As Sri Lanka’s sixth largest wildlife sanctuary, Udawalawe National Park is a lesser-known alternative for nature buffs who would rather skip the crowds at Yala and enjoy a much more intimate safari experience. Situated just south of the Central Highlands, the park offers some incredible backdrops to large herds of roaming elephant, water buffalo and a multitude of colorful bird species. Established in 1972 as a sanctuary for animals displaced during the construction of the Udawalawe reservoir, the park is now thriving with wildlife.
Spread across 30,821 hectares, Udawalawe Park is home to more than 500 elephants — it’s possible to see a herd of 100 or more at any given time — water buffalo, wildboar, sambur deer, jackal, sloth bear, black-naped hare, mongoose, bandicoot, fox, leopard (rare to see), the endemic toque macaque and gray langers.
Having been on safari in South Africa, this experience was particularly special for us as it stirred fond memories of our time in the bush. The stunning landscapes vary from marsh to scrubland to forest to open grasslands, and wildlife sightings are abound (be sure to go early as the animals are most mobile then).
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