Welcome to Sinharaja, the last remaining lowland forests in Sri Lanka, which was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1989. An ecological wonder , Sinharaja is home to over 830 species of flora and fauna including a range of birds, reptiles and insects that are seen only in Sri Lanka. It is comprised of vast tracts of wet land along the southern edges of the hill country, interspersed with hills and valleys. The reserve is fed by the mighty rivers of Kalu Ganga and Gin Ganga, which flow through forests and spectacular water fall courses.
The oldest part of the forests made of dense canopy of undergrowth, ferns and hanging plants make a spectacular sight. Sinharaja gets over 500 cms of rainfall every year, which makes the area humid and cool. The most common types of mammals in this nature reserve include the purple faced langur monkey, squirrels and jungle cats.
It has one of the richest population of birds as well and harbors around 21 species out of the 26 endemic varieties of birds of Sri Lanka, though spotting them is difficult due to the dense canopy around. In case you are planning to explore Sinharaja, soon after the monsoons, be wary of the blood sucking leeches, which will be seen in abundance on the forest floor.
Uda walawe National Park , situated on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Uda walawe reservoir across the Walawe River and as a catchment area of the reservoir.
One of the most popular national parks in Sr lanka, famous for its large elephant population, Uda Walawe national park is undeniably the best place here to see elephants in the wild. The dry and flat terrain of the national park devoid of any thick forest cover makes it easier for you to spot the animals than in any other Sri Lankan national parks.
The elephants move in large herds of many hundreds and are free to roam around as the elephant corridor extends to Lunugamvehera National Park. In addition to these gentle giants, Uda Walawe has many large animals like wild buffalo, sloth bear, porcupine, jungle cats, giant flying squirrels and many types of birds including water birds. On a lucky day you can also spot the largest and the ugliest bird in the island nation, the lesser adjutant, which stands over 1 meter in height . An open jeep safari is the only option to see the wild life in this protected reserve and the experienced guides will make sure to make it an enjoyable experience for you.
Bundala National Park is one of the best spots for bird watching in Sri Lanka. It is an important wintering ground for migratory birds from all over the world including Greater Flamingos and is home to over 197 bird species. It was made a national park in 1993 and is the first ever wetland to be declared as a Ramsar site in Sri Lanka. In 2005, Bundala was declared as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, to be the fourth biosphere reserve in Sri Lanka. A jeep safari in the dry season that spans from December to May is the best time to see wildlife in Bundala.
Located 245 km southeast of Colombo, Bundala National park has a diverse landscape and harbors mostly water birds, half of which are migratory birds like Lesser Whistling Duck, Garganey, Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant and Painted Stork among other birds. Some of the rare inhabitants of this park include birds like Coot.
The National Park also forms the habitat of the endangered Sri Lankan Elephant, the largest subspecies of Asian Elephant and is a great place to see many other animals like crocodiles, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Leopard, Wild boar, Sri Lankan Sloth Bear and Sri Lankan Axis Deer among others. Bundala has four species of sea turtles including Loggerhead Turtle, Green Turtle, Hawk's bill turtle and Olive Ridley and the beaches of Bundala, make the nesting grounds of these endangered species. A trip to Bundala National Park will be a perfect choice for those who wish to explore wildlife and to have adventure all at once.
Sri Lanka is one of the top two or three places in the whole world for seeing blue whales and sperm whales thanks to the migratory routes of the whales around Southern Sri Lanka, which brings in whales to its waters regularly. Blue whales are the largest living organisms in the world and can reach up to 30m in length and can weigh over two hundred tonnes. Whales are filter feeders that feed on krill or small crustaceans and can consume around 40 million krills per day
Though whale watching is yet to gain popularity in Sri Lanka, it holds the potential to be one of the most popular tourist attractions of the island nation in the near future. The best time for whale watching is from November to April when a large number of whales reach the waters of Sri Lanka. The current whale watching trips leave from Mirissa, closest to the deep waters, frequented by whales. Blue whales are most commonly seen Cetecean off the Mirissa Coast.
Apart from whales, you can see Spinner dolphins, called so for their acrobatic spins and playful gimmicks in water. Spinner dolphins can be found in large groups of thousands in Mirissa and Kalpitiya coasts. Sri Lanka waters also are inhabited by Bottle nose and Risso's dolphins, which are equally popular and friendly with humans.
Minneriya National park in Habarana has a diverse landscape comprising of grasslands, wetlands and dry tropical forests is home to a range of wild animals and birds. Park's center piece is the large Minnerya tank built by the famous tank builder of Mahasena. Undeniably , the main attraction of this park is the elephants as Minneriya forms part of the elephant corridor along with Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa National Parks. The park also has many other animals like monkeys, leopards, spotted dear and sloth bears apart from many varieties of birds.
A guided tour is the best way to spot the elephant herds in this park. Though these can be spotted all round the year, the best time to see exceptionally large congregations of elephants would be from July to October when the elephants come to the tank for drinking water when the other water sources in the park dry up. You can see large herds of over three hundred elephants or more along the shores of the tank where they will spend time, bathing, drinking and socializing. The fresh grass that grows in the dried up lake bed along the fringes ensures regular supply of fodder too for the big herds of elephants that come from as far as Trincomalee. This annual event, popularly known as “ the gathering” is the largest congregation of Asian elephants anywhere in the world.
The park has a visitor's centre , on the Polonnaruwa road in Habarana, manned by a few helpful staff who would be more than happy to guide and you and to share interesting facts about the park. You can hire a jeep to move around the park, but most of the hotels and guest houses in and around Minneriya park arrange daily trips to the park.