If you love to see the elephants in their natural habitat and planning to visit Sri Lanka in near future, You are in the right direction. Sri Lanka is the paradise of elephants. In fact, it has the highest density of elephants.
You can find elephants in almost every national park in Sri Lanka. Additional to that you can consider elephant orphanages and some Buddhist temples. But we do not recommend any of these. I will explain why you shouldn't consider these shortly. Here is a quick list of national parks where you can see elephants in Sri Lanka?
Also, there is a chance you can spot elephants waiting for food on the sides of the roads through the jungle area in the dry zone. Although you shouldn't feed those wild animals. It can go badly for both you and the elephants. Before we get into other topics in detail let's check out each location listed above in detail.
Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park is the best place where you can see elephants. As a national park, it is the 3rd most visited park by tourists in Sri Lanka. The park itself is 30,821 Hectares big. It was started in mid-1982. The land was used for agriculture earlier.
The Density Of Elephants is Huge Here.
As for the stats, there are more than 550+ elephants in Udawalawe. Because of this, you are not allowed to step into the land as it can be dangerous. The elephants are not the kind of animals who hunt but if they feel threatened in their own homes it can go wild. So it important that you get a well-experienced guide and you should follow his call all the time for your own safety.
Udawalawe also has an elephant transit home which is stated and managed by the government of Sri Lanka. Elephants against farmers are one of the major problems in Sri Lanka. Because of this elephants get killed by farmers while they defend their crops and the little ones get confused in the wild all the time. So the main intention of this is to rescue and save baby elephants that are in danger till they grow up and be ready to be on their own.
There are few small mountains around the place yet the majority of the land is plain.
Rather than elephants, here is a list of some other types of animal you can find here.
Best Time To Visit Udawalawe National Park
The Best time to visit Udawalawe national park is from mid-October to the end of March.
As we mentioned earlier the park is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The average temperature will be 25-30 Celcius all over the year. November to mid-January is the rainy season in the Udawalwe. Rain may be a little disturbing but it creates the best experience. As a person who loves the rain, it creates the best views. If you don't like the rainy climate much you can avoid those 3 months. Anyway, the climate here is subject to change within minutes.
You may be worried that you cannot visit the place in the best season but there is nothing to worry about. The park itself is great all around the year. You can visit the park at any month of the year and still have a good experience.
How To Reach Udawalawe National Park
The park is located in between the Sabaragamuwa and Uva province of Sri Lanka. As shown in the above image it is located almost 200 Km s away from the Colombo international airport.
There are two major routes to reach the park. The first one as shown in the image has less distance than the 2nd road. Anyway because of the road condition it takes more time to reach. Considering the other tourist attractions nearby we recommend taking the route go through the south of Sri Lanka which takes less time to travel even it is longer. The number of tourist attractions around the route is way too much to ignore.
The Cost in Udawalawe National Park
Udwalawe National Park Entrance Fee - It cost 16$ for a single day and 30$ for two days. This amount doesn't include a safari vehicle. A 4 seat Safari vehicle will cost you 30$ to 60$ depends on how long you need it.
Where to Stay Near- Recommendation
There are many great places to stay around. Yet we recommend Centauria Wild as it is our go-to place. It is within 1km from the national park.
It has a great open roof deck, Pool, Spa, Gym, and an Ayuruwedic center which makes the experience great.
Wildlife Safari Tour: Recommendation
We do recommend Lakpura safari for your tour. Although there are many other good services available if you want to try
Kaudulla National Park (Minneriya)
Kadulla national park also called Minneriya national park is the second-best national park in Sri Lanka for watching elephants. According to the stats there more than 200 elephants in Kaudulla. Although it is not that famous among tourists comparing other locations with the same stats. It is a kind of underrated location.
As in the gazette released in 2012, Kadulla was named as a national park in Sri Lanka from there. It is the 15th national park in Sri Lanka. Kaudulla lake is also a part of the national park which makes the experience great. The Kaudulla lake is made by the king Mahasen in the way back.
The park spread through 6,900 hectares. The park is located in an elephant corridor which makes it a great location for elephant watching.
The specialty in this park is that most of the land is covered by water in the majority of the time.
Fact: The first twin baby elephants in Sri Lanka also recorded in Kaudulla national park
Same as in Udawalawe you are not allowed to step into the land as it can be dangerous Although there is a specific place in the park which is marked as a safe area to incase you want to jump in. The area is called "SUDU GALA" among locals. Although it is not always allowed to steps into this area. The decision is up to the guide you are with and you always must follow his command.
Best Time To Visit Kaudulla National Park
The best season to visit Kadulla is from August to January. Unlike in Udawalawe, it is not possible to spot animals here all around the year due to the fact the land is covered by water in the majority of the time.
How To Reach Kaudulla National Park
The park is located in the Pollonnaruwa district of Sri Lanka. There is 180KM between Colombo airport and the national park. The route shown in the image is the most effective and it will take around four and a half hours to reach there from the airport.
It is 10-kilo miters away from Sigiriya.
The Cost In Kadulla National Park
It will cost you around 10$ for the entrance fee and 30$ to 50$ for the safari vehicle depending on the scope of the tour which you can pick
Wildlife Safari Tour: Recommendation
We do recommend Mathisha Jeep Safari as it is what we used yet there are many other options to choose from
Where to Stay Near- Recommendation
We do suggest Deer Park Hotel as it is our go-to place. With the amazing natural view(near the lake) and a great pool is always good to go.
ou may be wondering why it is ranked in 3rd position. Yes in the case of elephants Yala is 3rd best national park, But if you are not just interested in elephants it is the number one. Overall Yala is the best national park in Sri Lanka.
