Lying on the boundaries of the Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, the Udawalawe National Park covers an area of 30,821 hectares and it gets its name from the Walawe reservoir that is situated inside the park. Udawalawe was originally forested, but now the land is predominated by grassland and thorn scrub. On its northern boundary, it is framed by soaring highlands.
The main entrance to the park is situated at the southern boundary. As a result the park is around 164 km from Colombo. While this may seem like a long drive, Udawalawe has some perks of its own that will make the drive seem worthwhile. Udawalawe can only be explored using a four wheel drive vehicle. There will be many tour operators outside the park entrance so your options won’t be limited.
Golden jackals and elephants
Much like most other parks, Udawalawe is home to most mammal species found in Sri Lanka. It is said that there is a resident herd of about 250 elephants within the confines of the park. A unique thing about this park is that elephants can be observed even during midday. Golden jackals are known to be seen sprinting across Udawalawe’s vast plains. Even though this is no Yala when it comes to Leopards, sightings are considerably higher than other national parks.
Birds of prey
Udawalawe’s open parklands attract many birds of prey. These include the crested serpent eagle, the white bellied sea eagle, and the changeable hawk eagle to name a few. The plains make a perfect habitat for many species of land birds as well. These include the rather odd looking Malabar pied hornbill and the Indian roller. Be prepared to spend some time if you really want to catch a glimpse of these birds in their element.
The ultimate souvenir
The Udawalawe Elephant Transfer Home is a facility within the park that seeks to rehabilitate orphaned elephant calves so they can be released back into the wild. Caring for an elephant is expensive and to cope with this a foster-parent program has been set up. If you choose to sponsor a calf you are entitled to many privileges which include naming it. You can’t argue with that fact that the ultimate souvenir to take back home would a picture of you and your new found four legged foster child.