5 Amazing Places To See Wildlife In Sri Lanka
If you’re thinking of travelling to Sri Lanka, then you have probably already dreamt of the beautiful beaches, endless palm trees and lush tea plantations. It may come as a surprise, however, to learn that Sri Lanka is actually famous for its wildlife! It’s described as the next best country for a big game safari outside of Africa, unrivalled due to its phenomenal range of species, tourism industry and incredible culture. We’ve picked out 5 of the absolute best experiences for you if seeing wildlife in Sri Lanka has just landed at the top of your bucket list; whether your preference is getting out on a boat, or safely keeping your feet on dry land, there’s something for everyone.
1. GO ON A SAFARI IN UDAWALAWE NATIONAL PARK
Seeing wild elephants is surely on everyone’s bucket list, and Udawalawe National park is the perfect place to have this amazing experience. It is known as one the best places to see wild elephants in the world because there is such a large population of these stunning creatures roaming here. Better yet, the wildlife in the park isn’t restricted to just elephants, you’ll likely come across sambar deer, wild boar, water buffalo, jackals and huge crocodiles (more like dinosaurs, if we’re being totally honest). If you’re really lucky, you may even get to see a wild leopard! Of course all the animals are wild, so there are no guaranteed sightings, but that just adds to the excitement, in our opinion!
TOP TIP: If you enjoy photography as a hobby, then this is the perfect place to get amazing photographs of the wildlife in Sri Lanka. Your jeep will stay a respectful distance away from the animals, but you’ll get to snap some epic shots.
Elephant Safari in Udawalawe National Park
2. WHALE WATCHING IN MIRISSA
With just its tongue weighing as much as an entire elephant, the blue whale is the biggest animal that has ever lived on our incredible planet. As if Sri Lanka could get any more magical, you can actually spot these gentle giants in their natural habitat just off the southern coast of the island. If you’re up for getting out on the ocean, this is a once in a lifetime experience that you won’t forget in a hurry! Some of the other wildlife you could see include sperm whales, whale sharks, killer whales, pilot whales, spinner dolphins and even turtles. One thing to note is that this is a seasonal activity. The best time to go whale watching in Mirissa is between November and April as the monsoon season hits around May, making it impossible to run the tours.
TOP TIP: Like with all wildlife encounters, there are unethical companies out there, and this can happen in Mirissa too. It is always best to do your research on which company to use, so you aren’t encouraging any damaging behaviour that negatively affects the animals. We partner with an awesome company in Mirissa who have been promoting ethical whale experiences and conservation for years. For a stress free experience, you can join us on our Sri Lanka tour to enjoy the whole adventure without any worries!
Whale watching in Mirissa
3. VISITING A SEA TURTLE HATCHERY & RESCUE CENTRE
Visiting a sea turtle centre in Sri Lanka will certainly be a highlight of your trip. There’s multiple rehabilitation centres around, and we even visit one on our 12 day tour. With 5 of the 7 sea turtle species being regularly observed up and down the Sri Lankan coast, these centres aim to promote conservation of those most endangered. These include the Leatherback turtle, Loggerhead turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, Hawksbill turtle and the Green turtle. These awesome places have plenty of facilities to cater for these turtles such as water tanks and secured areas for hatcheries. They also treat and care for injured turtles, and protect turtle eggs found on the beach by placing them into a hatchery. This is to stop other animals from eating the turtles once they hatch, but most of all is to stop poachers from stealing the eggs.
TOP TIP: Some rescue centres in Sri Lanka have turtle conservation tours that you can go on during your visit. These will help you understand more about the turtles and the conservation that goes on in these centres.
4. LOOKING FOR LEOPARDS IN YALA NATIONAL PARK
Searching for leopards in Yala National Park is one of the most popular things to do in Sri Lanka. Ironically, this national park was once used as a hunting ground for the British elite during colonial rule. Now, it is home to the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, making it the perfect place to visit if you want a glimpse of these big cats. However, leopards are elusive so seeing one is definitely not guaranteed. Luckily, aside from leopards there’s plenty more to see, with elephants, sloth bears, spotted deer and crocodiles making an appearance in this national park.
TOP TIP: Going on safari in Sri Lanka’s scorching heat means sunscreen and a hat is an absolute necessity! The last thing you want is to ruin the rest of your trip by getting sunstroke, take our word for it.
Leopard in Yala National Park
5. SWIMMING WITH REEF SHARKS IN TRINCOMALEE
If you are an adventure seeker or adrenaline junkie, then this experience will be right up your street. Swimming with sharks sounds super scary (we’ve all seen jaws right?), however, these sharks are known for their skittish nature and aren’t considered a threat to humans. If you’re up for an adrenaline fix and you’ve got your GoPro ready to go, this is a unique experience that you won’t soon forget.
TOP TIP: Ask your guides to take you to lesser known reefs around Trincomalee. Pigeon Island is the most popular, and can get really busy with people snorkelling. Getting to explore the lesser known reefs will give you a better experience, and more chances of seeing some wildlife.
Swimming with reef sharks
That’s a wrap! If you want to see wildlife in Sri Lanka, you can’t go wrong with these 5 encounters. The vast array of species in this country makes it extremely biodiverse, if you’re an animal lover – this is the place to be!
Looking for a trip that’s planned out for you and includes all the best experiences? Check out our 12 day trip running from Negombo to Colombo, hitting up the best of the island on the way.
Written By: Abbie Bevan