National Parks

National Parks Around the Country

YALA NATIONAL PARK

Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public, and also adjoining parks. The blocks have individual names such as, Ruhuna National Park (block 1) and Kumana National Park or 'Yala East' for the adjoining area. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometres (378 sq mi) and is located about 300 kilometres (190 mi) from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds.

MINNERIYA NATIONAL PARK

Minneriya National Park is a national park in North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The area was designated as a national park on 12 August 1997, having been originally declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. The reason for declaring the area as protected is to protect the catchment of Minneriya tank and the wildlife of the surrounding area. The tank is of historical importance, having been built by King Mahasen in third century AD. The park is a dry season feeding ground for the elephant population dwelling in forests of Matale, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee districts. The park earned revenue of Rs. 10.7 millions in the six months ending in August 2009. Along with Kaudulla and Girithale, Minneriya forms one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Sri Lanka. The park is situated 182 kilometres (113 mi) from Colombo.

WASGOMUWA NATIONAL PARK

Wasgamuwa National Park is a natural park in Sri Lanka situated in the Matale and Polonnaruwa Districts . It was declared to protect and to make a refuge for the displaced wild animals during the Mahaweli Development Project in 1984 and is one of the four National Parks designated under the Project. Originally it was designated as a nature reserve in 1938, and then in the early 1970s the area was regraded as a strict nature reserve. Wasgamuwa is one of protected areas where Sri Lankan Elephants can be seen in large herds. It is also one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka. The name of the Wasgamuwa has derived through the words "Walas Gamuwa". "Walasa" is Sinhala for sloth bear and "Gamuwa" means a wood. The park is situated 225 km away from Colombo.

GAL OYA NATIONAL PARK

Gal Oya National Park in Sri Lanka was established in 1954 and serves as the main catchment area for Senanayake Samudraya, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka. Senanayake Samudraya was built under the Gal Oya development project by damming the Gal Oya at Inginiyagala in 1950. An important feature of the Gal Oya National Park is its elephant herd that can be seen throughout the year. Three important herbs of the Ayurveda medicine, triphala: Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellirica and Emblica officinalis are amongst the notable flora of the forest. From 1954 to 1965 the park was administrated by the Gal Oya Development Board until the Department of Wildlife Conservation took over administration. The national park is situated 314 km from Colombo.

KAUDULLA NATIONAL PARK

Kaudulla National Park is a national park on the island of Sri Lanka located 197 kilometres (122 mi) away from the largest city, Colombo. It was designated a national park on April 1, 2002 becoming the 15th such area on the island. In the 2004–2005 season more than 10,000 people visited the National Park, generating an income of Rs.100,000 from entrance fees. Along with Minneriya and Girithale BirdLife International have identified Kaudulla as an Important Bird Area.
Historically Kaudulla was one of the 16 irrigation tanks built by King Mahasen. Following a period of abandonment it was reconstructed in 1959. It now attracts and supports a variety of plant and animal life, including large mammals, fish and reptiles.

KUMANA NATIONAL PARK

Kumana National Park in Sri Lanka is renowned for its avifauna, particularly its large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds. The park is 391 kilometres (243 mi) southeast of Colombo on Sri Lanka's southeastern coast. Kumana is contiguous with Yala National Park. Kumana was formerly known as Yala East National Park, but changed to its present name in 5 September 2006.
The park was closed from 1985 to March 2003 because of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) attacks. It was also affected by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

BUNDALA NATIONAL PARK

Bundala National Park is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. Bundala harbors 197 species of birds, the highlight being the greater flamingo, which migrate in large flocks. Bundala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and redesignated to a national park on 4 January 1993. In 1991 Bundala became the first wetland to be declared as a Ramsar site in Sri Lanka. In 2005 the national park was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the fourth biosphere reserve in Sri Lanka. The national park is situated 245 kilometres (152 mi) southeast of Colombo.

WILPATTU NATIONAL PARK

Wilpattu National Park (Willu-pattu; Land of Lakes) is a park located on the island of Sri Lanka. The unique feature of this park is the existence of "Willus" (Natural lakes) - Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. Located in the Northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka. The park is located 30 km west Anuradhapura and located 26 km north of Puttalam (approximately 180 km north of Colombo). The park is 131, 693 hectares and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Nearly sixty lakes (Willu) and tanks are found spread throughout Wilpattu. Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka. Wilpattu is among the top national parks world-renowned for its leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) population. The leopard population in Wilpattu is not known.

UDAWALAWE NATIONAL PARK

Udawalawe National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, in Sri Lanka. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir. The reserve covers 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and was established on 30 June 1972. Before the designation of the national park, the area was used for shifting cultivation (chena farming). The farmers were gradually removed once the national park was declared. The park is 165 kilometres (103 mi) from Colombo. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country.

HORTON PLAINS NATIONAL PARK

Horton Plains National Park in Ohiya is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is covered by montane grassland and cloud forest. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres (6,900–7,500 ft) is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. This region was designated a national park in 1988. It is also a popular tourist destination and is situated 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Ohiya, 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the world famous Ohiya Gap/Dondra Watch and 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Nuwara Eliya.
The Horton Plains are the headwaters of three major Sri Lankan rivers, the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe. In Sinhala the plains are known as Maha Eliya Plains. Stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture have been found here. The plains' vegetation is grasslands interspersed with montane forest, and includes many endemic woody plants. Large herds of Sri Lankan sambar deer feature as typical mammals, and the park is also an Important Bird Area with many species not only endemic to Sri Lanka but restricted to the Horton Plains. Forest dieback is one of the major threats to the park and some studies suggest that it is caused by a natural phenomenon.