Udawalawe National Park
Notable and prominent for its large herds of elephants, it’s estimated that Udawalawe National Park is home to over 500 elephants, and amongst the best parks in the island to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. The park is Sri Lanka’s youngest, having only been established in the early 70s but with some 31,000 hectares, it makes for one of the most beautiful parks in the South and one of the few parks to observe and enjoy sometimes very close sightings of wild elephants, amongst a range of other mammals, birds and reptiles. The park’s unique collection of 94 varieties of plants, 21 fish, 12 amphibians, 33 reptiles, 43 mammals, 18 snakes, 135 butterfly and 184 species of birds attributes to the parks location partly within the Ratnapura District (a year round wet zone) and the Moneragala District (a year round dry zone). After visiting the banks of the Udawalawe Reservoir, it’s worth taking in the Pallebedda Sri Sankapala Purana Rajamaha Viharaya, which boasts of a network of natural caves used for meditation by Buddhist monks in ancient times. Uda Walawe has the Born Free Foundation supported Elephant Transit Home which takes in injured and orphaned elephants with the aim to rehabilitate and release back into the wild.