Sri Lanka is home to some of the most abundant wildlife habitats and national parks, giving tourists the chance to partake in the most exhilarating safari adventures. The wildlife in Sri Lanka, which is dominated by populations of elephants, leopards, deers, boars, and flamingos, will wow you at every turn on your safari.

Planning A Safari In Sri Lanka?

Sri Lankan safaris are pretty unlike any other safari experience because to the vast wildlife and the several national parks. In contrast to Africa, Sri Lanka’s national parks are close together and accessible all year round, so you don’t need to spend days exploring them. However, you need to be aware of the best time of year for each National Park before you begin arranging your Sri Lanka safari. Particularly when you specifically want to view a certain wild species because they are not present throughout the year in every season.


Why Is Sri Lanka One of the Best Destinations for Wildlife Experiences?

  • Sri Lanka is rich in biodiversity and has a high density of endemism.
  • Sri Lanka has a variety of ecosystems and landscapes, such as rainforests, dry zone forests and montane forests, as well as mangroves and coastal ecosystems.
  • It is one of the best places in the world to view leopards and observe their behaviour
  • Sri Lanka has the world’s highest density of Asian elephants and offers incredible viewing of wild elephants on safari, especially in parks like Udawalwe and Minneriya.
  • Sri Lanka has one of Asia’s highest densities and diversity of bird species, especially for an island of its size, and is host to 33 endemic species.

Top 15 National Parks in Sri Lanka

In total, Sri Lanka has 26 National Parks, which protect 13% of its landmass and each have their distinct sorts of wildlife. With so many options, it can be difficult to decide where to travel for your ideal Sri Lanka safari holiday.

  • Bundala – Southern Province
  • Delft – Northern Province
  • Gal Oya – Eastern Province, Uva Province
  • Horton Plains – Central Province
  • Kaudulla – North Central Province
  • Kumana (Yala East) – Eastern Province
  • Lunugamvehera – Southern Province, Uva Province
  • Maduru Oya – Eastern Province, Uva Province
  • Minneriya – North Central Province
  • Somawathiya – Eastern Province, North Central Province
  • Udawalawe – Sabaragamuwa Province, Uva Province
  • Ussangoda – Southern Province
  • Wasgamuwa – Central Province, North Central Province
  • Wilpattu – North Central Province, North Western Province
  • Yala (Ruhuna) – Southern Provinc

Best 5 National Parks to do a Safari in Sri Lanka

  • Yala National Park
  • Udawalawe National Park 
  • Bundala National Park 
  • Minneriya National Park
  • Wilpattu National Park

Best 5 Safari Tour Operators in Sri Lanka

  • Kulu Safari
  • Camp Leopard Yala
  • Leopard Safari
  • Mahoora Safari
  • Leopard Trails

Yala National Park

Yala is the most famous national park in Sri Lanka, spanning the Southern and Uva provinces. Yala National Park is divided into five blocks totaling 130,000 hectares. It is Sri Lanka’s most visited and second largest National Park. Block 1 is the most popular tourist attraction at Yala. There are an estimated 25-30 leopards, making it the world’s greatest leopard density.

The yala national park is home to 215 bird species, including endemics, and 44 animal species, including the Sri Lankan leopard. The variety allows for excellent animal viewing, with no two game drives ever being the identical.

The elephant, sloth bear, and leopard are the big three to keep an eye out for in Yala. Although sloth bears are normally nocturnal and secretive, they can be seen in May and June when they come out to eat on the seasonal berries of ‘Palu’ trees.

Animals to see during a safari in Yala National Park

  • There are 215 bird species in Yala National Park, including the Sri Lankan wood pigeon, blue-tailed bee eater, grey hornbill, and Sri Lankan jungle-fowl, Red wattled lapwing, Asian openbill, and Hawk Eagle.
  • Yala National Park is home to 44 mammals, including the iconic Sri Lankan elephant, leopards, the Sri Lankan sloth bear, spotted deer, jackal, and many more.

  • There are 47 reptile species, including the Sri Lankan saltwater crocodile, monitor lizard, flying snake, Indian cobra, and many more.

Best time to visit Yala National Park

  • The best time to see leopards in Yala National Park is during the dry season, which lasts from February to July. With the water levels lower, it’s easier to detect animals, particularly leopards, come out to drink in the lagoons. Each year, the park closes for the months of September and October to allow the animals to recuperate.
Leopards In Sri Lanka

Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park is the best place to see elephants in Sri Lanka. The 89-square-kilometer park is located in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province’s dry zone, just outside the town of Habarana. Minneriya has more lush grasslands than most of Sri Lanka’s national parks.

