What better way to explore the abundance of amazing wildlife that Sri Lanka has to offer than embarking on an exciting safari tour? Sri Lanka is particularly famous for its wild elephants and leopards, but you can also expect to see other magnificent animals, along with a wild array of native and migratory birds, reptiles and endemic plant life.
Experience a Sri Lanka safari
Below you’ll find information on some of the very best safari parks to visit in Sri Lanka, including which animals you might see at each one, and which parks are included as part of our Escorted Tours.
Yala National Park Safaris
Yala National Park is a well-known wildlife park in Sri Lanka, covering more than 130,000 hectares of land, including forests, grasslands, and lagoons. It’s home to 44 varieties of mammal, including the world’s largest endemic concentration of leopards (the Panthera pardus kotiya) as well as 215 types of bird species.
Other animals you might see on a safari at Yala include Sri Lankan elephants, deer, sloth bears, wild water buffalo and a wide range of reptiles, amphibians, and fish. You can visit Yala National Park via one of our Sri Lanka Escorted Tours.
Wilpattu National Park Safaris
Located close to the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the Wilpattu National Park contains around 30 different types of mammals including Sri Lankan elephants, leopards, sloth bears, buffalo, sambar, spotted deer, and mongoose. A fantastic range of bird and reptile species can be also be seen, including owls, kits, eagles, lizards, crocodiles, snakes, and turtles, as well as the native Sri Lankan junglefowl.
Filled to the brim with a splendiferous variety of flora and fauna, Wilpattu is indeed a nature lover’s paradise. See the incredible sights this National Park has to offer through our Sri Lankan escorted motorhome tours, where you can enjoy a half day safari and a spot of lunch afterward!
Udawalawe National Park Safaris
Visit Udawalawe National Park if you want to see a remarkable collection of wild elephants; with around 600 altogether in the park, they sometimes travel in herds of up to 50! With its lush landscape of grasslands and bush forests covering more than 30,000 hectares, Udawalawe is also famous for game spotting too.
Bird watchers will be in their element on a Udawalawe safari, with species to look out for such as the Black-winged Kite, the Changeable Hawk Eagle, the White Wagtail, the European Bee-Eater, and the Brown Fish Owl.
Things to know before going on a Sri Lanka safari
There are a few practical tips to bear in mind when booking your safari so that you’re fully prepared and can get the most out of your trip:
1. Booking a safari
When booking a safari, be sure that you get an experienced tour guide/driver who can not only track various animals and know the best places of seeing them but will also be experienced enough to keep you safe. When we book your place on a safari you can rest assured we only book with reputable companies.
2. What to wear during a safari trip
Generally, light or neutral coloured clothing is best. Wear light layers and take a jumper or cardigan if you’re visiting early in the morning or at dusk where you might witness a chill in the air. It doesn’t matter what shoes you wear, seeing as you’ll be travelling in a vehicle the entire time – whatever’s comfortable will be fine.
3. Visit the bathroom first
It’s possible to take a toilet break if you need to during a safari trip, however, to avoid disruption, it’s best to go beforehand. Keep in mind that you’ll want to stay hydrated, but don’t drink water too excessively! A full day safari tour will schedule in a toilet break, whereas a half day safari (three hours or so) may not.
4. Take sun protection and snacks
Even though you’ll be travelling in a vehicle with a roof, you’ll be exposed to the sun as the sides will be open, so take suncream and a hat with you. As there won’t be much in the way of restaurant facilities on a safari, bring snacks and drinks with you.
5. Be prepared for a bumpy ride
You may get bounced around while on safari, seeing as the roads can be rough. If you suffer from achy joints, you may want to take some painkillers with you just in case.
6. Safari etiquette
There are a few rules to note when on safari. The main one is not to disturb the animals in any way. So that the animals can roam freely and feel at ease, it’s best to be as “invisible” as possible; that means not being overly noisy, not feeding the animals and not using a flash on your camera. You also won’t be allowed to smoke and will only be able to eat your snacks in dedicated areas.
Finally, respect your fellow tourists when on safari by not leaning over them to take a photo or getting in the way of their efforts to take pictures.
Safari photography tips
Capturing the fantastic sights that you’ll see during a safari is an absolute must. Check out these tips on taking the best possible photos below:
- Use the right equipment – take a good quality camera with you, or two if possible. A camera with a long lens, for example, will help you sharply capture intricate photos such as close-ups of an animal’s features. If you have a second camera to hand, perhaps with a wide lens, you can take pictures of passing scenery without having to change your lens over. If you’d love to use a DSLR camera but don’t want to buy one, there are places in the UK where you can hire one instead.
- Using your smartphone or a “point and shoot” camera – if you don’t own a DSLR camera and don’t want to go to the lengths of hiring one, don’t worry. You can still take great quality photos with a digital camera or smartphone, as long as you understand how to use the camera settings.
- Know your camera – learn what all of the buttons on your camera do before you go so that you can make the most of the settings for different shots. If the safari vehicle is in motion, you might need to set your shutter speed to a faster setting so that you can take crystal clear photos of animals while you’re moving along. If you’re using a smartphone, this might mean activating “sports mode” or “object tracking”
- Be prepared - take spare batteries and memory cards with you on safari. The last thing you’ll want to do is run out of battery or space for photos when you’re halfway through your trip! Delete old pictures from your smartphone before you go, so that you have plenty of space available.
- Consider lighting - the best time for taking photographs on safari is during sunrise or at dusk when the sun is low in the sky. The midday sun may cast too many shadows, and you may not be able to see the object that you’re capturing clearly. An advantage of taking photos early in the morning is that you may catch some animals waking up!
If you want to get up close and personal with the outstanding and varied wildlife in Sri Lanka, a safari trip is a unique experience that will allow you to do this. You’ll be able to create some fantastic memories, take some beautiful photographs and perhaps even meet some new friends along the way. Find out more about Sri Lanka.