- Yala National Park
Yala combines a strict nature reserve with a national park. Divided into 5 blocks, the park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land consisting of light forests, scrubs, grasslands, tanks and lagoons. Two blocks are currently opened to the public.
Situated in Sri Lanka’s south-east hugging the panoramic Indian Ocean, Yala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and was designated a national park in 1938. Ironically, the park was initially used as a hunting ground for the elite under British rule. Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. Among its more famous residents are the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted dear, peacocks, and crocodiles. The best time to visit Yala is between February and July when the water levels of the park are quite low, bringing animals into the open.
- Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu National park is among the oldest and most important of protected areas in Sri Lanka. It also contains a number of important cultural sites. The sanctuary stretches from the North-western coast to the North-central province where the ancient city of Anuradhapura is located. Wilpattu National Park is laced with a complex of lakes called ‘Villus’, surrounded by grassy plains, set within scrub jungle. Many of the `big game’ found in Sri Lanka including elephant, sloth bear, water buffalo, and spotted dear can be seen here. Wilpattu is also known for leopards.
- Kumana(Yala East) National Park
Formerly known as Yala East National Park, Kumana lies on the south-east coast in the Eastern Province, 12km south of Arugam Bay, and is easily accessible from the Wellawaya-Pottuvil Road. The Park is physically separated from the more famous Yala National Park and Strict Reserve by the Kumbukkan Oya (River) and is better known for its migratory birds. A natural highlight of the park is a 200 hectare swamp lake sustained by the river through a half a mile long narrow channel. These mangrove swamps are a destination of choice for migratory birds. Among regular visitors who nest and breed are pelicans, painted storks, spoonbills, herons, egrets and little cormorants. Land animals found in the adjacent Yala are also found here.
- Wasgamuwa National Park
Wasgamuwa is home to a vast array of animals, as well as, ancient sites and tanks. Known for its rich population of predators among which bears receive significant attention. It is believed that Wasgamuwa has the highest density of bears than anywhere else in Sri Lanka. Bordered by the famous Mahaweli and the lesson known Amban river, Wasgamuwa spreads through the districts of Matale in the central hills and the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa.
- Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park, in close proximity to the eastern city of Amparai has an important task: to serve as the catchment area for Sri Lanka’s largest reservoir, the Senanayake Samudraya. It is the only national park where boat rides are allowed, offering visitors to the rare sight of swimming elephants, a phenomena famously known as ‘the crossings’.
- Udawalawe National Park
The Udawalawe National Park is Sri Lanka’s closest example of Africa’s savanna reserves. Better known as the country’s premier elephant park, Udawalawe revolves around the vast Udawalawe reservoir. Located on the base of hilly Ratnapura and Moneragala districts, the park is home, among other animals, to an elephant population of about 500. The park also boasts of an elephant transit home, with public displays during feeding times.
- Lahugala Kithulana National Park
The eastern park of Lahugala is among Sri Lanka’s smallest among parks but its importance to elephants and endemic birds is very big.
- Maduru Oya National Park
Maduru Oya National Park is designed to protect the immediate catchments of five reservoirs developed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Program, Sri Lanka’s most ambitious irrigation project. The park provides refuge for wildlife and lies between the Polonnaruwa-Batticalo Road and Mahiyangana-Padiyathalawa Road in the districts of Ampara, Badulla and Polonnaruwa.
- Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains, a world heritage site is the catchment area for almost all of Sri Lanka’s major rivers. A silent and cold highland plateau in the central hills of Sri Lanka, the beautiful Horton Plains is surrounded by peak wildernesses and forests and is home to many endemic plants and animals thriving in a rare wet and cold climate. The park offers spectacular hikes and culminates with the World’s End, a dramatic 900 meter cliff with nothing but flat land beyond extending to the coast of Sri Lanka’s deep South./p>
- Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park lies in the dry and arid Hambantota District in Southern Sri Lanka. But the park’s many lagoons make it a paradise for migratory as well as resident birds. Every species of water birds found in the country find a safe haven here. Visitors will also be treated to many land animals from elephant to the deer. Bundala is also said to be the only park where visitors can spot both the Marsh and Seawater crocodile on the same safari trip.
- Lunugamvehera National Park
Located adjacent to Yala National Park is Lunugamvehera Park, created primarily as a catchment area for the Lunugamvehera reservoir. A plan is mooted to amalgamate the park with its larger and more famous cousin Yala and if that happens, Lunugamvehera will be renamed as Yala West.
- Minneriya National Park
Home for the world famous Elephant ‘Gathering’, Minneriya National Park is nestled on the plains of the North-Central province, about 20kms from historic Polonnaruwa. Fed by the beautiful Minneriya tank, the park despite being one of the smallest, is a haven for elephants and birds, providing magnificent views to visitors.
- Kaudulla National Park
In close proximity to Habarana, the gateway to Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa, Kaudulla revolves around an ancient tank and is considered as an important elephant corridor, offering regular sightings.
- Hikkaduwa National Park
One of the two marine parks in Sri Lanka, Hikkaduwa National Park in the popular southern coast features fringing coral reefs showcasing a bio-diversity spectacle.
- Pigeon Island National Park
The 2nd marine park in the country, Pigeon Island is located in famed Nilaweli, on the outskirts of Trincomalee. The spectacular small island is home to a showcase of colorful corals and tropical fish and is a short boat ride from the world famous Nilaweli beach.
- Horagolla National Park
Horagolla is biologically, the most diverse and significant patch of forest in the wet zone of Sri Lanka, located just outside Colombo. The park presents a special zonal vegetation complex which provides a natural refuge for many species that are extremely rare, possibly extinct, in other parts of the island.
- Galways Land National Park
The only national park located within city limits, Galways is home to a montane eco system in the cold and windy hill station of Nuwara Eliya, also the highest located city in Sri Lanka. Galways is decorated by its beautiful population of birds, as well as, its colorful floral species of native and foreign origin. Along with the nearby Victoria Park, Galway is considered to be the most significant birding site in Sri Lanka.
- Ussangoda National Park
Believed to be the place where Ravana landed his mythical flying chariot, Ussangoda is situated in Nonagama, Hambantota in the deep South. Known for the red soil in the area, Ussangoda, with both land and sea features, is a haven for turtles.
- Angammedilla National Park
Originally a forest reserve within the Minneriya-Girithale Sanctuary within close proximity to Polonnaruwa, Angammedilla was established to protect the drainage basin of the giant Parakrama Samudra reservoir.
- Flood Plains National Park
The park is central to the integrity of the Mahaweli irrigation system, both for its unique “villus” and as a corridor for wildlife migration between grazing lands in Wasgamuwa and Somawathiya National Park. The area spans the Mahaweli River in Polonnaruwa district in North Central Province.
- Somawathiya National Park
Somawathiya National Park is one of the four national parks designated under the Mahaweli River Development project. Somawathiya Chaitya, a stupa said to be containing a relic of the tooth of the Buddha, is situated within the park.
Source: Wildlife Department Website
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