Conveniently located halfway between the tea plantations of Sri Lanka’s hill country and the beaches of its picturesque south coast, Uda Walawe National Park makes the perfect stopover on your Sri Lankan tour.
Uda Walawe National Park Elephant Spotting
The prime reason for the park’s popularity is its elephant population. While Uda Walawe National Park doesn’t have the range of creatures of, say, Yala National Park, it does have enough elephants to pretty much guarantee a sighting.
While many people like to pre-arrange their visit, if you’re travelling with a car and driver, it may be possible to fix up a safari vehicle when you get there for an almost immediate departure, negating the need to stay overnight in the area. In dry season, the vegetation dies back; while the scenery isn’t as stunning, it does make it considerably easier to spot the wildlife. In the wet, the park greens up and large areas flood transforming the park’s appearance. Elephant viewing varies little between the seasons, however, but you’ll have the best chance of seeing the park’s animals and birds if you visit early or late in the day.
The park’s home to about 600 or so elephants. Since the creation of an elephant corridor, it has been possible for them to transit between Uda Walawe and Yala via neighbouring Lunugamvehera National Park. Most choose to stay put, cohabiting with the park’s other animals which include buffaloes, macaque and langur monkeys, spotted and sambar deer. If you’re really lucky you might even spot an elusive leopard. Many buffaloes and elephants congregate around the reservoir at the heart of the park whose catchment it was created to conserve. It’s there that you’ll also be able to spot crocodiles.
Birds are also prevalent, from the herons picking at insects in the shallows at the water’s edge to colourful kingfishers as green as the algae-tinted water of the ponds they call home. You might also spot a lesser adjutant stork which is said by many to be the country’s ugliest bird on account of its bald neck. Indigenous birds include the Ceylon jungle fowl, Ceylon spur fowl, Ceylon green pigeon, Ceylon grey hornbill, Ceylon woodshrike and Ceylon swallow.
Nearby, there’s an elephant orphanage. Established in 1995 by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Uda Walawe Elephant Transfer Home cares for orphaned pachyderms with the goal of releasing them back into the park to join a herd. Many of these orphans have been successfully reintroduced.