A Guide to the Wildlife of Sri Lanka

Updated: 17th January 2022

Leopard - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Like many islands, Sri Lanka boasts a high number of endemic species, animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth. The country is also regarded as one of the world's top five hotspots for biodiversity, testament to the sheer number of species which call the tear drop isle home. Read on to learn what you can discover in some of Sri Lanka's best national parks.

Must Visit National Parks in Sri Lanka

Yala National Park landscape - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Yala National Park

The most famous national park in Sri Lanka, Yala is home to 215 bird species and 44 mammal species. Expect to see roaming elephants, herds of sambar deer, crocodiles and buffalo. What’s more, the park has the highest concentration of leopards in the world.

Recommended Accommodation:
Wild Coast Tented Lodge: A tented lodge combining luxury hotel comforts with a safari-style wilderness experience.

Udawalawe National Park landscape - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Udawalawe National Park

Framed by the soaring Central Highlands, Udawalawe is one of the best places in the world to see wild elephants. Herds are often seen roaming in numbers of up to 100, with other mammals in the park including water buffalo, wild boar, sloth bears, spotted deer and the endemic toque macaque.

Recommended Accommodation:
Pokuna Safari Eco Lodge: A secluded ecolodge that provides a first-hand experience of rural life in Sri Lanka.

Minneriya reservoir landscape - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Minneriya National Park

As part of Sri Lanka’s elephant corridor, large numbers of elephants migrate across the country to Minneriya every year. Known as ‘The Gathering’, as many as 300 come to the park’s reservoir in the largest meeting of Asian elephants anywhere in the world.

Recommended Accommodation:
Levona Garden Resort: Boasts a tranquil setting and delicious, home-cooked Sri Lankan meals.

Wilpattu National Park landscape - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Wilpattu National Park

Translating to ‘natural lakes’ in Sinhala, Wilpattu’s most prominent feature is its wetlands. Known as ‘Villu’, the park has over 50 lakes surrounded by grassy plains. Despite being Sri Lanka’s largest national park, visitor numbers remain low and give the park a true sense of wilderness.

Recommended Accommodation:
Mahoora Tented Safari Camp: A luxurious campsite featuring carpeted tents with private bathrooms and hot showers.

Horton Plains - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Horton Plains National Park

Set over 2,000 metres above sea level, the Horton Plains feel a world apart from the rest of Sri Lanka. Large areas of the park are covered in pristine cloud forest, with dramatically plunging cliffs at its southern boundary. Home to a variety of endemic species, it’s one of the best places for bird watching.

Recommended Accommodation:
Hill Safari Eco Lodge: Situated in a private tea plantation with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Sinharaja Forest Reserve

World Heritage-listed Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a biodiversity hotspot. Containing Sri Lanka’s last area of primary tropical rainforest, it’s home to over 50% of the country’s endemic species of mammals and butterflies, as well as many types of reptile, insect and rare amphibians.

Recommended Accommodation:
Boulder Garden Hotel: A unique hotel built around extraordinary giant boulders and caves.

Bundala National Park - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Bundala National Park

One of Sri Lanka’s best destinations for bird watching, Bundala protects an important area of coastal wetland. Almost 200 bird species have been recorded here, including ibis, pelicans and huge flocks of greater flamingos. Visitors can also spot crocodiles, elephants, turtles and a variety of other fauna.

Recommended Accommodation:
Turtle Bay: A boutique hotel located on the quiet sands of Kalamatiya with views of the Indian Ocean.

Gal Oya National Park - Sri Lanka - On The Go Tours

Gal Oya National Park

The only national park in Sri Lanka where you can take a boat safari, Gal Oya protects the vast Senanayake Samudra Reservoir. The park is home to 32 mammal species, with a visitor highlight being the sight of herds of elephants swimming across the reservoir from one island to another.

Recommended Accommodation:
Gal Oya Lodge: A unique ecolodge spread across 20 acres of private jungle.

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