Tourist’s guide to Sri Lanka National Parks – where to go on a safari

Sri Lanka impresses visiting Europeans with its magnificent pristine nature. You will not see such a golden coast of the majestic Indian Ocean. Evergreen forests cover the slopes of the mountains. The whole island is pierced by streams flowing to mountain rivers. But most of all, Sri Lankans are proud of their national parks, the highlight of which is the unique Yala park, Sri Lanka. It is open to visitors at all times of the year and continues to amaze even experienced travelers.

The first conservation area appeared a long time ago – during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa (III century BC). The territory was declared inviolable, and, according to Buddhist philosophy, it was forbidden to harm any living creature here.

Safari Sri Lanka

Today, tourists can visit 12 national parks, three reserves and 51 reservations. In general, this territory covers 14% of the island. The most famous parks include Yala, Sinharaja Rain Forest, Udavalava, Minneria, etc.

Sri Lanka National Parks are protected by the Department of Wildlife and Conservation. Arriving guests of the country must abide by certain rules of conduct with which the guide will familiarize. He will tell about your movement, routes, moments of stops in the park, etc. By observing these rules, you will have a great time and you can avoid unpleasant moments while walking in the park.

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Yala Park invites tourists

Yala Park

This beautiful reserve is spread over an area of ​​1000 square meters. km, located about 300 km from Colombo. It is divided into two sections. People are allowed to be in the Western part, but they cannot visit the Eastern part – only scientists who carry out their work can be here.

Flora and fauna

Yala is considered the oldest park on the island, the second largest in terms of area and the most visited in the country. The landscape is a flat dry savannah, overgrown with umbrella trees and low shrubs. Small oases around water bodies are found in places.

Here, on the hills, overgrown with bushes and small trees, elephants and herbivores walk. There are many predators in these places. Yala Park in Sri Lanka is home to 44 species of mammals, among which Ceylon elephants and leopards, 46 species of reptiles and 215 species of birds are of particular interest.

Jeep safari

The most interesting way to get to know the animal world in Sri Lanka is to safari. The trip takes place in open jeeps that accommodate 4-6 people. Safaris can be booked for half a day (6: 00-11: 00 and 15: 00-18: 00) or for the whole day. However, on a hot afternoon, animals usually hide from the sun, so the best time would be morning or evening.

Jeep safari

Here you can see in reality the leopard, buffalo, crocodile, meet with a herd of elephants. In Yala National Park, animals calmly respond to tourists and continue to live their usual lives. When the heat subsides, all the inhabitants of the jungle will reach the ponds – here you can make a bunch of unique photos.

Travel Tips
  • A large selection of hotels with air conditioning and high service will allow you to choose low-cost housing, which will cost up to $ 100.
  • Exotic lovers can stay at the campsite and live in tents or huts. A daily stay with meals will cost around $ 30.
  • Yala National Park in Sri Lanka is open seven days a week from 6:00 to 18:00. Once a year, it closes for a month. This happens in September or October.

The cost of a safari in Yala Park depends on the duration, the number of people in the car and your ability to bargain. The price can range from $ 50-150.

Sinharaja Rain Forest

Sri Lanka’s Sinharaja rainforest is called the biosphere reserve. The annual rainfall here reaches 5-7 thousand mm. The park is that rare place on Earth that has not been touched by a human hand. Sri Lankans respectfully and carefully treat the virgin nature.

Sinharaja Rain Forest
Sinharaja – the oldest forest on the planet

There is a forest in the southern part of the island. Its length is more than 20 kilometers in length and 7 kilometers in width. Endless hilly terrain with ridges and valleys overgrown with tropical evergreen forest.

Sinharaja is translated as “The Kingdom of the Lion.” Once these places were the possessions of Sinhala kings. An inaccessible location saved the forest from cutting. And in 1875, the forest was declared a nature reserve. Now it is of international importance and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Flora and fauna
Lizard in the Sinharaja Forest

A notable feature of the forest are tall trees with perfectly even trunks. The height of individual specimens reaches 50 m. The trees grow very densely, interwoven with vines up to 30 cm thick. The ground is covered with ferns and horsetails. Behind the trees you can see the majestic peaks of the mountains surrounding the park.

Squirrel in the Sinharaja Forest

In the wild jungle boils its own, unknown to anyone life of leopards, armadillos, giant squirrels, many monkeys and rare animals. A variety of birds amazes even ornithologists. Insects have their own wonderful world. Here you can endlessly admire very large beautiful butterflies fluttering over fancy flowers. All air is permeated by the ringing of cicadas, the singing of birds. According to scientists, 2/3 of all animals, insects and reptiles that exist on Earth live in the tropical Rainforest of Sinharaja.


One of the simplest excursions includes a road to the park, a two-three-hour walk with a guide and a way back. However, during this time it is difficult to see something worthy of attention. It is best to come here overnight and stay at the camp. At dawn, a journey begins along a long route – climbing to the top of the mountain. Climbing it, you will get a complete picture of the park, you will see it in all its greatness.

