Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park is a 119-square mile wildlife sanctuary, centred around a large reservoir and situated on the Walawe River in the southern portion of the island.
The park was established in 1972 as an important environment for the conservation of rare birds such as the white wagtail, the black capped kingfisher and the serpent eagle, and wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir. It is better known as one of the best places in the world to see wild elephants. Udawalawe National Park provides a safe habitat for the Sri Lankan elephant, with a growing heard of about 250 elephants permanently in residence who are attracted towards the river.
Whilst wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed, multiple elephants or even herds of elephants can be spotted at Udawalawe occasionally. The chances of witnessing a herd of Sri Lankan elephants is extremely high particularly near rivers and the reservoir of Udawalawe, and if you are lucky you may catch sight of a young calf being carefully guarded by its mother, or an extremely rare majestic tusker. The dry season (which usually occurs between the months of May and September) is the ideal time in the year to visit Udawalawe. Other attractions which can also be visited in the surrounding area include the Wavulpane limestone caves, and the Elephant Transit Home, an organisation established in 1995 to home abandoned or orphaned elephant calves.
Due to the dry conditions of the region, Udawalawe presents a vividly different environment when compared with the western and central regions of the country. The scenery here is stunning; framed by soaring highlands on its northern boundary and the dark hills of Horton Plains forming a dramatic backdrop to the open parkland comprised of grasslands and bush forest, occasionally dotted with the silhouette of a large flowering tree.
The journey from Colombo and other cities in the western province are long, but not too tiresome. However, we would usually place a visit to Udawalawe in a tailor-made itinerary between Haputale and Yala National Park or Tangalle, or as a day trip from Tangalle. There are a number of luxury hotels in Udawalawe, and we would recommend Kalu's Hideaway as the best option.