Udawalawe National is located 165KM from Colombo which is roughly a 5-hour drive. We think it’s best to do Udawalawe mid trip en-route to Galle or a beach resort in the South coast or vice versa. This cuts the drive time and the closest cities hill country city to Udawalawe is Ella.
Udawalawe lies on the boundary of Sri Lanka’s wet and dry zones. It is an important habitat for Sri Lankan elephants. Many elephants are attracted to the park because of the Udawalawe reservoir, with a herd of about 250 believed to be permanently resident. Sri Lankan sambar deer, Sri Lankan axis deer, Indian muntjac, Sri Lanka sported chevrotain, wild boar and water buffalo are among other larger mammal species seen in larger number. However, with some luck, you may get to see the rusty-spotted cat, fishing cat, Sri Lankan Leopard and the Sri Lankan sloth bear.
Udawalawe is also one of the best places for bird watching. Specially during the migration season, a good variety of migrant birds among the endemic species can be seen here. Endemic birds such as Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and Brown-capped babbler are among the birds found here. The reservoir attracts a huge variety of water birds such as cormorants, the sport billed pelican, Asian open-bill, painted stork, black headed ibis and the Eurasian spoonbill.
The best sight however, are the raptors. The Crested serpent-eagle, White-bellied sea eagle, Grey-headed fish Eagle, changeable Hawk-eagle are definite sites during a game drive.
The mean annual temperature experienced at Udawalawe National Park is is 27 degrees Celsius, although in the dry season, temperatures can reach 37 Celsius during the hottest part of the day. Rains bring relief to fauna and flora during the North east monsoon from November to January. Rains are frequent but usually last only for an hour or so a day, bringing respite to the heat of the day and quickly giving way to sunny skies. October to April however, is the best time to see Elephants and Migratory Birds.
The main dry season spreads from May/June to October. The park is particularly dusty during this time of the year and many water holes dry up and others become concentrated with fish allowing the birdlife and crocodiles to make easy pickings. Leopards and other mammals with distinct ranges can be forced to come to specific waterholes to get drinks.
The best time of the day to visit Udawalawe is evening. We think combining the session with the sunset really sets an amazing picture specially for the photography enthusiasts and wildlife lovers equally.