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Wildlife Locations

9 recommended locations:

Bundala, Lewaya & Kalametiya Reserves

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

  • Where: Southern Province
  • Ideal for viewing: chital, gharial crocodile, grey langur, African elephant, water monitor
  • Excellent for: Walking safaris, Birdwatching


Kalpitiya is well known 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 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

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 4,000 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


Although Mirissa has a beautiful stretch of sandy beach, it is not relaxing on its golden sands that 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 Forest Reserve

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is Sri Lanka’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 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. The park is good for elephants with herds of 50 to 60 individuals regularly seen and game drives are in open-top jeeps, accompanied by local wildlife guides.

  • 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, freshwater 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

View trips to these locations

Wildlife trips

Sri Lanka’s national parks and diverse habitats are enhanced by the ruined cities of ancient dynasties. It has a sizeable leopard population, large herds of elephant and numerous endemic birds – creating a birdwatchers paradise, and its coastal waters have earned it a reputation as being one of the worlds best for whale watching.

4 recommended trips. Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.

Blue Whales, Dolphins & Leopards

This itinerary endeavours to show you the wealth of cetacean life to be found in the balmy waters around Sri Lanka, from spinner dolphins around Kalpitya to blue whales and sperm whales off the south coast. The trip also visits Udawalawe and Yala National Parks for sightings of elephants and leopards.

  • When to go: Nov-Apr
  • Duration inc. flights: 14 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £2,995 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Elephants, Blue Whales & Leopards

This superb 10-day wildlife itinerary takes you to see Sri Lanka’s big three. See huge herds of elephants on wildlife safaris in Udawalawe National Park and some of the world’s largest leopards at Yala, before continuing to the south coast to see charismatic blue whales on boat trips at Mirissa.

  • When to go: Nov-Apr
  • Duration inc. flights: 10 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £2,645 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

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. This itinerary takes in several parks, where you can spot leopard, elephant and a myriad of bird species, including some endemics.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 16 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £2.595 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Sri Lanka Wildlife & Culture

This trip idea uncovers some of the many wildlife, cultural and historical highlights that Sri Lanka has to offer. As well as safaris in Yala, Udawalawe and Bundala National Parks, home to leopards, elephants and leatherback turtles (seasonal), you will also visit Sigiriya Rock and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 10 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £2,195 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

When to go

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


  • 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

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

Where to stay