Mention the word safari and Sri Lanka might not spring to mind, but it’s a country that’s filled with wildlife. Here are just a few animals you can spot while there.
Sri Lankan elephants
These elephants, the largest of the Asian elephants, can be seen nearly everywhere, even walking down the road. A great place to see them in their natural habitat is in Udawalawe National Park. Be wary of places claiming to be elephant sanctuaries or orphanages; many are tourist traps, so do your research. Please be aware that riding elephants is harmful to the animal, and that there are much more ethical ways to view these magnificent creatures than to ride them.
Another endemic mammal (meaning it’s only found in Sri Lanka) is the Sri Lankan sloth bear, usually found in the lowland dry forests. The only bear native to the country, it is identifiable from its long snout. The best place to see them is in Yala National Park in the southeast, but drive slowly, they’re known to be very curious of people and cars!
Sambars are large deer native to Asia. Males can weigh up to 280 kilograms and have huge antlers, so they’re quite a sight to see. The best place to view them is in Horton Plains National Park, where large herds of sambar roam the central highlands.
Sri Lankan leopard
If you couldn’t guess from the name, the Sri Lankan leopard is another endemic species, and a gorgeous one at that. Yala National Park is one of the best places to spot them, but they’re also often seen in Wilpattu National Park in the north. If you’ve never seen a leopard elsewhere (they’re usually quite elusive) head to Sri Lanka; these leopards tend to be seen more than other species of leopard.
Ceylon Rose butterfly
Sri Lanka has many butterflies, many of them endemic, and each one seems more beautiful than the last. If you happen to spot a Ceylon Rose butterfly, consider yourself very lucky. Not only are they only found in the rain forests of the central hill country, they’re critically endangered due to loss of habitat.
Another endemic species, the purple-faced langur is one of many types of monkey found in Sri Lanka. Its fur is a mix of black, white, and grey, but named because of its purplish-black face, hands, and feet. While they’re found in many parts of Sri Lanka, the best places to view them are in canopy forests, but Horton Plains National Park and the city of Galle are also home to many purple-faced langurs.
There are many places for dolphin watching around the island, best from November to April. In the northern marine sanctuary of Kalpitiya, many types of dolphins have been spotted, with frequent sightings of whales too. As there’s an abundance of coastline to explore in Sri Lanka, here’s hoping you’ll be able to spot lots of aquatic wildlife.
Sri Lanka is chock-full of fascinating creatures, from colourful birds to scaly crocodiles and everything in between. If you decide to travel to Sri Lanka for some wildlife viewing, please act as ethically as you can. Sri Lanka has many species on the endangered and critically endangered list, so research your activities before participating, to ensure you’re not harming the environment in any way. You might also want to consider donating to a conservation fund; the animals of Sri Lanka will certainly thank you.