Wilpattu National Park
Located on the north west of the island, Wilpattu is the oldest and largest National Park in Sri Lanka, stretching over 1,315 square kilometres of wild terrain. Despite its impressive status, it lies surprisingly under-the-radar on an international level and offers a significantly less crowded safari experience compared to the acclaimed Yala National Park. After years of being off-limits during the civil war, it re-opened just a couple of years ago and thanks to its years of isolation, it remains largely unspoiled and unerringly wild to this day.
Meaning 'Land of Lakes', this reserve is mostly formed of reflective bodies of water, which provide striking vistas as you drive throughout the park and - most importantly - attract an array of wildlife and aquatic birdlife. During game drives, make sure to keep an eye out for elephants and crocodiles, as well as great egrets, hornbills and Sri Lankan storks.
Also, with luck, you may spot the sloth bears that Wilpattu is famed for, especially within the atmospheric forests of 'weera' trees where these creatures look for berries and termites. While the number of leopards within the park are still unknown, sightings are relatively frequent (although it has to be said that your chances of glimpsing them are higher in Yala).
A huge plus of this park is its distinct lack of crowds, which results in practically private viewings of the wildlife and provides a welcome relief from the number of jeeps in other more popular Sri Lankan parks. This means it is especially well-suited to families with young children who would appreciate a less hectic and polluted environment. We recommend staying at Leopard Trails' Wilpattu Camp for an authentic but somewhat luxurious safari experience, and opting for the full-day game drive, in order to make the most of this underrated location.
Lying just an hour's drive away from Anuradhapura, a key city within the Cultural Triangle, and a couple of hours from Colombo, a safari here fits neatly into a wider tour of Sri Lanka. For inspiration, take a look at our 'If Tarzan went to Sri Lanka...' suggested itinerary.
Features in the following itineraries
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India