Udawalawe National Park : Everything you need to know before an Elephant Safari

Everything you need to know about Udawalawe National Park

Elephants in Udawalawe National Park Sri Lank

Elephants in Udawalawe National Park Sri Lanka

Elephants in Udawalawe National Park Sri Lanka

Elephants in National Park of Udawalawe

Elephants in National Park of Udawalawe

Udawalawe National Park is a favorite place among the tourists for guaranteed elephant sightings in Sri Lanka.

It was declared as a national park on 30 June 1972 and became the third most visited National Park in Sri Lanka. It is a home for few hundreds of Asian Elephants, monkeys, spotted deer and more than 150 species of birds.

It’s a semi-arid scrub forest with open grasslands which are suitable for game viewing. It was a chena cultivation land before being a protected area. Even it is a secondary forest, few of endemic flora also has been found in the National Park area.

Why should You visit Udawalawe National Park?

If you are visiting the down south of Sri Lanka, there are two main National Parks to visit. One is Yala National Park, and the other is Udawalawe National Park.

Both National parks have the same vegetation and most likely the same species of animals as well.

Since Yala is known as the leopard paradise, there is a large number of visitors come to the park daily. So if you are looking for a specific Elephant safari in Sri Lanka, Udawalawe National Park is the best place to visit. 

It has less crowd and size is also a third of the size of Yala National Park, which gives you a more private experience. 

How do You get to Udawalawe National Park?

Since this National Park is a bit out of the coastal line, hiring a car is the easiest option to visit Udawalawe.

If coming from Colombo by public transport, you are getting a bus to Matara from southern expressway is the easiest way. 

Then you can get a bus from Matara to Embilipitiya which takes around 1hr and 30 minutes.  Local communities run safaris in the area; you may contact them once you get down at Walawe Junction.

Safari cost is usually reduced if there are more people in the jeep. So sharing a jeep with few other like-minded people is not going to be a big hassle. 

If you are ready for the morning safari, it is better to stay somewhere around the area to get into the park early. There are a lot of places to sta, including star class hotels to hostels.

When should You visit Udawalawe National Park?

A leopard in the National Park, Sri Lanka

Monkey in Udawalawe National Park

Since Udawalawe National Park is located in the semi-arid dry zone, there is a chance of seeing elephants near the water holes and lakes inside the park. 

These chances are high during the dry season between May to September. But there is no barrier of rain to see Elephants; there are always a few hundreds of elephants in the park.

Even it is the rainy season you can see them in the bushes. But if you are visiting during September and October months, there will be a slightly high number of safari jeeps. Since the Yala National Park is closed at that time more people visit this park.

The majority of safari vendors are operating morning and evening safaris.

Since the dawn and dusk are perfect for sightings, you will not regret to wake up early and get into the park by 6 AM.

If you are staying close to the park, the safari jeep offers to come and pick you from the accommodation. Since the park is only open between 6 AM to 6 PM, you can go for an evening drive around 3 PM.

During the evening drive, you can see elephants having a good time in the water holes. Within the 3 hour safari, you can have a great safari experience in the wilderness. 

What to expect from a safari other than Elephants?

Eagles on a Tree - Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka

Eagles on a Tree – Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka

Very close up photo of an Eagle, National Park

Very close up photo of an Eagle, National Park

Peacocks are a very common sight in the park

Peacocks are a very common sight in the park

As I mentioned earlier, Udawalawe is a concerning habitat for water birds. Since the park has few waterholes, you can see most of the water birds next to waterholes.

Very rarely Sri Lankan leopards and Sri Lankan Sloth Bears also have been recorded in the park a few times a year.

And don’t forget the monkeys and crocodiles! You will see a lot of grey langur monkeys and torque monkeys, which are a cool sighting in their natural habitat.

Commonly the freshwater crocodiles are resting on the banks of water holes, during day time they try to regulate body temperature by keeping the mouth wide open. 

Other than that, Udawalawe is a popular destination for jungle cats. Even they are nocturnal still there is a chance of a couple of jungle cats in a drive-in Udawalawe National Park. 

Any tips for a perfect wilderness experience?

It is nice experience to .see elephant near the water holes and lakes inside the park

It is a nice experience to .see elephant near the water holes and lakes inside in the park

The roads of the National Park can be mostly bumpy and dusty if it is the dry season. So make sure you take care of cameras and binoculars on the drive.

And there are some narrow roads where the overhanging branches will hit you with thorny barks. Even your driver is trying his best to avoid those, better to keep an eye on them.

Always be a respectable tourist when it comes to a safari, have a safe distance with the animals. Especially with elephants, you never know when they get disturbed by your presence. 

Avoid feeding wild animals, this including out of the park as well. There is an electric fence around the park, and most people used to feed Elephants there. 

Additionally, you may get a tracker from the wildlife department on availability who support you for spotting animals.  The drivers of the safari jeeps are also good at spotting the animals. It is more like a lifestyle for them than a job, so always listen to them.