Some time ago we swapped our safari and camping activities on our Sri Lanka tour from Yala National Park to lesser-known Udawalawe. Both are fantastic Sri Lankan National Parks with Yala being the country’s best known protected area but with the slightly smaller Udawalawe lying a short distance to the west still offering great wildlife spotting possibilities and excellent overnight camping facilities. The reasoning being that in our opinion, Yala, particularly in high season, was getting very busy with tourists and Udawalawe is less frequented.
Fair enough we thought although since then several of our excellent local guides have pointed out that we simply weren’t visiting the right part of Yala and that with a core area alone of nearly 1,000 square kilometres there are plenty of opportunities to get away from the crowds if the local guide knows where and when to go! Udawalawe is certainly a great location with a plentiful elephant population, buffalo, jackals, crocs and myriad birdlife but Yala does lay claim to having the world’s largest leopard population as well as no less than 44 mammal and 215 bird species.
It’s true that the majority of visitors, arriving from the various south coast resorts, enter the park by the main entrance so, as we’ll be coming from the small town of Ella in the Hill Country, we’ll simply head for the much quieter northern section or ‘back door’. (Ok, done deal; this actually fits in better with our route anyway and we can still take in Udawalawe’s famous Transit Camp, (rehabilitation centre) on a subsequent journey.)
We’re sticking to Minneriya National Park on our May to October, Sri Lanka Discovery itinerary as this is the period to catch the spectacular ‘Elephant Gathering’, but we’ve also now added Wilpattu to that tour. Wilpattu, Sri Lanka’s largest national park, lying in the northwest of the island, is perfectly placed between the ancient city and World Heritage site of Anuradhapura and our last stop at Negombo. Despite fabulous wildlife and another excellent camp (the same bunch run ‘Big Game Camps‘ in several of the country’s major parks), it is also one of the more remote and least visited wilderness areas.
For our Sri Lanka family itinerary – mainly aimed at the July-August period – we’ve also then included Wilpattu as well as keeping Minneriya. Horton Plains National park, with its stunning landscapes and excellent hiking opportunities complementing the wildlife, is still a feature of all three itineraries.
Check this link for further details of our Sri Lanka tours and Sri Lankan national parks. Best of luck to everyone and stay safe and healthy!