Sri Lanka is a small island country with an area of approximately 65,000km2 located in Southeast Asia, Southeast of India and Northeast of the Maldives. Sri Lanka is situated in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. Although it is an island, Sri Lanka offers an amazing experience to anyone who visits. This unique country boasts an abundance of amazing wildlife with stunning scenery to match. Sri Lanka is Asia’s top wildlife destination and possibly the best destination for wildlife viewing outside of Africa. In Sri Lanka, there are approximately 60 national parks some of which are UNESCO heritage sites due to their unique biodiversity. Sri Lanka is also home to The Big Four; the Sri Lankan Elephant, the elusive Leopard, the Sloth Bear and the Blue Whale. Covered in rainforest, Sri Lanka is home to more species of flora and fauna than you could possibly imagine. What better way to explore the beauties of Sri Lanka than a Sri Lanka safari holiday?
What types of safari’s can I do…
Sri Lanka offers a range of different safari tours, including underwater safaris, rainforest safaris, walking safaris, whale watching safari and wildlife photography tours. In Sri Lanka you can also go on the most popular type of safari; a game drive. On a game drive, you are usually accompanied by a tracker and a ranger, who scan the environment for the best animal sightings whilst also ensuring your safety. On a walking safari you will also go with a ranger or a guide and because you are on foot you will get a completely different safari experience; it is sometimes even possible to approach the wildlife to a very short distance. Walking safaris are a thrilling experience as you are able to observe the wildlife without the protection of a car. On an underwater safari, you will adventure into the Indian Ocean to a number of great dive sights. The dive sites are made up of beautifully biodiverse coral reefs which are home to many species of hard coral, colourful reef fish and more. You can also visit other interesting things on a boat safari in Sri Lanka such as shipwrecks. On these tours, you will be accompanied by a guide who will take care of you every step of the way and ensure that you have the best underwater experience possible. A rainforest safari is also a popular choice for safaris in Sri Lanka, as you explore deep into the rainforest which is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna.
Huge diversity in this small paradise…
Sri Lanka is situated in the Indian Ocean, which is an extremely vast ocean with Africa to the West and Asia to the North and East. This ocean is so vast that it is said to hold up to 20% of water on the Earth’s surface. If you go on a diving safari in Sri Lanka you are likely to see an incredible array of marine life including the Yellow Striped Fusilierand Damselfish and Blue-streak Wrasse. If it’s not only beautiful coral and colorful fish that you wish to see, you might also be lucky enough to see the Pygmy Blue Whale, Sperm Whale, and Spinner Dolphin. On a Whale and Dolphin watching boat trip safari, you can also view the Blue Whale; the largest animal on the earth. On these trips, you can also watch playful Dolphins as they ride the waves next to your boat and other types of whale such as Fin Whale, Pilot Whale or even Killer Whales. The ocean surrounding Sri Lanka is a haven of natural diversity and abundant in marine life. This is because of the government’s policy to forbid civilians from fishing within ten miles offshore. This has allowed cetacean life to flourish in the water surrounding Sri Lanka. The government also minimized water travel within ten miles offshore meaning that coral reefs have also been able to flourish here too. Ecotourism is also a huge factor in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan navy have established ecological standards to protect whales’ environment while developing safe access for research, diving safaris and whale watching tours.
What can be seen on these tours…
In Sri Lanka, you can also take part in rainforest safaris, walking safaris, game drive safaris and special photography tours. On these tours, you will see a huge variety of wildlife including Leopards, Sri Lankan Elephant, Sloth Bears, Monkeys, various reptiles and over 215 species of stunning birds. These safari tours can last up to 12 hours and will take you to some of the most remote yet awe-inspiring locations in Sri Lanka where you are sure to see some mesmerizing wildlife. Safari trips in Sri Lanka are compiled alongside highly trained safari veterans which assure guests will receive a once in a lifetime safari experience. Any safari tour can be customized to meet all of your expectations. If it’s the elusive Leopard you wish to see, the trained trackers and guides will try their utmost to locate one for you. If you wish to see the wonderful Sri Lankan Elephant in its natural habitat then you will be taken to where they are known to roam. You can be taken to the best bird watching locations if its beautiful birds that you wish to see or if you want to photograph some incredible scenery then the guides know the perfect places for you. You can also opt to meet and greet the Vedda People (aboriginal Sri Lankan people) and spend a day with them, appreciating their unique culture and way of life.
Sri Lanka has a vast array of untouched natural habitats for you to enjoy. The biological diversity that this small island encompasses is huge. Sri Lanka has an incredible amount of endemism of both flora and fauna. Specifically, 16% of fauna and 23% of flora are endemic to the country, making Sri Lanka even more unique than you could possibly imagine. Sri Lanka is also home to almost sixty national parks and reserves located nationwide. Some of these national parks and reserves are even UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their vast biodiversity and unique arrays of flora and fauna.
