Sri Lanka is blessed with incredible diversity; idyllic tropical beaches, exotic tea plantations and rich culture. But, top of most visitors wish list is to experience its colourful jungles and get a first-hand glimpse of the resident leopards and elephants. What I find strange is that most visitors head to the same national parks where itís not uncommon to find 40 or so safari jeeps jostling to see the same leopard. Sri Lankaís interior is practically blanketed with national parks and forests and with a little insider information itís possible to avoid the crowds almost completely. Here Iíve compiled a list of three of my favourite places to see wildlife away from the crowds but in Sri Lanka nature is abundant so this is just the tip of the iceberg! Let us know your own insider Sri Lanka wildlife spotting tips in the comments below.
1. Sinharaja Rainforest
My top recommendation would be Sinharaja Rainforest; this UNESCO World Heritage biosphere reserve†offers an incredible wildlife experience away from the crowds. Itís the last area of virgin rainforest in Sri Lanka and has an extraordinary range of birdlife. Meander through the jungle accompanied by an expert tracker, spotting beautiful birds, civet cats and lizards whilst taking in views of the surrounding forest. Stay in a simple eco lodge on stilts in the park itself for the best all-round experience.
2. Gal Oya National Park
In Gal Oya National Park you can take a safari by boat. You may be lucky enough to see elephants on the riverbanks or catch a glimpse of crocodiles whilst taking in the beautiful landscape. Stay at Gal Oya Lodge, they aim to create an insiderís experience for guests with activities curated and accompanied by local naturalists who study the flora and fauna, through the in-house wildlife research centre.
Wasgamuwa is a splendid national park not far from the famous Cultural Triangle region. It has a lake that attracts a vast array of wildlife including elephants, birdlife, sloth bears and leopards. A great way to explore Wasgamuwa is with Eco Team who offer fantastic, expertly guided safaris through the park where youíll stay in their delightful tented camp.
Sam Clark is CEO at Experience Travel Group.