Known to be Sri Lanka’s best national park, Udawalawe National Park is a massive 30,000 hectares packed with wildlife, and guaranteed to be a highlight of your Sri Lanka Itinerary.
Although Sri Lanka has a selection of parks to choose from, Udawalawe’s reputation is earned through the sheer volume of animals sighted during a single visit, park rangers care and maintenance of animals, and hassle free animal spotting at the hands of a clever driver-spotter combo.
For a full or half day exploring grounds where elephants, water buffalo, alligators and leopards roam wildly, we have all you need to know for an unforgettable Udawalawe National Park experience.
How to Get to Udawalawe National Park
The park entrance for Udawalawe is on the B427 road between the A2 and A18. If you’re driving to Udawalawe, the B427 is a sealed road with clearly marked signs leading to the park entrance. From Kandy, Ella, or anywhere in between, the drive is straightforward and the park easily accessible by car.
Guest houses and accommodation lose to Udawalawe National Park can arrange transport directly to the park. Once inside the park it is compulsory to use one of the parks jeeps and drivers; visitors own vehicles stay in the car park at the entrance.
Travelling from Ella to the South Coast is an ideal route for stopping at Udawalawe National Park as the location is between the two regions and not far from the main road. From Ella follow the A23 through to the A4 junction, where you will continue on the A2 road moving South. Turn right onto the B427 and follow until the park entrance on your right which is clearly signed. The journey from Ella to Udawalawe National Park takes approximately 2 hours by car.
What to Expect at Udawalawe National Park
Other than the best national park in Sri Lanka, what you can expect is a jeep (you cannot enter the park without purchasing a seat in a jeep), spotter, and plenty of animals. The jeep owners are in the main car park to service visitors upon entry, which is compulsory.
In true keeping with Sri Lankan locals’s peaceful and respectful nature, jeep owners don’t hassle visitors or act like pushy salesmen. The process is civil, friendly and relatively inexpensive.
Expect to pay around 3500 RPS for 3 hours, plus a tip each for the spotter and the driver. Tipping is expected, appreciated, and for the small entrance fee in the grand scheme of things shouldn’t be considered an issue to visitors.
After selecting a jeep (no need to be fussy as they charge the same price for the same service), a driver will escort you into the park to purchase a ticket. Tickets cost 3500 RPS per person, and it’s at this point the jeep driver switches to the one that will drive into the park, plus a spotter who sits in the back. A slightly unusual process to switch drivers after ticket purchase, however this is standard procedure and more of a reflection of the English speaking skills of some and driving skills of others.
Expect to be off road 4wd’ing, as the jeep negotiates dirt tracks with some precarious dips and inclines. Drivers are experienced and competent with the terrain, installing trust at such conditions. Jeeps have an open roof, and it becomes hot under the sun; sun hat, water and sun glasses are necessary items to bring. The minimum time frame for ticket hire is a half day, and 3 hours is a long time to be under the intense Sri Lanka sun without being organised.
Wildlife at Udawalawe National Park
Early morning is the best time to spot wildlife, before the sun’s heat fills the air. This is when majority of the animals hunt for food as the temperature is cooler. During the afternoon animals are less inclined to be roaming around, instead choosing to sleep or hide under cool foliage. Arriving at midday or earlier will allow plenty of time to view elephants, water buffalo, birds, deer, mongoose and alligators but for leopard and cobra an earlier arrival is best.
Large savannahs and reservoirs around the park provide varying environments for many different animals. Having a well trained spotter in your vehicle will ensure guests see an assortment of wildlife. Be it lizards clinging to tree branches in the distance, peacocks camouflaged by foliage, or water buffalo swimming away from preying alligators, spotters will ensure guests see all that is available.
Environment of Udawalawe National Park
he reservoir plays an integral role in these wild animals living fulfilling lives, and Sri Lanka appears to ensure the dam and surrounding areas are maintained to a high quality. While seeing wild animals healthily going about their lives is a wonderful thing to observe, knowing the human community enrich it is even better. Well done Sri Lanka.
Udawalawe National Park Accommodation
Enjoying Udawalawe National Park can take half or full day, but it is unlikely that longer is needed. With that in mind, there typically is no need to choose accommodation close to the park. From the popular South Coast holiday areas a driver can take visitors to Udawalawe in just a couple of hours time and at a low price. From Ella and Kandy the same applies.
Aside from Udawalawe National Park the region does not have additional attractions, restaurants, bars or stores. There are plenty of hotels though, so if you prefer to spend the evening at a Udawalawe National Park accommodation then ensure you select one which has an enjoyable restaurant too.
Elephant Trail is one option for Udawalawe National Park accommodation which has pleasant rooms, atmosphere, dining facilities and additional activities like mountain biking available for guests. Kottawatta Village is a more pricey eco-resort but certainly an enjoyable place to spend time either side of a day exploring spectacular wildlife.