The Sri Lankan Elephant is possibly one of the main reasons that people choose to visit the country and go on a safari tour. As ecotourism gains traction, more and more people opt to see Elephants in their natural habitats. The Sri Lankan Elephant is a sub-species of Asian Elephant. Sri Lankan Elephants are thought to have initially arrived from India. Previously they were able to freely roam the entire island but are now restricted to National Parks and Reserves as much of their habitat is turned into crop fields. The Elephants in Sri Lanka can sometimes be seen in herds of up to 10 to 12 at one time. Sri Lankan Elephants are classified as endangered due to brisk habitat loss and poaching for their ivory tusks. Don’t let this scare you though; in Sri Lanka, the penalty for killing an Elephant is the death penalty and they are protected by law.
Every year in Sri Lanka there is an annual spectacle called “The Gathering”. At this time up to 400 Sri Lankan Elephants can be viewed together. The Gathering occurs during the dry-season where the Elephants gather at a large predictable water source which provides the perfect area for feeding, drinking, and breeding. A lot of Elephant calves are usually present at The Gathering also which makes this a once in a lifetime opportunity that you should not miss while on your Sri Lanka safari holiday.
The Sri Lankan Leopard is viewed as a wonder, and rightfully so. Sri Lanka is thought to have one of the highest leopard densities in the world. In 2015 the Leopard population in Sri Lanka was thought to be 700 to 950 individuals, and in 2008 the Sri Lankan Leopard was classified as endangered. Like the Sri Lankan Elephant, the Sri Lankan Leopard is also threatened by habitat loss and poaching. Due to their extremely elusive behavior, spotting one of these animals could be the highlight of your Sri Lanka safari trip. Highly trained and dedicated guides will try to find one of these Leopards if you wish to see one in its natural environment.
Sri Lanka is home to 113 mammalian species including 16 terrestrial and 28 marine mammals which are endemic to the country. Other endemic mammals apart from the Sri Lankan Elephant and the Sri Lankan Leopard include the Sloth Bear and the Blue Whale. Sloth Bears are considered to be a highly threatened species with a wild population of less than 1000. The Sri Lankan Sloth Bear is usually found in lowland dry forest areas of the country. Yala National Park is noted as one of the best places in Sri Lanka to view Sloth Bears. The Southern tip of Sri Lanka is said to be the best place in the world to go whale watching, so if you are interested in viewing some unforgettable marine life, you should consider making this location part of your Sri Lanka boat safari tour.
The whale’s migration path is located not far from Dondra Point on the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Other interesting terrestrial mammals that can be viewed on a Sri Lanka safari include the Red Slender Loris, the Toque Macaque, the Purple Faced Langur and the Golden Palm Civet. These mammals are also classed as vulnerable or endangered meaning that spotting them in their natural environments can be difficult yet rewarding.
Birds of Sri Lanka
Bird watching is also a popular activity in Sri Lanka due to the countries extensive population of beautiful bird life. Sri Lanka has been named one of the best places in the world to go bird watching. The sanctuaries and wetlands on the Southeast part of the island coupled with the temperate climate make this area an ideal habitat for migrating birds, therefore a hotspot for many bird watching enthusiasts. Sri Lanka hosts more than 400 species of bird including 23 endemics and 200 migratory birds who arrive yearly from India, Scandinavia, Siberia and Western Europe. There are several bird sanctuaries within Sri Lanka including the Kumana National Park, the Kalametiva Bird Sanctuary, and the Udawatte Kele. Some endemic Sri Lankan birds include the Sri Lankan Spur fowl and the Sri Lankan Jungle fowl, these pheasant-like birds can be hard to spot as they dash across the dense jungle floor. The Sri Lankan Hanging Parrot and the Layard’s Parakeet are two beautifully colored birds that are common across the island and provide a wonderful spectacle for a great photo.
Migratory birds in Sri Lanka include the Barau’s Petrel which range to Western Australia and are classified as endangered. This bird is commonly a sea-bird and will spend most of its time near the ocean. You can also view the Dalmatian Pelican which is the world’s largest fresh-water bird and ranges from Europe through to China and into the Indian subcontinent, including Sri Lanka where they come to escape the harsh European winters. The best time of year to visit Sri Lanka in order to see the best range of birdlife is toward the latter part of the year whilst most migratory birds are present. December was declared national bird month in Sri Lanka and many bird-related activities are organized during this month. If you are interested in viewing some of the most beautiful birds in the world, you should definitely incorporate this activity into your Sri Lanka Safari holiday.
