National Parks in Sri Lanka.

There are many National Parks you can visit in Sri Lanka. Yala is the largest national park. The National Parks of Sri Lanka are managed by the department of Wild Life and Conservation. National Parks are bit different from Wild Life sanctuaries which allow free movements. You need to obtain permission and a guide provided by the park. You are not supposed to get out from the vehicle under any circumstances.You need drive a forword vehicle and stay only in specified roads.
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National Parks Highlights

Yala National Park

 Yala National Park is situated in the southeast region of the island in the dry zone boarding the Indian Ocean. Park area is belonging to two provinces namely South and Uva Provinces. The total area of the park (which is of 5 blocks) is 97,881 ha but only Block I and Block II are open for visitors.

The park was initially established in 1938 only with block I and other blocks were included later.Rainfall is highly seasonal. Main source of rainfall is Northeast monsoons (December ? February) and inter monsoonal rains during March-April. Mean Annual Rainfall: 900 ? 1300 mm. Area is experiencing drought during June ?October. Mean annual Temperature 27o C. Daily temperature above 30oC is not uncommon.Vegetation is mainly consists of Secondary lowland dry monsoon forest & semi arid thorny scrublands. Small patches of riverine forest, mangroves, sand dunes and dry grasslands also presented.

Forest area is dominated by Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Weera (Drypetes sepiaria), Malitthan (Salvadora persica), Ehala (Cassia fistula), Divul (Limonia acidissima) and Kohomba (Azadirachta indica). Thorny scrubland is dominated by Eraminia (Ziziphus.sp) and Andara (Dichrostachys cinerea). Sonneratia, Acanthus, Rhizopora and Lumnitzera species dominate the mangrove vegetation.

All the big game mammals of the country are found within the park. Elephant, Leopard, sloth bear, Spotted Dear, Wild Boar and sambhur. Apart from them small mammals such as Black naped hare, Grey, Ruddy & Striped necked mongoose, Grey Langur & porcupine are common small mammals.

Park is also famous for its abundant bird life. Over140 species have recorded so far within the park. Changeable Hawk Eagle, Crested serpent Eagle, Malabar pied Hornbill, Jungle fowl, painted Stork, White Ibis and Black necked Stork are commonly seen


How to get there

You can reach Yala from South coast via Tangalla and Hambantota or via Udawalawe from Ratnapura, Haputale or via Bandarawela, Tanamalwila from Nuwaraeliya. Yala is close to Udawalawe National Park
Yala National Park

Udawalawe National Park

The Udawalawe National Park situated in the dry zone of the country and belonging to Sabaragamuwa & Uva provinces. The park area is 30,821 ha. The park was established in 1972.

The park lies within dry zone and small segment lies within intermediate zone. The long dry season is characteristic feature. Main source of rainfall is southwest monsoon (May ? September) and mean annual rainfall is about 1520mm. the mean annual temperature is around 29?C.

Park consists of dry lowland forest, riverine forest, thorny scrublands and grasslands. One special attraction of the park is the Udawalawe reservoir and the Walawe River which flows through the park.

The main tree species found in the forest area are the satin (Chloroxylon swietenia), Milla (Vites pinata), ebony (Diospyros ebenum) and Ehala (Cassia fistula). Riverine forest dominated by Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) & Mandora (Hopea cordifolia). Mana (Cymbopogon confertiflorus), Illuk (Imperata cylindrica) and Daminiya (Grewia tiliaefolia) are found in grasslands & scrublands.

Udawalawe National Park is world famous for its large elephant populations. In this park one can observe Elephants at any given time of the day. Other than Elephants water buffalo, spotted & barking deer, wild boar, sambhur, jackal & ruddy, grey & striped necked mongoose are also found in this park. Though the leopard, jungle & fishing cats have recorded in the park sightings are very rare.

The park is also famous for birdlife. Crested serpent eagle, changeable hawk eagle, white-bellied sea eagle & grey-headed fishing eagle are the main raptors found in the park. Painted stork, open bill, little & Indian cormorant, Indian darter, many species of waders are also found within the park. Among the forest birds are the warblers, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Malabar pied hornbill, Sikir Malkoha, Blue face Malkoha, common Caucal, and grey hornbill.


