Situated east of Colombo and about a 4-5 hour car journey from the airport, Udawalawe is one of 22 National Parks in Sri Lanka – this one featuring grasslands, forests, marshes and a key location to spot some elephants.
Herds at Udawalawe can reach up to 50 elephants, and there are over 600 of them in the space of 119 square miles (vs. 300 elephants in 378 square miles at Yala), so you’re very likely to spot one on your visit here. This makes Udawalawe a perfect stop on your Sri Lanka adventure, even just for one or two days if you don’t have time to stay longer.
The best time to go out is first thing in the morning and as an early riser, the 6:30am start was refreshing. After meeting our guide, we made our way to the entrance of the park and on approaching the entrance, watched one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen – glorious splashes of pink and orange in the skies hitting the reservoir creating vivid reflections.
Being up close with elephants was incredible, especially as the safari experience was quiet with much fewer tourists than expected.
It was just us and the elephants.
I even spotted a play fight (can you see the elephants smiling?)
The reservoir is a very picturesque place to take a time-out (hint, take your things with you or the cheeky monkeys will pluck them from your seat!)
I also saw plenty of water buffalo, wild boar, deer, monkeys and peacocks around the park.
My beau and I decided to go out on safari twice, both times in the morning because the sunrise was too amazing to miss.
Our guide took us on two routes, one to explore the grasslands and the other to explore the forests.
As we ventured deeper into the park, we came across elephants who were less familiar with people. Even keeping our distance at silence didn’t stop a couple of them charging!
You can also pay a visit to the Elephant Transit Home, situated near the park. This home is full of adorable orphaned baby elephants in rehabilitation before being released back into the wild. You can watch them from a viewing platform at feeding time, running for their milk and playing with their friends.
As an alternative to the ever-popular Yala National Park; Udawalawe offers a more intimate experience, away from the crowds – we wanted to explore somewhere less crowded and a bit different so this was perfect for us!