 32 species of terrestrial mammals. The highest populations are endemic Toque Macaque, Common Langur, Leopard, Wild Boar, Sloth Bear, Elephant, three species of Deer, and Water Buffalo.
People Also Read: