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National Parks
Udawalawe National Park
Is situated in the dry zone and is a large area of scrub, grass and old plantation around a large reservoir. Udawalawe National Park is very well known for its outstanding scenic beauty and wealth of fauna species, particularly mammals and birds. One of the main attractions of this park is the opportunity to view elephants at a really close range.
Herds of elephants, populations of sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, water buffalo common langur, jackal, sloth bear, leopard, black napped hare, endemic golden palm civet and mongoose are some of the animals that can be sighted at this national park. Udawalawe is also a great place to watch water birds. Rare visitors and breeding residents such as the Indian cormorant and osprey can be found on the reservoir. Notable endemic species are the Sri Lanka junglefowl, Sri Lanka spurfowl, malabar pied hornbill, Sri Lanka grey hornbill and brown-capped babbler.
Wasgomuwa National Park
Also located in the dry zone, Wasgomuwa National Park is almost completely surrounded by large rivers on all its sides. Probably one of the best places in the island for near wildlife fanatics as it contains more wildlife, in terms of both wild fauna and flora. 23 species of mammals, 143 species of birds (5 of which are endemic), 35 species of reptiles (of which 7 are endemic), 15 species of amphibians, 17 species of fish and 52 species of butterflies are known to be found here.
Bundala National Park
A simply picture perfect national park bordering the ocean fringed with sand dunes, and dotted with numerous lagoons. The five lagoons of this park are some of the most important wintering areas for migratory shore birds in the country, regularly accommodating over 15,000 at any one time! This park is the last refuge of the greater flamingo and during the northeast monsoon up to 2000 flamingoes have been seen.
You don't have to look too hard to spot elephant, spotted deer and wild buffalo among the thorny scrub jungle in the park. The open habitat makes it ideal to spot other mammals such as the endemic toque macaque, common langur, jackal, leopard, fishing cat, rusty spotted cat and porcupine. Sea turtles love the golden beaches and sand dunes of Bundala, and frequent here often to nest. Among reptiles' the mugger crocodile, estuarine crocodile, common monitor, python, endemic flying snake and beautiful star tortoise can be sighted here. The park is the home of every species of water bird resident in the country and during the northern winter, it is the final destination for countless numbers species. It is also home to several species of migratory waterfowl. The rare black necked stork is said to be a breeding resident in Sri Lanka.
Bundala's richness in birds' species is why it was declared a Ramsar Site in 1990, having international significance for wetland birds.
Yala National Park
The largest national park in Sri Lanka formed by a completely diverse landscape ranging from the ocean to jungles, scrubland, freshwater rivers and lakes, which support a large variety of wildlife. Over 30 species of mammals are known to be found here, including threatened species such as the sloth bear, leopard, elephant and water buffalo. You'll probably have the best chance of sighting a leopard here than anywhere else on the island.
Some 120-130 birds' species can be seen at Yala. Raptors like the crested serpent eagle, and white bellied sea eagle and water birds including the lesser flamingo, pelican, painted stork and night heron can be spotted in the lagoons. The north-east monsoon is seen to attract thousands of migrating waterfowl including, pintail, white winged black tern and eurasian curlew which mix with residents such as whistling duck and yellow wattled lapwing. Other interesting birds' species you could spot at Yala are the Sri Lanka junglefowl, black-necked stork, and pompadour green pigeon, three species of bee-eaters and large flocks of flamingoes.
Yala is also home to a variety of reptiles such as crocodiles, the venomous Russel's viper and a variety of sea turtles. The endangered olive ridley and leatherback turtles return to the Yala coastline often for nesting.
Minneriya National Park
Virtually built around the Minneriya reservoir, this park is certainly one of the most scenic in the island. During the dry season from June to September, the reservoir becomes a favorite gathering place for scores of elephants who get together to eat, drink and be merry. Many species of mammals such as sambar, spotted deer, leopard, sloth bear and endemics like the toque macaque and purple faced langur are favorite attractions.
Minneriya is full of a vast number of birds. 160 species are found here. Look out for the Sri Lanka junglefowl, Sri Lanka hanging parrot, Sri Lanka brown capped babbler, crimson fronted barbet, black crested bulbul, all of which are endemics. Nine species of amphibians have been reported to live in this park and among them are endemic and endangered slender wood frog and common tree frog. Endemic and endangered lizards like the red lipped lizard are also found here. 26 species of fish are found in the reservoirs.
Kaudulla National Park
Kaudulla is the newest national park and forms a corridor for elephants migrating between Somawathiya National Park in the north to Minneriya National Park, further south. Is a very popular place for elephant lovers, as you get to see large numbers of elephants close up. Leopards, sambar deer and the occasional sloth bear are also interesting animals to watch out for. If you're looking for new and exciting ways to see and photograph wildlife, then a catamaran ride on the expansive Kaudulla reservoir is something that just shouldn't be missed. Kaudulla is also an excellent location for bird watching.
Horton Plains National Park
Strikingly different from the other national parks in that, visitors to Horton Plains are allowed to walk on their own on the designated tracks. The scenic beauty and wildlife of Horton Plains which is a remote 2000m high plateau just south of Nuwara Eliya is set to impress even the most discerning traveler. Most habitats and endemic plants and animals representative of our wet and montane zones are sure to be found here. This national park is abundant with some of the smaller endemic mammals like sambar, endemic toque macaque, purple faced langur, leopard, wild otter, long tailed giant squirrel, horned lizard and bear monkey. If you are really keen on seeing the Sri Lanka whistling thrush, Sri Lanka magpie, dull-blue flycatcher, orange-billed babbler and the black-throated munia then Horton Plains is definitely worth a visit, as this is one of the best places in the whole island to see them. This park is a paradise for butterflies as well. Various raptors such as crested serpent eagle and mountain hawk eagle
can be seen circling over the plains. Among reptiles are snake and the wide spread agamid.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve or 'Kingdom of the Lion' is located in the south-west part of the island and is one of the last remaining areas of tropical rain forest in Sri Lanka. Sinharaja was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988.
Because of the dense vegetation, wildlife is not as easily seen as at dry-zone national parks such as Yala. You won't find any elephants and the 15 or so leopards are rarely seen. The commonest larger mammal is the endemic purple faced langur. An unusual and fascinating spectacle is when birds from many different species move together in mixed feeding flocks in search of food. As the flock approaches you'll see and hear the noisy calls of orange-billed babblers and a greater racket-tailed drongo. As the birds pass, you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the quieter, more inconspicuous, members of the flock. Some of the fascinating birds found in Sri Lanka you can find right here at Sinharaja include the Sri Lanka spurfowl, Sri Lanka junglefowl, green-billed coucal, red-faced malkoha, blue magpie, spot-winged thrush, scaly thrush, white-faced starling, chestnut-backed owlet, black-throated munia and the Sri Lanka myna.
Sinharaja is an absolute treasure trove of endemic species. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds but the reserve is also home to over 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians.
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