If seeing wildlife is on your list of things to do in Sri Lanka, avoid visiting unethical wildlife “conservation” centers such as Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and unauthorized turtle hatcheries. Instead, consider visiting a national park to see wild animals in their natural habitats. Yala, Udawalawe, and Kaudulla have become insanely crowded over the years. But don’t lose hope – Sri Lanka has 26 national parks to explore.
Kumana National Park, located south of Arugam Bay, offers an amazing safari experience. The park is home to elephants, wild boars, foxes, peacocks and many other species of birds. In Gal Oya National Park, you can go on a boat safari to spot wild elephants hang out in Senanayaka Samudraya, the largest tank in Sri Lanka. For an unforgettable marine life viewing experience, head to Pigeon Island in Trincomalee. Be warned though, during peak season (April – August), it does get crowded. While Bundala is a paradise for birdwatchers, Maduru Ganga National Park is one of the lesser-known wildlife destinations in Sri Lanka. The jungle-clad lowlands here offer stunning landscapes and a quieter place to see elephants in their natural habitats.
While Jeep safaris remain the most popular way to get around, a walking safari – accompanied by a tracker and ranger – is another great way to get up close with the animals, and at a much slower pace. There are trails for different levels of difficulty, and tours are available from morning to late at night, so you can see more nocturnal creatures that hide during the day.
There are a few things to keep in mind when going on a safari in Sri Lanka: