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Sri Lanka has an enviable record of animal conservation, from the founding of a flora and fauna reserve at Mihintale, at the birth of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC, to the establishment of the many sanctuaries and National Parks at the present day. There are several National Parks you can visit in Sri Lanka. Yala is the largest national park. The National Parks of Sri Lanka are managed by the department of Wild Life and Conservation. National Parks are bit different from Wild Life sanctuaries which allow free movements. You need to obtain permission and a guide provided by the park. You are not supposed to get out from the vehicle under any circumstances. You need drive a 4 WD vehicle and stay only in specified roads. Sri Lanka is a paradise for animal lovers who enjoy animal or bird watching which offer you an opportunity to observe a real wildlife once in your lifetime. The animals to be seen in Sri Lanka’s national parks include elephant, leopard, sloth bear, Sāmbhar, deer and monkeys, wild buffalo, wild boar (pig), porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, jackal, mongoose, lories (unique to Sri Lanka) several varieties of lizards, squirrels, reptiles and amphibians. Each park however has its own specialties. Sri Lanka has a rich and exotic variety of wildlife and a long tradition of conservation rooted in its 2,230 year old Buddhist civilization.

Bundala National Park

Gal Oya National Park

Horagolla National Park

Horton Plains National Park

Kaudulla National Park

Lahugala Kitulana National Park

Lunugamvehera National Park

Maduru Oya National Park

Minneriya National Park

Pigeon Island National Park

Somawathi National Park

Udawalawe National Park

Wasgamuwa National Park

Wilpattu National Park

Yala (Ruhuna) National Park

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Udawalawe National Park.

This is a dry zone park which was declared as a national park in 1972. The park falls between the Udawalawe reservoir and the Walawe River and is surrounded by the scenic beauty of the mountain range that keeps on winding endlessly on the Balangoda, Kalthota and Haputale escarpments. This park is famous for its elephants seen in all their playfulness, whole herds of them, adults and babies bathing and playing in the water or feeding.

In addition to elephants, spotted deer, Sāmbhar, barking deer, gray langur, water buffalo and jackal are some of the prominent wild animals found in this park. Serpent eagles, hawk eagles, white bellied sea eagles, black capped bulbuls, Malabar pied horn bills, white necked storks, open bills, white ibis, white rumped-shama, the forest Nightingale, stork billed kingfishers and peacocks are also found in fair numbers.

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Lahugala

Ten miles inland off the East Coast town of Pottuvil in an area that belonged to the ancient kingdom of Ruhuna are three a tanks, the Mahawewa, Kitulana and Sengamuwa. The most famous of the trio, however, is the Mahawewa, which is more famously known as Lahugala. This is in fact the name of the little village about a mile from the tanks. Lahugala a tanks is about 600 acres in extent, and had a storage capacity of 2760-acre feet and a 3700-ft. long bund. The history of Lahugala is lost in the mists of time, but it is almost certain that it dates back to the hay day of that historic realm. The terrain around Lahugala is typically “dry zone”, with secondary brush and forest. Between the main road and Heda Oya, however, it is deeply forested with giant trees, magnificent buttress roots and closely entwined undergrowth. The special vegetative feature in the Lahugala area is the beru (Oplismenus compostus). This tall succulent grass completely covers the three tanks and is a favorite among the elephants.

 

photosSinharaja Forest Reserve

This is Sri Lanka’s oldest rainforest. The forest has tall trees growing in close proximity, but winding paths make it easy to walk along the forest floor. It is inhabited by water monitors, torque macaques, leopards, giant squirrels, purple-faced leaf monkeys and leeches. Bird life includes Ceylon Spur fowl, Ceylon Jungle fowl, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Red-faced Malkoha, Green-billed Coucal, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Ceylon Small Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul, Spotted-winged Thrush, Brown-capped Babbler, Orange-billed Babbler, Ashy-headed Laughing-Thrush, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Ceylon White-headed Starling, Ceylon Hill Munia, Ceylon Hill Myna, Malabar Trogon, Black Bulbul, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Green Imperial Pigeon, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and Yellow-browned Bulbul.

