Sri Lankan wildlife is like no other.

Sri Lanka, a small island in the Indian Ocean, has a number of national parks with a variety of wildlife to rival the game parks of Kenya and Tanzania.
The Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera Pardus Kotiya), one of the largest known leopard species, has a firm grip on the island, which has the highest population density of leopard in the world. Because of this, visitors are often rewarded with more than just a glimpse of this notoriously elusive Big Cat when they venture into the wilderness reserves. Yala National Park, only a half day’s drive from the Capital, is one of the most easily accessible game parks in the world. It hosts one of the world’s most stable population of leopard, and thus, safari adventurers go to spot this magnificent beast nestled within the fauna and flora.
© 2018. Randhir Page

While the leopard may be one of the main drawcards for wildlife lovers, Sri Lanka also offers up other stunning wildlife. Visitors will see posing peacocks, spotted deer, crocodiles, wild buffalo, serpent eagles and sambar with powerful and grand antlers. Sri Lanka is also a birder’s haven hosting close to 500 different bird species, of which 26 can only be found on this island paradise.

Asiatic Elephants are often found meandering the parks, or even adjacent to the busy roads, in herds numbering from just a handful to the 100+ strong herds of Yala’s Block 2. Elephant herds are matriarchal with the old, large, wise leaders watching over the younger more inquisitive baby calves. If you are lucky you will come across one of the large bull elephants with its tusks on full display. Due to the specific genetics of this elephant sub-species, only a few males are able to form tusks, but thanks to the unique vegetation, rich in calcium, these can grow in majestic splendour. It is important to note that if treated with respect, these intelligent creatures rarely charge, but can often be found showing off their individual personalities to the joy of visitors’ fluttering hearts.
© 2018. Kasun Priyankara (in-house naturalist, Taru Villas - Yala)
Another highly prized sighting is the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear – also known as a walaha in Sinhala and karadi in TamilWhile it lives off nuts, berries, and roots, one of its main staples is insects which it removes from rotting stumps and trees using its long, hairless snout. If you are lucky enough to visit during the Palu fruit season (May, June and July), you will often find this most nocturnal creature in the heat of the day, gorging itself on this bountiful feast, usually intoxicated by the fermented fruit littered under the trees. Though not friends, by any stretch of the imagination,  it is not uncommon to come across bear and leopard crossing paths on the Park’s numerous rocky outcrops.
In addition to these animals, the National Parks of Sri Lanka offer visitors the chance to experience hundreds of endemic species of flora and fauna. As an island nation, Sri Lanka’s plants and animals have evolved for centuries with little external influence. This makes the experience all the more unique and exotic. Therefore the downtime between animal sightings (part of any game drive), goes by unnoticed as visitors have much to discover in the beautiful surrounding landscapes.
© 2018. Kasun Priyankara (in-house naturalist, Taru Villas - Yala)

A few things to remember when planning a safari:

  • Dress in light, cool, neutral-coloured clothing – the Sri Lankan sun can burn so it is good to cover up, but in a way that balances the high temperatures (jungle heat). Also remember a hat and your sunscreen;
  • Stay hydrated – it is important to take plenty of water along so that you don’t get affected by the long hours in the sun;
  • Wear mosquito repellent – this is just good practice when you are outdoors (especially in the jungle);
  • Follow safari etiquette (ie: use your ‘inside voice’ when talking to others in your vehicle, try not to block other people’s photo – remember the jungle is there for everyone to enjoy, stay inside the vehicle, do not litter, keep cell phones on silent (if you need to bring them at all) and most of all, respect the wildlife around you);
  • Always heed the directions of your Tracker/ Naturalist;
  • Patience is a virtue – unlike zoos, the wilderness works on Nature’s schedule so though you may be brimming with excitement, it is important to keep in mind that all sightings, no matter big or small, are nature’s gift to us all.
  • Come prepared to wait a while – the experience is a wonderful one, but that is also why it attracts so many visitors.

If you are visiting Sri Lanka, a safari adventure is not to be missed!

Consider adding a night or two at Taru Villas – Yala which is situated in the rural hinterland in close proximity to Yala National Park. Stay at a stylish oasis in the jungle and experience the rush of a wildlife adventure that you will never forget!


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