Introducing Bundala National Park
Bundala is an important wetland sanctuary (adult/child US$8.40/4.20, plus per vehicle Rs 72, plus per group Rs 144) that has been recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, but it has always been less visited than Yala. It shelters some 150 species of bird within its 62-sq-km area, with many birds journeying from Siberia and the Rann of Kutch in India to winter here, arriving between August and April. It’s also a winter home to the greater flamingo, and up to 2000 have been recorded here at one time. At most times you can see wild peacocks crossing the road.
As well as sheltering a small population of elephants (between 25 and 60 depending on the season), Bundala provides sanctuary to civets, giant squirrels and crocodiles. Between October and January four of Sri Lanka’s five species of marine turtle (olive ridley, green, leatherback and loggerhead) lay their eggs on the coast.
Bundala’s lagoons, beaches, sand dunes and scrubby jungle stretch nearly 20km along a coastal strip, starting just east of Hambantota. The main road east of Hambantota passes along Bundala’s northern boundary, but it was severely damaged by the tsunami, and access is difficult. On the road to Tissamaharama look for the parking area near the signposted entrance to the park. You will usually see some guides and drivers here; a four-hour, five-person 4WD trip costs a negotiable Rs 2500, plus the entry fees.
Between Hambantota and Tissa are a number of roadside stalls selling delicious curd (buffalo-milk yoghurt) and treacle.