Situated within the Indian Ocean in South Asia, Sri Lanka is a tropical paradise that is home to an incredible array of wildlife. From leopards and elephants to monkeys and birds of paradise, this island nation is rich in biodiversity.
Sri Lanka is an excellent holiday destination, owing to its sandy beaches and unique landscapes, but it’s particularly of interest to wildlife lovers. This incredible country even has its own endemic species to explore, making it truly a one-of-a-kind experience. In this article, we explore some of the best ways to discover Sri Lanka’s incredible wildlife during your trip.
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Sri Lanka geography
The wildlife of Sri Lanka is amazing. But if you want to get a better impression of it, it would be always better to explore it with more knowledge, to dive deeper into the whole picture. So, let’s start with some geography.
Sri Lanka is located in the subequatorial zone, with humid tropical (subequatorial) climate. And its southern part features even equatorial climate. So, it is covered by vegetation typical for such type of climate- equatorial rainforests and subequatorial forests mixed with savanna-like areas.
And the island is surrounded by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The waters remain warm all-year round. Such environment is great for coral reefs with their specific colorful wildlife. In other word, everything looks like a classical tropical paradise.
So, what animals live in this place?
The wildlife in Sri Lanka
In short, animals that we can see in Sri Lanka are those who like warm and humid climate, rainforests and savannas. And in the ocean- animals who like warm waters.
Currently, there are 123 species of mammals, including Indian elephant, sloth bear, leopard, monkeys, deer, and more. There are 227 species of birds, including ducks, flamingos, stilts, eagles, and many more. There are also various kinds of reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
Marine wildlife is also rich. You can see a great diversity of fish, as well as some other species like turtles, jellyfish, octopuses, shrimps, as well as some mammals such as whales.
Wildlife protected areas in Sri Lanka
As everywhere on the Earth, unfortunately, large parts of the natural habitat of the wildlife is conquered by humans, and it is the same in Sri Lanka. But there are many natural reserves and national parks where the animals and their environment is well-protected.
These preservation areas are located in various places- in the mountains, valleys and plains, as well as at the seacoast. So, they have different themes. That’s why visiting only one protected area is not enough, because it presents only one part of the wildlife.
So, if you want to get the best impression of the wildlife in Sri Lanka, plan an itinerary that includes at least several natural protected areas. Here is our proposal list of the best choice, and they are among some of the best places to visit in the country. Visiting these places can give you an opportunity to watch birds, to watch whales, to see the Sri Lankan elephants, and to try a safari.
Birdwatching in Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s home to over 147 species of birds, making it a fantastic place for amateur and professional birdwatchers alike. Situated in the southwestern part of the country, this reserve is a tropical rainforest encompassing some absolutely gorgeous birds of paradise, many of which are endemic to Sri Lanka.
Some of the most unique species include the Sri Lankan blue magpie, the Ceylon green pigeon and the red-faced malkoha. To have the best chance at catching a glimpse of these beautiful birds, embark on a tour within the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. This way, you’ll have an expert to hand who can provide unique insights and tips.
Whale watching in Mirissa
Known for its stunning beaches and diverse marine wildlife, Mirissa is a small town on the south coast of Sri Lanka that has been slowly gaining popularity. This quaint area is home to many different marine species, but perhaps the most popular attraction is the blue whale.
The blue whale is the largest mammal in the world, so it’s unsurprising that wildlife lovers flock to this destination. While they are present in most of the world’s oceans, they’re only regularly seen in a handful of locations, one of which is Mirissa. Fortunately, there are plenty of boating tours available from Mirissa’s beaches to get an opportunity to see this gigantic creature for yourself.
Visiting Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home
Situated within Udawalawe National Park, this sanctuary specialises in the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured elephants, providing a safe haven until they’re recovered. Visitors to this home can learn about the challenges these wonderful creatures face in the wild while watching the dedicated staff feed and care for them.
Due to the location of the home, a visit could easily be combined with a trip around the rest of the Udawalawe National Park. The park is also home to wild elephants in their natural habitat, some of which may have been released from the sanctuary after they had recovered. Not only is this a great opportunity to learn more about elephants and their needs, but this hands-on experience can foster a deeper appreciation of wildlife and active conservation efforts.
Safaris in Yala National Park
Yala National Park is a vast protected area on Sri Lanka’s south coast that is home to a diverse range of wildlife. Safari tours through this park allow visitors to explore several different ecosystems, from open grasslands to dense forests and coastal lagoons. Experienced guides lead the way, providing insights into the behaviours of the park’s inhabitants.
Visitors to this national park can expect to see all kinds of animals, from leopards and sloth bears to crocodiles and lizards – this park is home to incredibly diverse species. It’s known to be one of the best places in the world to see leopards, with a high density and several different variants, including the endangered Sri Lankan leopard.
Sri Lanka: the wildlife hotspot
While these four destinations are amazing, they are only a handful of Sri Lanka’s wildlife hubs. This diverse country is home to a number of national parks, each one with its own unique offerings. Not only are these parks a great opportunity for tourists to get up close with wildlife, but they support important conservation efforts for both the animals and the ecosystems themselves.
By paying a visit to Sri Lanka and educating yourself on the challenges faced by the flora and fauna, you can help to spread awareness and ensure that this country’s captivating wilderness lives on for many more generations to come.
Take a look at this video for more impressions from the wildlife in Sri Lanka:
Check some travel books about Sri Lanka
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.