Sri Lanka might be modest in size, but it’s no slouch in the wildlife department. Its isolation from the mainland, coupled with a wide range of altitudes and heavy rainfall, means it’s blessed with a variation in climate and biodiversity usually found across an entire continent. And the wildlife it shelters is as unique and varied as it is abundant.
Here’s our pick of 5 unforgettable Sri Lankan wildlife experiences.
1. Elephant Migration
The Minneriya National Park is home to one of Asia’s most spectacular wildlife experiences: the elephant migration. Each year, during the drier months between June and September, approximately 300 elephants congregate around the Minneriya water tank – a vast reservoir built in the 3rd century AD. Here they jostle playfully, drink, graze and play in the water. It’s a unique opportunity to watch elephants interact in their natural environment, which is rather a noisy, boisterous affair, and a dream come true for wildlife lovers and nature photographers.
2. Elusive Leopards
The Yala National Park in the south-eastern corner of Sri Lanka is the principle national park on the island and renown for its Sri Lankan leopards, a sub-species endemic to the country. The density of leopards makes it one of the premier destinations in the world for spotting these elusive creatures, often seen sunning themselves on the huge granite boulders that dot the landscape. If you’re there during June and July, you have the added bonus of potentially seeing sloth bears feeding on the fruit of the palu tree.
Sri Lanka is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Over 435 species of birds can be found here of which 235 are resident, a figure that includes 33 endemic species. Most of the endemic species can be found in the wet zone, with the Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve a particular highlight, while others like the whistling thrush can be found in the Hill Country. Uda Walawe and Yala National Parks, and Horton Plains also offer rich pickings for bird lovers.
4. Whale Watching
The warm Indian Ocean surrounding Sri Lanka is ideal for whales and several species can be seen off the coast of Mirissa, including Blue whales, Bryde’s whales, Sperm whales, Fin whales, and sometimes Killer whales, plus a number of dolphin species. The best time to see them is between November and April, with December to March being the prime months. Little can beat the experience of seeing these magnificent creatures in aquamarine seas – if you’re lucky you may even see mothers with their calves.
5. Turtle Hatcheries
Five of the seven species of sea turtles – the leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead, green turtle and Olive Ridley – arrive on the shores of Sri Lanka to nest on the sandy beaches. Adult females lay up to 5 times during the season with between 80 and 120 eggs laid in each nest, although only 1 in a 1,000 is likely to make it to full adulthood. When the turtles hatch they immediately head for sea and swim for 2 days solidly to escape from potential predators. There are several hatcheries along the coast dedicated to protecting the turtles, of which the Kosgoda Conservation Project is the most famous.
For help planning your Sri Lankan wildlife adventure, contact Adventure Lanka Tours today.