Minneriya is home to the largest concentration of Asian elephants, known as the “Gathering.” Every year, over 300 elephants gather to feed during the “Gathering.” at Minneriya national park. This is regarded as one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles by Lonely Planet and other major travel organizations.

Animals to see during a safari in Minneriya National Park

  • Minneriya Park is home to 24 different types of mammals, including elephants, deer, purple-faced langurs, and macaque monkeys, among others. Leopards are rarely seen in this park, but they do exist.
  • The Minneriya Reservoir has provided a safe haven for large water birds such as the Lesser adjutant, Painted stork, and Spot-billed pelican, as well as a total of 160 resident and migratory bird species.
  • There are 25 reptile species, including the painted-lip lizard, saltwater crocodile, Indian python, Asian water monitor, and others.

Best time to visit Minneriya National Park

The best time to visit Minneriya National Park for a safari is from May to September, when hundreds of elephants congregate at Minneriya Tank to drink and bathe.


Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe National Park is located, much quieter neighbour to Yala National Park in the south of Sri Lanka. The park is easily accessible from the south coast such as Mirissa and Tangalle and from the hilside as Ella and Haputale.

Udawalawe National Park is also known as the Elephant Park due to its popularity for specialist elephant safaris. There are approximately 250 permanent elephants in the park, with others migrating between adjacent parks.

Elephant Transit Home Udawalawe

Elephant Transit Home is another sight near Udawalawe National Park that guests can visit after their safaris. Elephant Transit Home is a facility that cares for orphaned elephant calves until they are ready to be released back into the wild, as well as a rehabilitation facility for injured elephants. The udawalawa transit home was founded with the assistance of Dilmah Conservation.

Animals to see during a safari in Udawalawe National Park

  • The park is home to 42 different species, including Sri Lankan elephants. Buffaloes, sloth bears, sambar deer, and monkeys. Despite the fact that there are a few leopards in the park, the likelihood of seeing one are small.
  • The park is home to 180 bird species, including the Red-faced Malkoha, Grey Hornbill, and Spurfowl. Udawalawe is regarded as one of the best places in Sri Lanka for bird watching.

  • The park is home to 32 reptile species, including crocodiles, snakes, garden lizards, and many more.

Best time to visit Udawalawe National Park

  • Udawalawe is best visited between December and March, and between May and September. Udawalawe is open all year, The ideal times to visit the park are early morning or late afternoon.

Bundala National Park

Bundala National Park in Sri Lanka is a popular wintering destination for migrating water birds. The least visited national park in Sri Lanka. On December 5, 1969, Bundala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary for the first time. Later, on October 15, 1990, when Sri Lanka ratified the Ramsar Convention, it was designated as a wetland of international importance, making it Sri Lanka’s first Ramsar site. 

Bundala’s coast is a sanctuary and nesting ground for five species of marine turtles including the green turtle, olive ridley, hawksbill, loggerhead and leatherback.

Animals to see during a safari in Bundala National Park

  • There are 197 species of birds in Bundala, with the greater flamingo being the most notable because it migrates in large flocks,
  • The park is home to 32 mammals, including the leopard, some elephants, mouse deer, and wild boar.
  • The park is home to 43 different species of reptiles, including crocodiles, rat snakes, and pythons.

Best time to visit Bundala National Park

  • The best time to visit Bundala National Park is between October and March, when migratory birds flock to the country. The month of December is thought to be the best for birdwatching expeditions.

Wilpattu National Park

Wilpattu national park is the Sri Lanka’s largest and oldest national park, located north of Colombo near the ancient city of Anuradhapura. It was designated a National Park in 1938. Wilpattu is a world-class national park known for its leopard population. 

The park received its name from the presence of “Villu,” a natural lake ecosystem. Villus are landscape cavities formed by the corrosion of underlying limestone deposits. They are distinct natural formations that fill with rainwater during the monsoon season. There are approximately 50 Villus in the Park. The international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands protects this spectacular ecosystem. Wilpattu safaris are ideal for wildlife photographers who want to capture animals in beautiful settings.

