Sri Lanka may only be a small island when compared with many other countries, but it’s an island that is home to lots of stunning wildlife and animals. The landscapes and lush habitats of Sri Lanka make it an ideal place for many beautiful creatures to thrive and call home, and if you’re planning to see lots of these wonderful animals during your trip you’ll want to ensure you’ve got the insider knowledge.
Prateeque, our Sri Lankan local travel expert has put together some of his best recommendations for animal and nature lovers, so you can make sure you’re seeing all the amazing things Sri Lanka has to offer during your visit.
The best for unexpected wildlife: Delft island
We’ll start with the quirkiest suggestion from Prateeque, a small island off the coast of Sri Lanka, with a hidden surprise…
“It is a tiny island, which used to be where the Portuguese and the Dutch had a military base. It’s really interesting because all the buildings and monuments are made from coral (as in sea coral). The Dutch also used the island as stables for their horses, but after they left, all these horses have now shrunk so they’re more like ponies, and they just roam around free on the island. You would probably need help organising the trip, but they have a couple of guides with tuk tuk’s which can take you on a tour of the island, to see the lighthouse, the church and the ponies. It’s a really unique way to spend the day and a must-see for anyone who loves seeing wild horses or ponies.”
The best for elephants: Minneriya
One of the animals Sri Lanka is most famous for, is elephants. These huge, beautiful, elegant creatures reside in Sri Lanka, and can be seen in many places across the country. One of the best places, according to Prateeque, is Minneriya.
“One thing I’d say to do is the elephant safari at Minneriya, especially around August as there’s something called the ‘elephant gathering’ – where there’s around 300-400 elephants gathering there at once”
Seeing elephants in the wild is a truly awe-inspiring and incredible experience, and Sri Lanka is the ideal place to witness elephants in their natural habitat.
Best for guided tours: Yala National Park
If you want to immerse yourself in the wilderness, and spend the night camping out under the stars, our Yala National Park trip is a fantastic choice of tour for you. This incredible 2 day safari begins with a delicious and traditional Sri Lankan lunch, then leads onto an afternoon safari, and then overnight accommodation where you can choose from luxury or classic tents. There’s also an additional safari tour when you wake up in the morning.
“It’s an amazing way to see some of the amazing animals this country is home to, and camping out is so much fun”
The best for education and learning about wildlife: Primate centre in Polonnaruwa
If you’re looking to learn more about the history of Sri Lanka, and maybe meet some animals along the way – the Primate Centre in Polonnaruwa is a great choice for a day trip. Inside the Primate Centre, there are monkeys just roaming free and enjoying life – and you’ll get to see them and also learn plenty about their families, history and lives. Our ‘Cultural triangle’ tour in Sri Lanka include this as part of it’s itinerary.
Prateeque explains more…
“Another interesting thing is the primate centre which does loads of research into the monkeys of the area, it’s actually located in the old ancient capital Polonnaruwa and the primate centre is located within these ruins and the monkeys roam free within them. And here you can get a primatologist that takes you on a short walk through the ruins and you learn about the monkeys and the different monkey families. It’s really interesting, you get to see the historic side of the area and the natural side”
Best for fun wildlife: Araguam Bay
Because the wildlife is so good in Sri Lanka, you don’t always need to head out on day trips to find or experience animals. Prateeque recommends doing the informal tuk tuk safari around Aragum Bay if you want to have fun and see if you can spot some animals.
“You can do a Tuk Tuk wildlife safari. You don’t have to go to a wildlife park as the wildlife is so good, you can see wild elephants, leopards, crocodiles”
Best for marine life: Snorkelling in Polehnna
Not all of Sri Lanka’s wildlife is found on land. If you feel the ocean calling, and you fancy a dip in the beautiful sea, then chances are you’ll spot many creatures there too. Prateeque recommends snorkelling as an affordable but enjoyable way to see turtles and fish off the coast. Our ‘Van Tour Excursion’ is a great way to fit things like this into your schedule, as this tour can be designed to fit your interests.
“Snorkelling in Sri Lanka, especially in Polehnna is also a really good activity. I did it last weekend and you can see like huge turtles just off the beach. You don’t have to take a boat out or anything”
Best for dolphins: Kalpitiya
Kalpitiya is a perfect spot for dolphin and whale watching in Sri Lanka, as you don’t need to take a boat too far off-land to see these magnificent creatures. This particular part of the coastline is known for being an excellent site for seeing large pods of Spinner Dolphins and Sperm Whales.
There’s nothing quite like seeing the dolphins launch out of the water and seeing them perform amazing jumpers and twirls mid-air.
Best for conservation: Elephant transit home in Udawalawe
If you like to see the conservation efforts of countries when you visit, then the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe is a fantastic place to visit during your time in Sri Lanka.
“This is an actual elephant orphanage and an elephant rehabilitation centre where the elephants actually go back into the wild afterwards – you don’t get to get up close to them, maybe 50m away but it’s really nice to watch the baby elephants”