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Bundala National Park

this is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. Bundala harbors 197 species of Birds, the highlight being the Greater Flamingo, which migrate in large flocks. Bundala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and redesigned to a park on 4 January 1993.In 1991 Bundala became the first wetland to be declared as a Ramseur site in Sri Lanka. In 2005 the national park was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the fourth biosphere reserve in Sri Lanka. The national park is situated 245 kilometers (152 mi) southeast of Colombo.

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Gal Oya National Park

  was established in 1954 and serves as the main catchment area for Senanayake Samudraya, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka. Senanayake Samudraya was built under the Gal Oya development project by damming the Gal Oya at Inginiyagala in 1950. An important feature of the Gal Oya National Park is its elephant herd that can be seen throughout the year. Three important herbs of the Ayurveda medicine, Triphala: Terminalia chebula and Emblica officinalis are amongst the notable flora of the forest. From 1954 to 1965 the park was administrated by the Gal Oya Development Board until the Department of Wildlife Conservation took over administration. The National Park is situated 314 km from Colombo.

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Horagolla National Park

one of the latest national parks in Sri Lanka. It is so called because of an abundance of Dipterocarpus zeylanicus (Hora) trees. 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. The park is situated close to Horagolla Walauwa, the home of theBandaranaike family. The park is situated some 40 kilometres (25 mi) fromColombo.

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Horton Plains National Park

  protected in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is covered by montane grassland and cloud forest. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres (6,900–7,500 ft) is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. This region was designated a national park in 1988. It is also a popular tourist destination and is situated 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Nuwara Eliya and 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Ohiya.

The Horton Plains are the headwatersof three major Sri Lankan rivers, the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe. In Sinhala the plains are known as Maha Eliya Plains. Stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture have been found here. The plains’ vegetation is grasslands interspersed with montane forest, and includes many endemic woody plants. Large herds of Sri Lankan Sambar Deer feature as typical mammals, and the park is also an Important Bird Area with many species not only endemic to Sri Lanka but restricted to the Horton Plains. Forest dieback is one of the major threats to the park and some studies suggest that it is caused by a natural phenomenon. The sheer precipice of World’s End and Baker’s Falls are among the tourist attractions of the park.

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Kaudulla National Park

  located 197 kilo metres (122 mi) away from the largest city,Colombo. It was designated a national park on April 1, 2002 becoming the 15th such area on the island. In the 2004–2005 season more than 10,000 people visited the National Park, generating an income of Rs.100,000 from entrance fees.Along with Minneriya and Girithale BirdLife International have identified Kaudulla as an Important Bird Area.

Historically Kaudulla was one of the 16 irrigation tanks built by KingMahasen. Following a period of abandonment it was reconstructed in 1959. It now attracts and supports a variety of plant and animal life, including large mammals, fish and reptiles.

 

Lahugala Kitulana National Park

  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 they are ultimately empties to Heda Oya river. Originally it was designated as awildlife sanctuary on July 1 of 1966. Then the protected area was upgraded to a national park on October 31 of 1980. Lahugala Kitulana is situated 318 km east of Colombo.

Lunugamvehera National Park is

was declared in 1995, with the intention of protecting the catchment area of the Lunugam vehera reservoir and wildlife of the area. 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 national park is situated 261 km (162 mi) southwest from Colombo. After being closed because of the Sri Lankan civil war, the national park is now open to the general public.

Maduru Oya National Park

  established under the Mahaweli development project and also acts as a catchment of the Maduru Oya Reservoir. The park was designated on 9 November 1983. Providing a sanctuary to wildlife, especially for elephants and protecting the immediate catchments of five reservoirs are the importance of the park. A community of Vedda people, the indigenous ethnic group of Sri Lanka lives within the park boundary in Henanigala. The park is situated 288 kilometers (179 mi) north-east of Colombo.

