Sri Lanka is justly proud of its natural bounty and the country has a long and illustrious history for nature conservation, with many of today's 22 national parks and reserves dating back to colonial times and earlier. Almost all harbour a rich selection of wildlife and birds, and several are also outstandingly scenic.
The World Heritage-listed Sinharaja Forest Reserve is Sri Lanka's last undisturbed pocket of tropical rainforest and is known for its extraordinary biodiversity and wealth of endemic species. This is rainforest as you've always imagined it; the air thick with humidity, the noise of birds, cicadas and other invisible creatures; the ground a tangle of ferns and plants; and towering hardwood trees rising high overhead. Take a trek and admire the array of flora and fauna, keeping your eyes peeled for the myriad of birds, reptiles and insects who live within the green canopy.
The focal point of Minneriya National Park is the ancient 3rd century Minneriya Reservoir, an important source of water for wildlife and particularly elephants, as Minneriya forms part of the elephant corridor as large numbers migrate here at certain times of the year to drink. This annual event has been dubbed 'The Gathering' and is the largest meeting of Asian elephants anywhere in the world. The park has a wide range of habitats, from dry tropical forest to wetlands and grassland, and provides sanctuary to other mammals including sambar, spotted deer, macaque and purple-faced langur monkeys, sloth bears and leopards, although these last are rarely spotted, plus an enormous variety of birds.
Wilpattu is one of the largest national parks in Sri Lanka and widely regarded as one of the best places to spot leopard and sloth bears in their natural habitat. Dense scrub jungle and dry zone forest open onto small lakes (villus), surrounded by grassy plains. Despite its size the park is still relatively uncommercialised so at times there are only a handful of other jeeps in the park, which adds an authenticity to the experience. Wildlife to spot, other than leopards and sloth bears, includes elephants, spotted deer, barking deer, sambar, wild board, Asiatic buffalo and crocodiles.
GMT + 5.5 hours
Sri Lankan rupee. Travellers cheques are not accepted.
Sinharaja Rainforest is approximately 5 hours drive from Colombo, 4 hours 30 minutes from Yala or 2 hours from Uda Walawe National Park. Minneriya is approximately 2 hours drive from Chilaw and 5 hours drive from Colombo. Wilpattu is about 2 hours drive from Chilaw; 2 hours 30 minutes drive from Kandy or around 3 hours 30 minutes drive from Colombo.
Sinharaja is affected by the southwest monsoon with heavy rainfall during May to July and the northeast monsoon between November and January. Whilst rain can still be expected at other times, it does tend to be drier. Although Minneriya is a great place to spot elephants year round, May to October is the best time to visit when water sources become scarce and elephants migrate here, with the ‘Gathering’ usually between August-September. The ideal time to visit Wilpattu is generally between the months of February and October, however the park is open year round.
A visa may be required. Please ask for details.Find out more