How to get there

Uda walawe is easily accessible via Ratnapura after a 4 hours drive. You can also reach Udawalawe from Downsouth via Tangalla or Hambantota. Udawalawe is closer to Haputale and Bandarawela if you are coming from central hills. Yala National Park also near by Udawalawe.
Udawalawe National Park

Wasgamuwa National Park

 Wasgamuwa National Park was originally declared as strict nature reserve in 1938 and then change to a national park in 1984. The park lies within central and north- central provinces. The total park area is 39,322 ha.

Rainfall is mainly by northeast monsoon (December ? February) and inter-monsoonal rains. Mean annual rainfall varies from 1750mm in dry zone area to 2250 in intermediate zone. Mean annual temperature is around 27?C.

Park consists of riverine forest, dry mixed evergreen forest, grasslands and wetlands. As park is almost surrounded by Mahaweli & Amban Rivers, riverine forest area is fairly large.

Flora of the park consists of Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Weera (Drypetes sepiaria), Satin (Chloroxylon swietenia), Wa (Cassia roxburghii), Gal Siyambala (Dialium ovoideum) and Ebony (Diospyros ebenum). The riverine forest dominated by Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna), Mee (Madhuca longifoloa) and Thimbiri (Diospyros malabarica). Grasslands mainly consist of (Imperata cylindrica).

Wasgamuwa is famous as an elephant habitat. These Elephants are known to be less habituated to people and are more wildish. Other than elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambhur, spotted and barking deer, wild boar and wild buffalo are also found here. Torque Macaque, Purple face leaf monkey and nocturnal slender Loris is also found in the park. Lesser Adjutant, Wooly necked stork, open bill, painted stork, Racket tailed Drongo, Yellow fronted barbet, Sri Lanka Junglefowl & Spurfowl are among the over 100 species of birds found within the park.


How to get there

Wasgomuwa can be reached through Matale and Hettipola or from Dehiattakandiya coming from Polonnaruwa or from Mahiyangana.
Wasgamuwa National Park

Maduruoya National Park

Maduruoya is situated by Kuda Sigiriya a great eco location yet to be explored by travelers to Sri Lanka. You can see large elephant herd reaching maduruoya reservoir.

Maduruoya well known elephant habitat. Other than elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambhur, spotted and barking deer, wild boar and wild buffalo are also found here. Torque Macaque, Purple face leaf monkey and nocturnal slender Loris is also found in the park. Lesser Adjutant, Wooly necked stork, open bill, painted stork, Racket tailed Drongo, Yellow fronted barbet, Sri Lanka Junglefowl & Spurfowl are among the over 100 species of birds found within the park.


How to get there

Maduruoya can be reached through Matale and Hettipola or from Dehiattakandiya coming from Polonnaruwa or from Mahiyangana.
Maduruoya is closer to Wasgomuwa National park
Maduruoya National Park

Weerawila National Park

This dry zone sanctuary is mainly comprises with three lakes namely, Weerawila wewa, Debara wewa and Pannagamuwa wewa. Yodha wewa and Tissa wewa are another two lakes, which located little far away from above three lakes. All these lakes are act as ideal habitats for shorebirds. Since they are situated close to south coast and Bundala National Park, which is the south most destination of the migratory birds of Sri Lanka lot of migratory birds also can be seen here. Egrets, Cormorants, Asian Openbill, White Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill and many winter migrants can be seen here. Being the most prominent water resources in the area these tanks attracts considerable number of animals during the dry season. However the most common animal of the area is feral Buffalos.


How to get there

Weerawila can be reached from South Coast on your way from Yala
passing Hambantota a fascinating fishing town with a Natural harbour.
Weerawila National Park

Horton Plains National Park

 Horton Plains National Park is in the highlands of the country belonging to central province. This is the highest plateau in the country. This was declared as a National Park in 1988. The park area is 3160 hectare.