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Minneriya National Park

This national is at North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The area was designated as a national park on 12 August 1997, having been originally declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. The reason for declaring the area as protected is to protect the catchment of Minneriya tank and the wildlife of the surrounding area. The tank is of historical importance, having been built by King Mahasen in third century AD. The park is a dry season feeding ground for the elephant population dwelling in forests of Matale, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee districts. The park earned revenue of Rs. 10.7 millions in the six months ending in August 2009. Along with Kaudulla and Girithale, Minneriya forms one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Sri Lanka. The park is situated 182 kilometres (113 mi) from Colombo. Safari of the Minneriya National Park by jeep. the extent of which is about 8,889 hectares. There are wet-lands in this National Park, which have international importance, animal and plant species which are plenty in dry zone are found in this park. Wild elephants, various amphibians, local and immigrant bird species are plenty in this park. About 160 species of birds, 09 amphibians, 25 reptile species, 26 fish species and more than 78 butterfly species have been found in this area. There are bamboo trees which are rare in other parks and wild elephants can be seen moving conveniently. The significant feature is that these elephants can be seen going very closer to you. There are wet-lands in this National Park, which have international importance, animal and plant species which are plenty in dry zone are found in this park. Wild elephants, various amphibians, local and immigrant bird species are plenty in this park. About 160 species of birds, 09 amphibians, 25 reptile species, 26 fish species and more than 78 butterfly species have been found in this area. There are bamboo trees which are rare in other parks and wild elephants can be seen moving conveniently. The significant feature is that these elephants can be seen going very closer to you.

Pigeon Island National Park

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. 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 re designated as anational 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

Somawathiya National Park

one of the four national parks designated under the Mahaweli River development project. Somawathiya Chaitya, a stupa said to be containing a relic of the tooth of the Buddha, is situated within the park. The park was created on 2 September 1986, having been originally designated a wildlife sanctuary on 9 August 1966. The park is home to manymegaherbivores.The national park is located 266 kilometres (165 mi) north-east of Colombo.

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Udawalawe National Park

lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa andUva Provinces, in Sri Lanka. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir. The reserve covers 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and was established on 30 June 1972. Before the designation of the national park, the area was used forshifting cultivation (chena farming). The farmers were gradually removed once the national park was declared. The park is 165 kilometres (103 mi) from Colombo. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan Elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country.

Wasgamuwa National Park

is situated in the Matale and Polonnaruwa Districts . It was declared to protect and to make a refuge for the displaced wild animals during the Mahaweli Development Project in 1984 and is one of the four National Parks designated under the Project.Originally it was designated as nature in 1938, and then in the early 1970s the area was regraded as a strict nature reserve.Wasgamuwa is one of protected areas where Sri Lankan Elephants can be seen in large herds. It is also one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka. The name of the Wasgamuwa has derived through the words “Walas Gamuwa”. “Walasa” is Sinhala for Sloth bear and “Gamuwa” means a wood. The park is situated 225 km away from Colombo.

Wilpattu National Park

(Willu-pattu; Land of Lakes) this park located on the island of Sri Lanka. The unique feature of this park is the existence of “Willus” (Natural lakes) – Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. Located in the Northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka. The park is located 30 km west Anuradhapura and located 26 km north of Puttalam (approximately 180 km north of Colombo). The park is 131, 693 hectares and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Nearly sixty lakes (Willu) and tanks are found spread throughout Wilpattu. Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka. Wilpattu is among the top national parks world renowned for its Leopard(Panthera pardus kotiya) population. The Leopard population in Wilpattu is still not yet known.

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Yala National Park

the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public, and also adjoining parks. The blocks have individual names such as, Ruhuna National Park (block 1) and Kumana National Park or ‘Yala East’ for the adjoining area. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometers (378 sq mi) and is located about 300 kilometers (190 mi) from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Elephants and aquatic birds.

There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala. The park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas  in Sri Lanka. Yala harbors 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.

The area around Yala has hosted several ancient civilizations. Two important pilgrim sites, Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara, are situated within the park. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused severe damage on the Yala National Park and 250 people died in its vicinity. The number of visitors has been on the rise since 2009 after the security situation in the park improved.