Sri Lanka, a wildlife paradise awaits you

You might remember my  first blog on Sri Lanka  back in March last year. In it I outlined some of the wonderful places you could visit on a bespoke tour of the island. I thought it would be a good time to revisit this beautiful destination, virtually at the moment, as there is so much more to see and do in Sri Lanka. It is certainly one of the places in the world that can be returned to and still find new and surprising wonders, as I have done many times.

I thought this time I’d explore the natural wonders of Sri Lanka a little more. Sri Lanka has what might be described as ‘a crowded ecological stage’, the diversity is extraordinary. What’s more, all the different ecological zones, from sand dunes to cloud forest, can be experienced within a week. There are 12 national parks, and 52 wildlife sanctuaries on the island.

The Big Three

The ‘big three’ mammals you’ll not want to miss are the graceful iconic elephants, leopards and the sloth-bear. In the south east of the island is the large Yala National Park which is one of the best places to see leopards. In Sri Lanka this beautiful creature is the top predator. If you want to see a real spectacle you should head for the Minneriya tank at the end of the dry season in September. This is one of the last water sources to dry up and so elephants gather from miles around, often in their hundreds, to feed on the fresh vegetation there. The lovely shaggy sloth-bear inhabits the dry zones such as Wasgamuwa national park in the centre of the island. Normally feeding on termites with their long sharp claws, in May and June they take to the trees to feed on the fruit of the Palu tree.

Bird Life

Of course there is much more wildlife than just the mammals; Sri Lanka is also an ornithologist and bird watchers’ paradise. The Spot-bellied Forest Eagle Owl, hornbills, parakeets, peacocks and the Sri Lankan Paradise Flycatcher, are just some of the beautiful birds to be enjoyed. The UNESCO world heritage site, Sinharaja forest reserve is a good place to start as it is an area of topical forest where many species come together.

Beside and Beneath the Waves

But it is not only on dry land that you can experience the wonders of Sri Lanka’s natural world. The coastline of Sri Lanka is where, during a full moon between September and November, the leatherback turtles emerge from their eggs laid in the sand, to venture to the safety of the sea. Much is being done to help these iconic creatures to prosper such as the  sea turtle hatchery near Galle on the south coast. Venturing deeper into the crystal blue oceans that surround the island provides the opportunity to witness a kaleidoscope of fish and corals living amongst sunken wrecks. Diving is good all year around because conditions are ideal at least one of the coastal areas at any time. Above the waves you will not want to miss the chance to do a bit of whale watching. The largest animal on the planet, the Blue Whale, can be spotted off the quiet  Mirissa  beach on the South Coast from November to May, as are Humpback and Sperm whales. On the north west coast scores of dolphins can be seen leaping and playing off the Kalpitiya peninsula.

So on land, in the sea and in the air, the ecological stage of Sri Lanka is indeed packed with wildlife like nowhere else. Add to that the cultural heritage, culinary delights and the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka, this is an amazing destination to visit or indeed to re-visit.

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