Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe centers on the reservoir of the same name, which provides water for many of its animals, including its biggest draw—around 500 wild Asian elephants. Explore Udawalawe via 4WD game drives with a park driver-tracker. The park’s low scrub makes it perfect for spotting the elephants, as well as sambar deer, boar, waterbirds, and other animals. For more elephant interaction, visit the nearby Elephant Transit Home, an orphaned-elephant rehabilitation center.
To save time on the day of your trip, prebook admission and arrange a safari independently; or for extra ease, choose a tour that includes a safari and return transportation from places such as Colombo, Bentota, Galle, and Ella. Other possibilities include day-trip combos to Udawalawe and Yala National parks; multi-day wildlife photography or island packages that visit Udawalawe and other locations; and overnight safari experiences that include accommodation at park campsites and lodges.
Things to Know Before You Go
Safaris depart in the morning and afternoon and last about three hours.
Light clothing in colors that blend with the park’s scrubland is recommended.
Bring a camera, binoculars, sunhat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
How to Get There
Udawalawe National Park lies about 55 miles (88 kilometers) northeast of Galle, with its main entrance 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) off the Ratnapura-Hambantota A18 highway. While you can get there via cab or local bus-hopping from places such as Ella, Ratnapura, the easiest options are safari tours that incorporate a game drive, round-trip transportation, and hotel pickup and drop-off.
When to Get There
Udawalawe opens daily from dawn to dusk. The best times for game drives are early morning and late afternoon, when the animals are most active. While wildlife can be spotted year-round, October to May is best for viewing elephants and migratory birds. The June to October dry season, however, also draws animals to specific waterholes, so is ideal for viewing elephants, buffalo, deer, and boar.
Animals at Udawalawe National Park
Seeing elephants is virtually guaranteed at Udawalawe, with opportunities to view them up-close and in herds. The park’s rich biodiversity means that apart from deer, buffalo, and crocodiles, there’s plenty else to see, from water birds and monitor lizards to jackals and sloth bears. With luck, you might just see a leopard—but sightings are rare.
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