We wrote a fully detailed guide on Yala national park a few weeks ago. So I am not going to write it all over again. Instead, I will attach the link to that post.
Yala National Park - Click here
Best Time To Visit Yala National Park
The best time to visit Yala is from March to June which is the dry season. Although you can visit the park in all other months except September. In September park will be closed for maintenance. Anyway, the main purpose to close it down for the month is to let animals have their freedom. Since it is the most famous park in Sri Lanka it is really busy in the season.
How To Reach Yala National Park
Yala is located 300 kilometers away from Colombo airport. As shown in the image there are two routes but the highlighted route is the shorter and most effective one.
The Cost Of Yala National Park
The Entrance Fee for the Yala national park will be 16 for an adult and 8$ for children. Additional to that a safari jeep will cost you from 30$ to 300$ depending on the duration of the safari which you can pick
Wildlife Safari Tour: Reccomadation
We do recommend Yala Kings Safari and there many other options to select from
Where to Stay Near- Reccomadation
We do recommend Jetwing Yala for your accommodation. It is not a budget pick but it is worth the money. it is a famous hotel chain in Sri Lanka and has a good reputation.
The above 3 national Parks are the best for watching elephants. Although locations, where you can see elephants, go on a way deeper. These may be not the best compared to the above 3 yet it is still great compared to other national parks in Asia. That's how big Sri Lanka is when it comes to natural beauty.
Wilpattu National Park
Same as in Yala this is way more famous for leopards, Yet they are more than 40 elephants in the park. Since this is famous among tourists the park is a little busy in the season. Anway it is nothing like in Yala when comparing to.
The park is 130k hectares big and it is the biggest park in Sri Lanka.It is a tragedy that some parts of the park is cleared by some stupid politicians in the country for lands. There is an ongoing case in the court and the politicians were ordered to regrow the forest with their own money.
We recently wrote an article on where to spot leopards in Sri Lanka and we wrote a lot about the Wilpattu national park in there. Click here to view the article
Best Time To Visit Wilpattu National Park
From April to September is the best season to visit Willpattu. Anyway, it is great all over the year.
How To Reach Wilpattu National Park
It is located in northwest Sri Lanka. There is 185KM between the Willpattu and Colombo international airport
The Cost of Wilpattu National Park
It will cost you 15$-20$ for an entree ticket and additionally to that it will cost you 40$ to 160$ depending on the service you pick.
Lunugamvehera National Park
This is located near to the famous "Katharagama Devalaya". The park is between the Yala and Udawalawa national parks. This established as a national park since it works as a corridor between the Yala and Udawalawe national parks
This was opened to the public in the year 2005. Although it was stated in late 1995. It is 23,498 hectares bigger. Nearly 3300 hectares of this is covered by the Lunugamwehera reservoir and other small reservoirs.
There are around 45 elephants in the park
How To Reach Lunugamvehera National Park
The Park is located in the Southern/Uva province of Sri Lanka. There are two main routes to reach the park and the easiest route is the one that go through Mirissa, Beliaththa, and Hambanthota. The park is located 285km away from the Colombo international airport.
The second route is through the Ratnapura district which is 251Km long. Even this is less in distance the other route is the most preferred one due to the road conditions and the tourist attraction around the route.
The Cost Lunugamvehera National Park
The entrance fee for the Lunugamwhera national park is 15$ for a person. Additionally, to that, you may want to hire a safari jeep with a guide which will cost you from 60$ to 90$
Best Time To Visit Lunugamvehera National Park
The best time to visit Lunugamvehera national park is from May to September. Although it is a little busy in September since the Yala is closed in September. The average temperature in the park is stable all over the year and it around 28-32 Celsius.
Wasgamuwa National Park
As stated by the government Wasgamuwa became a national park in 1984. It spread over 39322 hectares.
There are more than 150 elephants in the Wasgamuwa. The park makes homes for thousands of animals. You can even find leopards and wild bears in here.
There are two rivers that go through the park which is called "Mahaweli Ganga and "Aban Ganga".
This also been part of the ancient war between King Dutugamunu and Tamil king Elara
Best Time To Visit Wasgamuwa National Park
The best season to visit Wasgamuwa national park is from January to March. Anyway, it is a great location to visit all over the year. The park is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The temperature is between 28-32 Celsius all around the year.
How To Reach Wasgamuwa National Park
Wasgamuwa National Park is located between the Matale and Pollonnaruwa districts of Sri Lanka. There is 150 kilometers between the Colombo airport and the Wasgamuwa park. If you are using google maps to find the route set the destination point as Habarana. The park is near to this location.
The Cost Of Wasgamuwa National Park
The park entrance fee will cost you 40$ per person.
Let me know in the comment section if you need me to write about all the national parks in the list in detail.
Why Not Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawala may be a good place for the ones who don't care about animals or their freedom. Although I can assure it not good for animals.
It is true that it was started as an orphanage with the purpose of helping poor animals. Anyway, Unfortunately, this became a business instead because of the income they made through the visitors. Elephants are forced to do things just for the shows and their freedom is violated. If you look closely you can see elephants are chained all the time forced to do as people's commands.
So no I do not recommend Pinnawala for anyone who loves animals. Feels like we encouraging them every day by making the place crowded. It is not worth it at all.
Sri Lanka is one of the best places in Asia for elephant watching. It is not that hard to find elephants in this country all over the year. If you are just interested in elephants Udawalawe is your best choice. Or you can pick Yala or Willpattu which have huge variations of animals comparing to Udawalawe. Anyway for elephants we recommend sticking with the top 3 in the list.
Let us know which is your favorite national park and why it is