I want to cut straight to the point and answer your question, should I visit Udawalawe National Park? The answer is YES! If you want to see elephants and other Sri Lankan wildlife roaming in their natural habitat, a trip to Udawalawe National Park is well worth a visit.
Within minutes of entering Udawalawe National Park, we were surrounded by a herd of elephants. I was immediately impressed by the magical creatures and left excited for the adventure to come.
Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe was established as a national park in 1972. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir. The Udawalawe reserve covers almost 31,000 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and is home to over 5000 elephants, hundreds of bird species, monkeys, leopards, buffalo and other wildlife.
Getting to Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park is 165 kilometres (103 mi) from Colombo. To get to Udawalawe National Park I recommend hiring a car or a driver for the day. The safaris generally go for 3 hours, so you don’t want to drive a long distance before and after your safari. Therefore it is best to do a day trip from Tangalle, Kalametiya or Ella.
Other than a safari, there isn’t a lot to do in Udawalawe National Park so I would recommend a day trip as opposed to an overnight stay.
Safari’s at Udawalawe National Park
There is a morning (6am-9am) and afternoon (3pm-6pm) safari option available at Uduwalawe National Park with Lakpura Travels.
Although you can see elephants on a morning safari, it is recommended to take an afternoon tour (3-6pm) as many elephants will venture out to the river for a bath and sip of water. You are also more likely to spot crocodiles in the late afternoon.
Elephant sightings at Udawalawe National Park are high year round.
The cost of visiting Udawalawe National Park
Entry to Udawalawe National Park is 3500 Rupees (Approximately $25 USD) per foreign adult. You will also need to arrange a safari driver which will cost an additional $25 USD per jeep with Lakpura Travels. You can fit 6 people per jeep. Find out more about Jeep Tours with Lakpura Travels.
My day at Udawalawe National Park
I arranged an afternoon safari through Lakpura Travels. On the day, we met the driver at the entrance to Udawalawe National Park. Before entering, we stopped at the National Park office to pay the entry fees. It wasn’t long into our safari that we were surrounded by a herd of elephants. This was just the start. For the first hour and a half of the three-hour safari, we were admiring the elephants as they ate grass and played around the water’s edge.
Our driver was amazing at spotting wildlife that we would never have seen without him. We saw lots of different bird species, monkeys, crocodiles, buffalo, cows, wild cats, dogs and more.
What to pack for a day at Udawalawe National Park
The most essential item for a day at Udawalawe National Park is a good camera. Pack a camera with a zoom lens (55-250mm or similar). You don’t want to miss perfect shots of the wildlife and an iPhone is unlikely to get you the shot you want.
You may also want to pack binoculars, snacks and a light jacket.
Should I visit Udawalawe National Park or Yala?
A common question many tourists ask when visiting Sri Lanka.
From what I have heard, Yala is generally busier than Udawalawe. Yala is the best national park to spot leopards and Udawalawe is best for elephant sighting. Both national parks are worth a visit, it just depends where you are based and what you want to see. If you can, why not visit both?
Other tips for visiting Udawalawe National Park
- Make sure your camera battery is fully charged for the safari!
- Pack water and snacks, there is nothing available inside the national park.
- It can get cool so pack a light jacket.
- Don’t litter in the national park. If you take rubbish in with you, also take it out with you!
If you are in the process of planning a trip to Sri Lanka, this guide covers EVERYTHING you need to know.
Other things to do in Sri Lanka
- Visit Ella in the highlands of Sri Lanka – these are the best things to do in Ella.
- Visit Sigiriya Rock
- Photograph the country – these are the 15 best Instagram spots!
Book a tour in Sri Lanka
Book accommodation in Sri Lanka
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