Uda Walawe National Park
- 21km (13mi) N of Embilipitiya
- adult/child Rs 1850/975, service charge per group Rs 1000, vehicle charge per group Rs 420
Lonely Planet review for Uda Walawe National Park
With herds of elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and leopards, Uda Walawe is the Sri Lankan national park that best rivals the savannah reserves of Africa. The park’s 30,821 hectares centre on the large Uda Walawe Reservoir, fed by the Walawe Ganga.
The entrance to the park is 12km from the Ratnapura–Hambantota road turn-off and 21km from Embilipitiya. Visitors buy tickets in a new building a further 2km on. Most people take a tour organised by their guest house or hotel, but a trip with one of the 4WDs waiting outside the gate should be around Rs 3000 for a half-day for up to eight people with driver. Last tickets are usually sold at 5pm.
Apart from stands of teak near the river, there’s little forest in the park. The tall pohon grass, which grows in place of the forest, can make wildlife-watching difficult, except during dry months.
This is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see elephants. There are about 500 in the park in herds of up to 50. There’s an elephant-proof fence around the perimeter of the park, preventing elephants from getting out and cattle from getting in. The best time to observe elephant herds is from 6.30am to 10am and again from 4pm to 6.30pm.
Besides elephants, sambar deer and wild buffalo (their numbers boosted by domesticated buffaloes), there are also mongooses, bandicoots, foxes, water monitor lizards, crocodiles, sloth bears and the occasional leopard. There are 30 varieties of snakes and a wealth of birdlife; northern migrants join the residents between November and April.
Wildlife in Udu Walawe is under threat for several reasons, including illegal settlement and the associated grazing of cattle, as well as significant numbers of visitors in private vehicles. Another problem is poaching and the use of ‘Hakka Patas’, small explosive devices that are concealed in food and left on the banks of the Uda Walawe Reservoir, where wild boar graze. Though the explosives target wild boar, several elephants have been severely injured in recent years.