Sri Lanka consists of 26 national parks which together cover an area of 5,734 km2.
The flora and fauna in these parks are protected by law and people may only enter these parks only for observational purposes and with a recognized permit. The national parks are located across the country. Some of the most popular national parks in Sri Lanka include Udawalawe National Park, Horton Plains National Park, and Minneriya National Park. Udawalawe National Park is located to the south of the island, 174km away from the capital Colombo. Horton Plains National Park is located a few kilometers north of Udawalawe National Park and 188km away from Colombo, and Minneriya National Park is located closer to the North of the island, approximately 200km away from the city of Colombo.
Each park in Sri Lanka offers something different meaning that no matter which park you decide to visit during your stay (be it only one park or ten parks) you are sure to experience something unique on your Sri Lanka Safari tour. Udawalawe National Park has an elephant orphanage; Horton Plains National Park has both the second and third highest points of Sri Lanka within its boundaries; and Minneriya National Park is a regular location for two of Sri Lanka’s endemic monkeys; the Purple Faced Langur and the Toque Macaque. With something unique in every national park you will find it hard to be disappointed.
As well as having a stunning environment, Sri Lanka also has a rich history. The history of Sri Lanka dates back as far as 500,000 years spanning the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and early Iron Ages. Sri Lanka is the first country in the world thought to have a female ruler between 47 to 42 BC. Sri Lanka also has extensive influences from Buddhism and over time the country has formed a vast collection of incredible temples which can provide a calm break to your active Sri Lanka safari holiday. In 1815 Sri Lanka became part of the British Empire. During this time, experimentations with tea plantations were successful and tea quickly became one of Sri Lanka’s main exports. Britain’s occupation of Sri Lanka led to a thriving and ethnically diverse country. In 1948 Sri Lanka once again became an independent nation. Why not plan to visit some of these temples, tea plantations and historical monuments during your trip to this beautiful country?
During your time in Sri Lanka, you can go on a Sri Lanka safari or a Sri Lanka boat safari, but Sri Lanka also offers some other amazing attractions. These include an abundance of sacred religious sites and historic sites, beautiful beaches and ancient ruins. Some of the top picks include Pidurangala Rock, which you can hike up to the peak and witness some amazing views. You can also visit Little Adam’s Peak, Sigiriya World Heritage Site or Ella Rock which features a beautiful waterfall. If you are interested in waterfalls, Sri Lanka has a lot. The best waterfalls in Sri Lanka include Ravana Falls which has a height of 25 meters (82 feet), Diyaluma which has a height of 220 meters (721 feet) and flows rapidly, making the water appear white and frothy, and Kithulgala Falls where you can take a refreshing swim.
The Sri Lankan climate is tropical and warm all year-round, meaning that your Sri Lanka safari holiday will be pleasurable whichever time of year you choose to visit. Temperatures range from 17C (63F) to 33C (91F). Rainfall in Sri Lanka, like much of Southeast Asia, is influenced by monsoon winds. Sri Lanka features two separate monsoon seasons which range between May to September and October to February. Make sure you research these seasons before you book your Sri Lanka safari holiday to ensure that the weather at your time of visit suits your expectations.
Although there is no best time to visit Sri Lanka, as the country is a popular holiday destination year-round, a good time of year to visit Sri Lanka for a Sri Lanka Safari would be between December to mid-April, during the dry season when monsoon rains are not present.
During this time spotting animals on a Sri Lanka safari would be easier too because the animals will gather at predictable water sources. The best time of year for whale watching in Sri Lanka is between November and April and also May until September as the whales are migrating during this time. This also makes these times the best times for an amazing Sri Lanka boat safari tour. Whale watching and Sri Lanka boat safari tours are popular all year-round however if you come between these suggested times you will be a lot more likely to view some of the incredible migratory whales.
When visiting any country it is important that you check the relative health risks and visit your local travel clinic before you depart. Sri Lanka is in a tropical climate and comes with associated health risks which include malaria, hepatitis B, and typhoid. Malaria is not considered to pose a large risk in Sri Lanka however if you are embarking on a Sri Lanka safari tour deep into the Sri Lankan jungle then ensure to tell your doctor this before you depart so they can ensure that you have all of the appropriate vaccinations and protection that you need for your trip.
Sri Lanka is a small yet beautifully diverse and unique country which many people choose to visit time and time again. Many people choose to come back for the variety of things to do on this island, including relaxing beach breaks, exciting Sri Lanka safari tours, Sri Lanka boat safari tours, hiking and visiting ancient monuments and temples. Although Sri Lanka is a small island you will never be bored as there is always a variety of activities occurring across the country.