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Wild, Wild Wilpattu!

Wilpattu National Park is the oldest and largest national park in Sri Lanka. The word Wilpattu translates to ‘natural lakes’ in Sinhala and that’s exactly what you will find there. This is a park for dedicated safari-goers. Those who love to traverse the wildlife without the disturbance of other visitors. Wilpattu National Park has a genuine sense of wilderness so there’s a lot of dense jungle and the animal are skittish compared to its counterpart Yala. However, for a truly engaging Sri Lanka wildlife safari, Wilpattu National Park is an amazing place! 

Travelling to Wilpattu

There are various methods to get to Wilpattu, depending on where you are staying. We will be covering the most common destinations visitors are bound to stay. 

Travelling from Anuradhapura to Wilpattu 

Cab/tuk-tuk/ private vehicle  

It takes around 50 minutes to reach Wilpattu from Anuradhapura on a car. This is the only way to get around the two locations. You can try PickMe car service which is the local alternative to Uber.  

Travelling from Colombo to Wilpattu   

By Bus  

There are no direct bus rides from Colombo to Wilpattu National Park. Your only option is to take a bus to Puttlam or Anuradhapura and then take a tuk-tuk or cab to the park.  

By Car  

The most convenient way to get around is to hire a car with a driver. It will take approximately 4 hours to travel from Colombo to Wilpattu. The cost will be higher than taking the bus. 

Don’t worry about the method of travelling too much since we know a foreign couple that rented a tuk-tuk and drove it themselves to Wilpattu from Colombo while on holiday!  

Where to stay in Wilpattu

There are no accommodation options within the park, however, you can get lovely campsites and hotels located close to the park. 

Big Game – Wilpattu by Eco Team 

Big Game is located bordering the Wilpattu National Park. They offer spacious tents with an attached bathroom, a comfy bed, and a fan. They give you a ‘glamping’ experience but at very reasonable rates. Their package includes meals and many visitors ravish about their dinner set up under the stars.  

Backwaters Lodge 

Backwaters Lodge is set close to Wilpattu National Park. The clean, spacious, well-lit rooms come with attached bathrooms and garden views. There is an onsite restaurant as well as a 24-hour front desk service. A Free Wi-Fi facility is available. This is a mid-range accommodation option.  

Wildlife Circuit Bungalows 

If you are travelling in a group this is one of the best options. The accommodation cost is very low and these are the only bungalows located inside the park. These are self-catered accommodation with a caretaker. You need to take your own groceries and everything you need. Circuit bungalows are very popular among locals.  

If you are not fussy about staying close to the park then you can even stay in Anuradhapura where there’s plenty of nice cheap accommodation.  

Wilpattu Wildlife Safari

The advantage of staying close to the national park is that you will be the first to enter the park. However, unlike other national parks, there is very little competition to spot animals in Wilpattu. Due to the size of the park, there is a dense forest in most parts of the national park. While the guides work at spotting animals, you will also need to be dedicated to searching during the safari.  

Since Wilpattu is massive you rarely meet other safari jeeps inside the park. It’s mostly you and the wildlife, which is a rare occurrence in popular national parks. There are different types of environments in Wilpattu  -forests, open grassland, dry zone, and natural lakes. When there are no wild animals in sight you have beautiful scenery to look at.  

What animals can you expect to see in Wilpattu National Park?

Wilpattu National Park is where you can expect to see a variety of wild animals. It’s a place you will be delightfully surprised with varied spotting. One of the (open) secrets of wildlife spotting is to get to the park early in the morning. This is when animals start their day and usually wake up from their habitat to the sound of the safari jeeps entering.  

Leopards and Sri Lankan sloth bears are the highlights of Wilpattu National Park. But they are very challenging to spot in the wild. There are over 30 species of mammals inside the park, a variety of reptiles, and a range of vibrant birds. You can expect to see the gentle giants – Elephants!  

Animals you can expect to see here are sambar deer, spotted and barking deer, crocodiles, wild boar, jackals, water buffalo, monkeys, crocodiles, monitors, mongoose, Indian python, peacocks and if it’s your lucky day – leopards!  

There are lots of birds inside the park and if you enjoy birding – you will love Wilpattu. Wilderness is very unpredictable so you never know what else you may come across so keep your eyes wide open!  

When to visit Wilpattu National Park

The best time to visit Wilpattu is from February to early September during the dry season. The monsoon season is best avoided since it’s not the best time to go wildlife spotting.   

How to go on a safari in Wilpattu

You cannot go into the national park in your private vehicle. You must take a guided jeep safari tour through Wilpattu. You are not allowed to get out of the jeep unless in a few designated places. There are safari jeeps parked outside the park and you can discuss the rates before starting. You can also organise a package with a tour operator, which is highly recommended since they are more committed to give you a better experience than hiring a unknown driver at the gate.  

Tips for a Wilpattu safari 

  • Make sure to carry plenty of water (iced water if possible)
  • Some snacks will be useful since the safaris take a couple of hours 
  • Wear comfortable cotton clothes 
  • Make sure to use sunscreen  
  • Wear sunglasses and a cap for morning safari 
  • A good camera is definitely going to be useful
  • Having a pair of binoculars will come in handy!   


Adventure Lanka offer licensed guides on all their tours.