9 recommended wildlife locations. The species listed below are just a selection of those you may see.

Bundala, Lewaya & Kalametiya Reserves

Bundala, Lewaya and Kalametiya are the south coast’s major wetland areas. Home to almost all Sri Lanka’s resident water birds, the area attracts countless migrants between November and March. Highlights include greater flamingo, lesser adjutant and painted stork and a good variety of mammals are also regularly seen.

  • Where: Southern Province
  • Ideal for viewing: Chital, Gharial crocodile, African elephant, Grey langur, Water monitor
  • Excellent for: Walking safaris, Birdwatching

Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya is wellknown for sightings of spinner dolphins and due to the deep water channel that runs close to the peninsula, whales are often seen too! Birdwatchers also take note, for it is also one of the best places in South Asia to see Persian shearwater, wedge-tailed shearwater, brown noddy and pomarine skua

  • Where: North Eastern province
  • Ideal for viewing: Blue whale, Sperm whale, Spinner dolphin, Spotted dolphin, Gull-billed tern
  • Excellent for: Whale watching, Dolphin watching, Birdwatching

Kandy & Udawattakele Forest Reserve

The lakeside city of Kandy boasts a wealth of treasures, and is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. Surrounded by hills, lush, valleys, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, its forests and the surrounding Udawattakele Forest Reserve are home to endemic birds. The nearby Paradiniya Botanical Gardens house 4000 plant species.

  • Where: Central Province
  • Ideal for viewing: Asian palm civet, Mouse deer, Muntjac, Porcupine, Toque macaque
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Minneriya National Park

Located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa, Minneriya National Park consists of mixed evergreen forest and scrub areas. The central feature is the ancient Minneriya Tank (built in 3 AD), which becomes a magnet for elephants during the dry season, as well as huge flocks of birds that come to fish the shallow waters.

  • Where: North Central Province
  • Ideal for viewing: Spot-billed pelican, Asian elephant, Leopard, Sambar, Sloth bear
  • Excellent for: Vehicle safaris, Birdwatching

Mirissa

Though Mirissa has a beautiful stretch of sandy beach, it is not a relaxing lounge on its golden sands the we recommend, for Mirissa is one of the foremost places in the world to see blue and sperm whales. Between December and April, when the sea is relatively calm, they arrive off the coast to feed in the rich waters.

  • Where: Southern province
  • Ideal for viewing: Blue whale, Sperm whale, Humpback whale, Spinner dolphin, Bottlenose dolphin
  • Excellent for: Whale watching

Nuwara Eliya & Horton Plains

Nuwara Eliya is in the heart of tea country and its elevation creates a cooler climate making for fascinating birdlife. Nearby Horton Plains is the country’s highest plateau which terminates at the sheer precipice of “World’s End”, and is the perfect environment for a distinctive wild flora and rare highland birds.

  • Where: Central Province
  • Ideal for viewing: Sambar, Leopard, Purple-faced langur, Scaly thrush, Sri Lanka hill white-eye
  • Excellent for: Vehicle safaris

Sinharaja Rainforest

Sinharaja Rainforest is the country’s only primary lowland tropical rainforest and is a treasure trove of nature. Its rolling terrain and series of ridges and valleys provide a diversity of habitats and is a vast repository of endemic tree species as well as being one of only a few homes to the blue-faced leaf monkey.

  • Where: Sabaragamuwa & Southern province
  • Ideal for viewing: Crested serpent eagle, Purple-faced langur, Green pit viper, Orange-billed babbler, Red-faced malkoha
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Udawalawe National Park

Walawe Reservoir and Udawalawe National Park comprise an area of open plains and hills at the foot of the Kaltota Escarpment. Originally a densely forested area, much of which was destroyed by chena (shifting cultivation), grassland and thorn-scrub now dominate this lush area, with many species of trees in abundance.

  • Where: Sabaragamuwa & Uva Provinces
  • Ideal for viewing: Chital, Asian elephant, Sambar, Wild boar, Rusty-spotted cat
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Yala National Park

Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s oldest wildlife reserve and famous for one of the world’s highest densities of leopard. It has a variety of ecosystems including moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, fresh water and marine wetlands, and sandy beaches.

  • Where: Eastern Province
  • Ideal for viewing: Asian elephant, Leopard, Marsh mugger crocodile, Sambar, Sloth bear
  • Excellent for: Vehicle safaris, Birdwatching

4 recommended trips. All our trip ideas are offered to inspire you, but our strength is in tailoring your itinerary.

Blue Whales & Dolphins

The balmy waters around Sri Lanka are home to a wealth of cetacean life and its National Parks have elephants and leopard – this itinerary will endeavour to show you them all!

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 13 days

Elephants, Blue Whales & Leopards

This superb wildlife itinerary takes you to see Sri Lanka’s big three; elephant in Udawalawe National Park, leopard in Yala National Park, and blue whales off the coast of Mirissa.

  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
  • Duration exc. international flights: 9 days

Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Highlights

Wildlife enthusiasts! Immerse yourself completely in the stunning scenery of a variety of National Parks and the heritage sites of this beautiful country.

  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
  • Duration exc. international flights: 15 days

Sri Lanka Wildlife & Culture

A superb itinerary visiting some of the country’s richest wildlife and culturally significant locations.

  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
  • Duration exc. international flights: 9 days

When to go

Although the country experiences two monsoons, Sri Lanka is in fact a year round destination. Overall, though, the best time to visit is between November and March.

Seasons

  • Monsoon (southwest)

    May to Sep: Wet in the south western part of the island (the wettest area of all); dry in the northeast
  • Interseasonal period

    Oct to Nov: Extremely variable – rain can fall anywhere
  • Dry season (south west)

    Dec to Apr: Dry season in the south west is the most popular time to visit Sri Lanka; The wettest time in the north east of the island

Wildlife events

  • Nov to Apr: Blue whale season off Mirissa in the south
  • Mar to Apr: Whale movements peak off Kalpitiya
  • Jul to Aug: Ten day annual Perahera festival in Kandy
  • Nov to Mar: Mego pods of several hundred spinner dolphins off Kalpitiya
  • Jun to Sep: Elephant gathering – 300+ individuals around Minneriya Tank
  • Nov to Dec: Whale movements peak off Kalpitiya
  • Nov to Mar: Migrant waterbird species at Bundala Lemaya and Kalametiya
  • Dec to Mar: Best time to visit hill country

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