Bundala National Park is a fantastic maze of waterways, lagoons and dunes that glitter like gold in the dying evening sun. This wonderland provides a home to thousands of colourful birds ranging from diminutive little bee-eaters to grotesque open-billed stalks. It is a wetland sanctuary of such importance that it has been recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Many big mammals are also present, with between 15 and 60 elephants depending on the season (December is the best month).

The park shelters almost 200 species of birds within its 62-sq-km area, with many journeying from Siberia and the Rann of Kutch in India to winter here, arriving between August and April (December to March is the peak time). It’s also a winter home to the greater flamingo, and up to 2000 have been recorded here at one time.

Bundala also has civets, giant squirrels and lots of crocodiles. Between October and January, four of Sri Lanka’s five species of marine turtles (olive ridley, green, leatherback and loggerhead) lay their eggs on the coast.

Bundala stretches nearly 20km along a coastal strip between Kirinda and Hambantota. The entrance is west of the 251km post. There’s a visitors centre at the main gate that has views over the marshes; check out the skeleton of a fearsomely huge crocodile.