Against all odds Sri Lanka has managed to preserve its natural rain forests and environmental marvels. The plant and animal species that live here are most often endemic to the Island itself, but the migratory birds also cover a large number. Apart from its scientific importance, the views and landscapes in these areas are simply breathtaking and are a must-see for the traveling naturalist.
This National Park is a protected area in the central highlands of the Island and is covered by a rich grassland and cloud forest. It is essentially a highland at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres (6,900–7,500 ft) and is rich in biodiversity, many species here, being endemic to the region. A popular attraction among tourists is the ‘World's End’ precipice with its 4,000 ft (1,219 m) drop which is located at the southern point of the park. Other attractions include the various types of flora and fauna that grow here, bird watching excursions, and simply trekking through the area to soak up its awesome views.
Famed for its collection of Orchid varieties. The Royal Botanical Gardens are found in close proximity to the city of Kandy. With more than 300 varieties of Orchids, spices, medicinal plants, palms trees and other exotic plants, it is no wonder that the Gardens receive more than 1.4 million visitors every year. Although the Gardens have grown in fame in recent years, its roots can be traced back to the 19th century.
A direct translation of the city’s name would be the ‘city of lights’, most likely given by travelers who first saw the city through the dark mountainous terrain. Situated in the central highlands, Nuwara Eliya has earned a more accurate name of Sri Lanka’s ‘Little England’. The fresh chilly weather, lush green hills, numerous waterfalls, adrenalin packed horse races, quaint European styled cottages and hotels all contribute to uphold this name. Abundant in vegetation and strawberries all year round, the city is the perfect place to sit beside a fire and reflect. But if you’re feeling a tad sportier, the city is home to the Victoria Golf course, one of the best courses on the Island.
Safaris and open treks are available to tourists all through the year. Sri Lanka’s wildlife is rich, diverse and its elephant rehabilitation centre is one the most successful in the world. There’s a variety of places to go, depending on your taste, each unique and offering travelers something new to look forward to.
If you’re looking to get up close and personal with jumbo giants or just looking to do something you’ve never experienced before, the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is for you. It is the colossal home to more than 80 Elephants, most of whom have been saved from the wild. Visitors can observe the Elephants during daily bath-time or even participate as volunteers to bottle feed the baby Elephants. Whatever you choose to do, the experience visitors gain here is truly larger than life.
The second largest National park within the Island, it is situated on the southern coast, in the dry zone. The park is divided into 5 parts out of which only 2 are open to visitors. Although the reserve consists mainly of parkland there is far more to explore. It also contains flourishing jungle, sweeping beaches, freshwater lakes and rivers, scrubland and rocky outcrops. These diverse habitats are the main reason there is such rich and varied wildlife here. And with one of the world’s highest concentration of Leopards, a trip here guarantees a hint of safari-style adventure.
The park was created to provide a sanctuary to the wild animals that lost their habitat with the construction of the Udawalawe reservoir. What came to be was an eco-system far more successful than anyone had imagined. Many elephants from the Pinnawela orphanage have been reintroduced to the wild here and a herd of about 250 are believed to be residents here. From Sambar Deer, Wild Boar and Jackals to Leopards, Crocodiles and Wild Buffaloes, the park has got it all and is a hot favorite for tourists.
Centered around the ancient Minneriya Tank, the park consists of scrub and light forests and its massive 8890 hectares provide shelter for Elephants, Macaques, Sambar Deer, Leopards and various species of birds. The dry season (June to September) is considered the best time to visit, because most of the wildlife centers around the main tank. More than 150 wild elephants live here and that number grows every year.
Of the 428 species of birds found in Sri Lanka, 143 species can be found here. There are approximately 23 species of mammals that thrive here, which includes Elephants, Wild Buffaloes, Spotted Deer, Leopards, Sloth Bears, Water Monitors and Crocodiles. The park also has historic roots, having been used as camping grounds for armies of ancient kings.
It has come to be considered as one of the most important bird nesting and breeding grounds in Sri Lanka. Nearly 255 species of birds have been recorded here. And during the migratory season of April–July thousands of birds migrate to the Kumana swamp. Visitors can catch a glimpse of rare bird species such as the Eurasian Spoonbill, and the Great Thick-knee, who also breed here. Apart from the birds the surrounding areas are also home to mammals such as Elephants, the European Otter, Fishing Cats and the Indian Flap-shelled Turtles.