Udawalawe National Park
On the boundaries of Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka lies one of the best national parks in Sri Lanka for spotting the magnificent Asian elephant. Udawalawe National Park is the island’s third most visited National Park, spanning over 30,000 hectares of dry and wet zone land. Udawalawe was created as a sanctuary for displaced animals during the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir. It has become an important habitat for water birds and the Asian elephants. There is an elephant population close to 350 in the area, and you can see them all-year round. The elephants are attracted to the park mainly due to the Udawalwe Reservoir, which provides them with plenty of water to feed, frolic and bathe.
The Udawalwe Elephant Transit Home functions as a safe haven for the abandoned elephant calves. The Transit Home looks after them until they are old enough to fend for themselves once released into the wild. Although elephants are the main attraction in the park, other wildlife too occupies its grounds. The leopard, Fishing cat and the Rusty-spotted cat are the big cats of Udawalawe. The sloth bear, the Samba deer, Axis deer, Indian muntjac, Sri Lankan chevrotain, water buffalo, Mugger crocodiles, macaques and langurs are some of the other inhabitants you can look forward to seeing. The only way to explore the park is by jeep, and guided safaris in Udawalawe are a truly unique experience. If you are an avid birder, then you are in for a treat here, as it is a thriving breeding ground for 180 species of birds.
Five types of eagles namely, white-bellied sea eagle, crested serpent-eagle, grey-headed fish eagle, booted eagle, and changeable hawk-eagle are found here, among pelicans, kingfishers, painted storks, hornbills, spoonbills, and the Eurasian openbill. Endemic birds such as the Sri Lanka spurfowl, red-faced malkoha, Sri Lanka Grey hornbill, Brown-capped babbler, and Sri Lanka junglefowl too are abound the reserve.
The lack of dense vegetation and open grasslands make it easier for spotting wildlife in Udawalwe and the reservoir is a convenient place to watch herds of elephants bathing. The Walawe River and its tributaries surround the reservoir area, while forests and marshes make up the rest of the landscape.