Renowned for its wealth of faunal species and outstanding scenery, Udawalawe is located in both the Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces just south of the Sri Lanka's iconic tea-clad hills.
Encompassing the Udawalawe Reservoir along with much of its catchment area, the park covers just less than 31,000 hectares. The area was declared the 5th National Park of Sri Lanka on the 30th June 1972. Its dominant ecosystem is forest scattered with grasslands and thorny shrubs, though part of the park is a reclaimed tea estate! Tree species likely to be observed are Satin and Ebony among others.
On the wildlife side, the large herds of Asian elephants are the main drawcards, but populations of leopard, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, wild boar and water buffalo are gradually increasing. Other mammals found within the park include the endemic toque macaque, common langur, golden jackal, sloth bear and toddy cat.
The avifauna in the park is diverse, with birds of prey throughout and a wealth of waterbird species found on the Udawalawe reservoir, including the Indian cormorant and osprey.
It's an excellent spot to visit all year round, with a resident elephant population among other wildlife, meaning that you will rarely be disappointed in terms of wildlife viewings. There is also an excellent elephant orphan transit camp attached to the park, where four times a day you can observe the young elephants being bottle fed. This is a great initiative funded by the Born Free Foundation and involves elephants that have been orphaned or injured before 5 years of age. Once the orphans reach 5 years old, they are released back into the park to continue life in the wild, where they belong.
To visit Udawalawe, the best option is to do a two-night camping safari with Leopard Safaris; allowing you to get a real in-depth view into the park and its inhabitants. If time and money are more restricted, check out Kalu’s Hideaway, a simple but perfectly formed boutique hotel located just down the road from the main gates.