The second & third highest mountains of the country namely Kirigalpotta & Thotupola respectively are found within the borders of the park. Park receives rainfall from both northeast & southwest monsoons as well as inter-monsoonal rains. Frequently occurring mist and clouds are one main source of precipitation. With annual precipitation of about 5000mm Horton Plains is the most important catchments area of the country. Three major rivers of the country start from this area namely Kelani, Walawe & the Mahaweli the longest river of the country. There is a slight dry period between January to March. Due to altitude the area is comparatively cold. Mean annual temperature is around 15?C and during colder months it will go down further where it is cold enough to create ground frost.

Park consists of montane cloud forests embedded in wet montane grasslands. Horton Plains has rich biodiversity. Most of the fauna and flora found in the park are endemic and furthermore some of them are confined to highlands of the island.

Forests are dominated by Calophyllum sp. & Syzygium sp. Giant tree fern Cyathea sp. and colourful Rhododrendron are among the main attractions. Park is also famous for beautiful flowers of endemic Nellu (Strobilanthes sp.), Bovitiya (Osbeckia sp.), Binara (Exacum trinervium) and many other orchid species. Endemic dwarf Bamboo (Arundinaria densifolia) dominates the edges of the river while Chrysopogon zeylanicum and Garnotia mutica dominate the grasslands.

Though this was one of the best elephant habitats in the country they are locally extinct due to poaching & sports hunting occurred during the British colonial era. Leopard and Sambhur & wild boar are the most common large mammals in Horton Plains. Endemic Bear Monkey, Rusty- Spotted and Fishing cats, Otter, Black napped hare and Giant Squirrel are among other mammals. Many species of endemic & threatened rats & shrews are also found in the park. Diversity & endemicity of reptiles (Lizards) and amphibians are remarkably high.
Though this is cold highland plateau the bird diversity is very high. More than 70% of Sri Lanka?s endemic birds are found here.


How to get there

Horton Plains can be reached from Nuwaraeliya or Talawakale easily.
Horton Plains National Park

Bundala National Park

 Bundala National Park is situated in the southeast part of the country in the semi arid zone. Park belongs to Southern Province. The park area is 6,216 hectares.

The park was initially established as a Sanctuary in 1969. Due to its significant role as a wintering site for migratory birds this was declared as RAMSAR wetland in 1990.

As Bundala National Park is located in semi arid zone, rainfall is highly seasonal. Main source of rainfall is Northeast monsoons (December ? February). Mean Annual Rainfall: 900 ? 1300 mm. Area is experiencing prolong drought from May to October. Mean annual Temperature 27o C. Daily temperature above 30oC is not uncommon.

Bundala National Park is mainly consist of 4 brackish lagoons, salt pans, marshes, thorny scrub lands, sand dunes, dry mixed ever green forests and dry grass lands.

Scrublands mainly consist of Andara (Dichrostachys cinerea), Eraminiya (Ziziphus sp.), Karamba (Carrisa spinarum). However the invasive species such as Prosopis juliflora and Opuntia delenii are spreading in the grasslands and scrublands.
Forest is covered by typical dominants of Dry mixed ever green forests Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Weera (Drypetes sepiaria) and Mallithan (Salvadora persica). Maila (Bauhinia racemosa) and diwul (Limonia acidissima) are also frequently seen.

Park provides the shelter for Elephant, Spotted Dear, Wild Boar, Black naped hare, Grey & Ruddy mongoose, toque macaque, Grey Langur & porcupine, jackal and fishing & Rusty Spotted cats. This park is also well known for sightings of estuarine crocodile and mugger crocodile.

The main attraction of the Bundala is the birdlife, especially waders. There are both resident and migratory species. Greater Flamingo, Spot-billed Pelican, Lesser Adjutant and Black-necked Stork are among the large birds. Large flocks of terns, gulls, sand-pipers, snipes, teals, cormorants, egrets and many more water birds are commonly seen.


How to get there

Bundala is at a short distance from Yala National Park on the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka.
Bundala National Park
References
www.info.lk/srilanka/srilankanature/nationalparks.htm

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