Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park was established on 30th June 1972. It is situated in the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces of Sri Lanka and covers 30,821 hectares of land in southern dry zone of the country. It is the sixth largest animal sanctuary of Sri Lanka. It has become a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country due to the abundance of water birds and elephants.
Three were two main objectives of creating this national park. One was to provide a sanctuary for wild animals that were displaced by the construction of Udawalawe Reservoir. The other objective was to protect the catchment of the reservoir which provides water for hydropower generation and agriculture in the surrounding lands. Earlier this area was used for chena farming and the farmers who were residing there were gradually removed and were given subsidiary lands
Reaching Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park is located at a distance of 165 kilometers from Colombo. In order to reach the entrance of the park, one can follow the Pelmadulla – Thimbolketiya A18 road. The park is only 20 kilometers away from Embilipitiya, which is found at the middle of Ratnapura and Ambalantota route. The park can easily be reached from Tangalle and Hambantota of Southern Province too
Landscape of Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park is a dry monsoon forest which consists of thorny shrub jungle, grasslands and scattered trees. The Udawalawe Reservoir is located at the centre of the Park, which is approximately 29,000 hectares
Climate of Udawalawe National Park
The climate of the area is characterized by seasonal rainfall and high temperature conditions. Its mean day temperature is around 29 degrees centigrade. The annual rainfall is about 1500mm with two rainfall peaks per year. The park receives high rainfalls during April to May and October to November. The months from June to September are the expanded dry period
Flora of Udawalawe National Park
The park mainly consists of savanna grasslands and thorny shrub jungle. Satin, Ehala and Lunumidella trees are scattered throughout the park. Kumbuk and Mandorang trees are found in the reverine forest areas
Fauna of Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe is the best place in Sri Lanka for sighting wild elephants throughout the year. There are about 500 elephants that roam in herds devoid of much seasonal variation and therefore the park provides ample elephant safari opportunities.
In addition to herds of elephants, water buffaloes, wild boars, foxes, spotted deers, sambar deers, axis deers, gray langers, mongooses, Asian palm civets, Indian muntjacs, toque macaques, fishing cats, jungle cats, mices and golden jackals are also seen. Leopards are occasionally found and sighting of them will be possible during mornings and evenings which in turn are the best hours to visit the park.
Udawalawe National Park affords magnificent opportunities for bird watching and photography. It has about 183 inhabiting bird species while many others pass through the park on their migratory routes. Endemic bird species such as Sri Lankan jungle fowl, Sri Lankan spur fowl, Sri Lankan green pigeon, Sri Lankan grey hornbill, Sri Lankan wood shrike and Sri Lankan swallow are found. Spot billed pelicans, gray herons, painted storks, green bee-eaters and blue faced malkoha are some of the other prominent bird species. Migrant birds such as booted eagle, common kestrel, black-capped king fisher and wood sandpiper are also seen during the months of November to March, which is the migrant season. The Udawalawe Reservoir has become an important area for breeding of aquatic birds.
In addition to above species the trees in the park attract butterflies while reptiles including crocodiles, lizards (oriental garden lizards, painted-lip lizards and water monitors) and 30 species of snakes are found mainly in the riverine forest areas. Fish species such as giant gurami, catla, rohu and orechromis are found in the reservoir
Elephant Transit Home (ETH) of Udawalawe National Park
There is also an orphanage called Elephant Transit Home (ETH) within the Udawalawe National Park, which is home to over 40 orphaned elephants. This was established in 1995 by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The orphaned calves and juveniles of the park are provided with necessary care at this place until they are released to their natural habitats. The daily feeding sessions of ETH are at 9 am, 12 pm, 3 pm and 6 pm