Photo of Sinharaja Nature Reserve

According to experienced travelers, a lot depends on the guide. Some will go with you to the most interesting places, will acquaint you with interesting animals, waterfalls. Others are too lazy to do this and conduct a tour formally. Therefore, with guides you need to be persistent so that they carry out their direct duties.

Useful Tips
  • You should not go for a walk in the forest yourself – it is very dangerous (wild animals, snakes) and you can get lost. Although independent travel is allowed, it is better to do it by car.
  • The cost of admission to the park is 560 rupees (about $ 4.)
  • Guide services cost 1,600 rupees in 4 hours and 3,200 rupees in 8 hours.
  • The park is open from 6:00 to 18:00.
  • The best period for visits: November – March. This time is considered the driest, but short-term rains are possible. They do not last long (maximum 30 minutes), but are so intense that they will wet you through in one minute.

Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe National Park

In the south, 170 km from the main city of the country, Udavalave National Park is located. The proximity to the southern resorts of Sri Lanka puts it in third place according to the influx of visitors. The park was created with the aim of helping the inhabitants of the jungle find refuge when the grand construction of the reservoir began on the Valava River.

Udavalave covers an area of ​​more than 30 thousand hectares and is one of the largest parks on the island. There is rich flora and fauna: a huge variety of plants, among which there are especially rare specimens with medicinal properties. The fauna is represented by 39 species of mammals, 184 – birds, 135 – butterflies, many species of fish, reptiles and insects. The main attraction is the huge reservoir of Uda Valave.

Udawalaw Map

Travelers here expect a lot of interesting and unusual, but most of all they are attracted by the local animals who calmly roam the savannah, are not at all afraid of people and are not afraid of camera lenses. People come here to see unique Sri Lankan elephants, whose population is declining.

Elephant nursery

To save elephants from extinction, a special nursery was organized by the Department of Wildlife Protection on the left side of the reservoir. All elephants who were left without a family, taken under protection, looked after them and prepared for an independent life. When the “kids” grow up, they are returned to natural conditions.

Elephant nursery

The main objective of the nursery is to increase the number of wild Sri Lankan elephants. Employees not only feed elephants and monitor their health. Educational work for adults and children is regularly held, an Information Center is organized, and interesting events are held.

Elephant feeding

Elephants are fed four times a day every three hours, and guests can be present at this meal. But you can’t ride elephants in the nursery. All conditions are created here so that the contact of animals with humans is minimal, otherwise they will not survive in the wild afterwards.

In Sri Lanka there is another, more famous Pinnawela nursery. You can learn about it from this article .


This place is where the wet and dry areas of the island border. The longest periods are March-May and October-January. The average temperature is about 29 degrees, air humidity is about 80%.

Opening hours and prices
  • Udavalawe Park is open daily from 6:00 to 18:00.
  • The cost of visiting for half a day is $ 15, for the whole day $ 25, for an overnight stay – $ 30 per person. The cost of children’s tickets is half the price.

A couple of hours drive from the park is the pretty mountain town of Ella. If you have time, pay attention to it. What interesting is in Ella read here .

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Minneria National Park

Minneria National Park

Minneria Park is located 180 kilometers from Colombo. The central territory of the park is occupied by the reservoir of the same name, which feeds all nearby lands. The abundance of fresh water served as the source of the birth of rich flora, which was chosen by numerous animals and birds. The reservoir of Minneria was created by King Mahasen in the III century and is currently of international importance.

What is remarkable park
Birds on the reservoir of Minneria Park

The park covers an area of ​​about 9000 hectares and consists of mixed evergreen forests. It is home to 25 species of mammals, most of which are elephants. There are more than 200 individuals. A lot of the reserve and leopards, bears, monkeys, wild buffalos, sika deer, Indian lizards.

The pride of the park is birds, which number over 170 species. Nowhere will you see so many parrots, peacocks, weavers, talkers, as in this amazing place. A flock of pelicans, cranes, cormorants, storks, etc. found their refuge on the reservoir. Naturally, there are a lot of fish and crocodiles.

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What you need to know before traveling

An ideal time for excursions is early morning and late evening, when the sun is close to sunset. During the day, usually animals lie in the shade under the trees, fleeing from the heat. Therefore, it is better to arrive at 6 am at the gates of the park.

  • The best way to get around the park is to ride a jeep. The cost of a safari varies between $ 100-200 (depending on travel time and route).
  • Entrance fee is $ 25.
  • Renting a jeep for a safari for half a day will cost 3,500 rupees, for the whole day 6,000 rupees.

Prices on the page are for March 2018.

Whatever place you choose to travel around the country (Yala Park Sri Lanka, Sinharaja, Udawalawe or Minneria), you will get the most unforgettable experience. Not without reason experienced tourists say that it was on this island that the Garden of Eden was located. Such a beautiful, virgin nature you will not find anywhere else on Earth.

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