Sri Lanka’s largest national park, the name of Wilpattu describes the landscape of the area: ‘Willu’ stands for natural lakes in Tamil, and ‘pathu’ stand for ten in Tamil. The park is known for its high leopard population, 40 plus known leopards. Sri Lankan sloth bears, crocodiles, spotted deer, and elephants, and several species of birds such as Lesser Adjutants, Painted Storks, Spoonbills, Shikras, and Crested Hawk Eagles that will rejoice birdwatchers.
2013 it was certified as wetland by RAMSAR origination, Wilpattu has a total of 205 water bodies, natural and manmade, within its perimeter. Elephants in this part of Sri Lanka are said to be larger in size than the average Sri Lanka jumbo because they feed on nutrient-rich grasses growing in the villus.
The Wilpattu Ramsar site extends beyond the boundaries of the national park to the ocean front to include the rich coastal and marine habitats of Kalpitiya. Seagrass beds, mangroves, salt marshes, swamps and floodplain forests contribute to the area’s rich biodiversity. l The site once supported a thriving agricultural civilization, and 68 archaeologically important sites have been identified.
Due to its remote location, the park sees fewer visitors, allowing you to enjoy the wilderness and wildlife to its fullest. Visitors can access 25% of the park, but since this is a large park, this might mean less frequent sightings.
The park is open the whole year through the months from February to October are the best time to go.
From Kalpitiya, you have two options to reach the Wilpattu National Park
To the Hunuwilgama Entrance
Overland: by minivan or private car through the towns closest to the park entrance: Nochchiyagama, Puttalam, and Anuradhapura. The ride takes about One and Half hours.
By boat from our resort to another eco-resort close to the park entrance. This option is the fastest as it takes barely 30 min. Beware that the ride might be bumpy if the wind picks up and generates swell in Dutch Bay. However, the early morning rides is usually silky smooth!
Another benefit of the boat option is that you can go to ‘Ali Gahaa, or the Elephant Tree; which is not native to Sri Lanka.
This is in fact a large baobab many centuries old with old wrinkled bark resembling the skin of an elephant. The boat takes you through the green mangroves and by small fishing huts worth checking if you are nearby.
In the Park:
- Opens from 6 am to 6 pm
- Only jeeps can enter the park
- Safaris are split in morning/afternoon, or full-day packages
- The entrance is somewhat remote, so reserve your seat in advance to ensure jeep availability
- Maximum of 50 tickets are available per day, you can reserve your place online
If you can, we recommend a full day as it allows you more time to explore and gives you a higher chance of spotting the elusive wildlife. If you are short on time, a morning safari should be your first choice, as animals tend to move more in the cooler morning hours.
Due to people complaining not seeing any many animals in the morning we highly recommend people to do full-day safari