Animals to see during a safari in Wilpattu National Park

  • The Wilpattu National Park is home to approximately 31 species of mammals, including the Sri Lankan Elephant, Sri Lankan Leopard, Sloth Bear, Spotted Deer, Water Buffalo, Sambar, and Mongoose.
  • Wilpattu National Park is home to the Monitor Lizard, Mugger Crocodile, Common Cobra, Rat Snake, Indian Python, Pond Turtle, and Soft Shelled Turtle.
  • The Garganey, Pintail, Whistling Teal, Spoonbill, White Ibis, Large White Egret, Cattle Egret, and Purple Heron are among the wetlands bird species found in Wilpattu National Park. Willpattu is also home to numerous species of Gulls, Terns, Owls, Kites, and Eagles. There are also Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, Little Cormorant, and Painted Storks to be seen.

Best time to visit Wilpattu National Park

  • The best time to visit Wilpattu National Park is all year. However, the peak season is from February to October.

How long should I plan to stay in a national park?

A safari in Sri Lanka is fantastic because, unlike in Africa, it doesn’t have to last several days. However, bear in mind that a brief safari is unlikely to allow you to see every kind of animal. A luxury glamping overnight safari experience may be something to think about for those who genuinely love wildlife or are looking for a different kind of adventure. Get lost in nature while spending the night in a luxurious tent. These excursions, which can last one or two nights, can include several safari outings, visits to nearby animal rehabilitation facilities, and more.

Best time of the day to do the safari?

It’s best to reserve a safari either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. In Sri Lanka’s national parks, watching the sunrise has a certain magic. These are the times when the animals are the most active. It can be a bit of an adventure competing with other jeeps to be the first car in the park in the morning, when it’s usually much busier.

How much does a Sri Lanka jeep Safari cost?

This obviously depends on whether you opt for an all-inclusive safari camp experience or separate travel arrangements for your safari. Consider paying an entrance fee to a national park of about $30 per person. You typically pay around $40 for the jeep.

What to expect during your Sri Lanka Safari?

Although it may sound jargon, nobody can promise that you’ll see every animal that calls the National Parks home. Therefore, while on your safari, have no expectations and enjoy every moment. This will be the best way to fully appreciate the experience, and hopefully some awesome animal encounters will catch you off guard! Try not to worry about the things you cannot control because every safari is different and consequently unpredictable. You will occasionally see little and occasionally see a lot.

Which National Park is the best for the ultimate Sri Lanka safari?

Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most popular and thus busiest park. Unlike Wilpattu National Park or even Gal Oya National Park, where you may be the only jeep in the park.

Camping or Glamping in Sri Lanka

The best way to truly appreciate a safari is to combine it with a camping or glamping adventure that includes the safari. There are numerous options in the various National Parks. 

What to prepare for your Sri Lanka jeep Safari

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses 
  • Mosquito repellent
  • A hat
  • A camera and a Zoom lens (200mm is the minimum)
  • Enough water
  • Light snacks 

How to find an Ethical wildlife Safari

Finding an ethical safari can be difficult in Sri Lanka compared to many other regions of Asia and Africa. Due to a lack of regulations and growing pressure from travelers looking for the perfect Instagram moment on guides, many tour companies don’t engage in responsible tourism. Before you travel to Sri Lanka, take into account these advice and begin your research. Always opt for a service from a naturalist or a wildlife ranger rather than simply hiring a Jeep with a driver.

Tips for going on a wildlife safari

  • Avoid feeding animals
  • Go early or late
  • Get a Service from a ranger or a naturalist
  • Be prepared for a bumpy roads

Best wildlife Tour in Sri Lanka

Ceylon Hunt organises wildlife Tour – Nature Trail Tour in collaboration with ranger Marc from Camp leopard Yala, a renowned expert in the field. On this 8-day adventure, you will discover the variety of the Sri Lankan wilderness, from dry forests home to elephants to shallow waterways teeming with mangroves and birds. The tour includes daily safaris, accomodations at Glamping tents or Mobile camping sites set up inside national parks.

There are many fascinating national park to visit in Sri Lanka. The nation is home to a wide variety of wildlife, ecosystems, and climates. In Sri Lanka, it’s actually very difficult to not see any wildlife. the Sri Lankan elephant is frequently seen next to attractive temples and on busy highways. Send us a message or leave a comment below if you have any inquiries so we can get back to you!

Image courtesy of shankar s. Shashin Wijenayake Aardwolf6886 Amila Tennakoon via creative commons licenses. some rights reserved.

Ceylon Hunt has tour packages which facilitate your with Safari Tours and Glamping Experinces. You can check them going through our Nature Trail- Tour Package or make the resevations through our website.