Lahugala National Park is one of the smallest in Sri Lanka and one of its most valuable conservation areas for elephants and endemic birds.
Lying in the basin of the Heda Oya, 16km inland from Pottuvil on the east coast, Lahugala has a total area of 1,554 hectares, encompassing three tanks (ancient reservoirs), Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa. These tanks are largely silted up and support an abundance of beru grass – the Asian elephant’s favourite.
The park was declared as a sanctuary in 1966 and upgraded to national park status in October 1980. It was closed to visitors during the civil war due to security issues, but it is now re-opened to tourism.
Nearby to Lahugala is the historic sight of Magulmahavihara, built for the King Kavantissa’s marriage to Viharamaha Devi. It's comfortably possible to combine a visit to this monument with a trip to Lahugala National Park.
As the park lies in the dry zone, the tanks' vegetation is a dry mixed evergreen forest with scrubs. Beru, a tall reedy grass, covers the tanks. The park is traditionally used as a feeding ground by elephants, with herds of up to 150 known to be observed between June and August. Other mammals include endemic toque macaques, grey langurs, sloth bears, golden jackals, the Indian muntjac, and spotted deer. The birdlife is diverse and includes various waterfowl, raptors and the usual dry zone forest birds.
You can visit Lahugala National Park from a hotel in Ella or Arugam Bay.
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