Where to see wildlife in Sri Lanka -The top 8 Experiences

Want to know where to see wildlife in Sri Lanka? Or what is the best wildlife safari in Sri Lanka? Wildlife tourism in Sri Lanka makes it the perfect place to visit for nature lovers. It’s hard to go a day without spotting a new creature even if you are just relaxing by the beach. The culture and history here have led Sri Lanka to be a Mecca for wildlife conservation and eco tourism. Sustainable travel in Sri Lanka is easy to do. The country recycles and reuses most of its glass fizzy drinks bottles, plus a lot less single use plastics are as readily available than in the west. With these top wildlife experiences in Sri Lanka you can’t help but have the trip of a lifetime.

See hundreds of wild elephants in Kaudulla national park

There are few places left in the world that you can see the largest land mammal on earth freely roaming around in such great numbers. This is one of the best reasons to visit Sri Lanka and why I will definitely return. You can often find posts of people riding (don’t do it!) or bathing elephants in places like Thailand or Bali. But here they are simply roaming around in their natural habitat. In their hundreds! Visit Kaudulla or Minneriya in the north or Udawalawa nearer to the south coast towns of Mirissa and Unawatuna.

What is the best wildlife safari in Sri Lanka?

Leopards are notoriously hard to spot animals. The dense undergrowth of Yala national park certainly doesn’t help matters. But with a bit of luck and a great guide you have a pretty good chance to spot one having his morning stretch! Yala Wild Safaris will get you there before the leopards even wake up and certainly way ahead of the other jeeps. They continually top Sri Lanka tour operator lists for their knowledgeable guides and devotion to sustainability.

where to see wildlife in sri lanka 2020
Yala national park Sri Lanka

Where to see wildlife in Sri Lanka in high season

If you have the option however why not try Wilpattu national park? Yala is busy even in off season with Jeeps queuing from 5 in the morning. Wilpattu is  lesser known national park in Sri lanka and a lot quieter meaning less noisy jeep engines to scare away all of the wildlife! Leopards, bear, monkeys and deer can all be found here too!

Take a boat out on the Indian Ocean to spot whales

Blue whale fluke Sri Lanka

The Indian Ocean is abundant with sea life. Take a boat from Mirissa in search of the largest animal on the planet. The blue whale. It truly is a bucket list experience witnessing the brief moments one of these giants comes to the surface for a breath before diving back into the deep. You might even catch a few spinner dolphins leaping out if the water on the way! Check out Raja and the whales, expect to pay around $40 for a day trip.

Have a look at my top 5 things to do in Mirissa.

where to see wildlife in sri lanka 2020
Frog Rock – Sri Lanka

See thousands of bats at Tissa Lake

One of the lesser known spectacles in Sri Lanka, yet easily one of the best wildlife experiences I’ve ever had. Venture out to Tissamaharama and visit Tissa lake just before sunset and no doubt a budding entrepreneur will find you. Jump on a boat for a sunset cruise around Tissa lake, watching all of the birds coming in to roost for the night. The noise is deafening before everything suddenly falls quiet. Then from the treetops huge fruit bats start making their appearance. In their thousands they emerge. But just as quickly as they fill the night sky, they are gone. Truly mesmerising.

Search for elusive sightings in the Sri Lankan central highlands

Kingfisher Sri Lanka

Taking the train from Kandy to Ella is must do experience in Sri Lanka. The tea plantations roll past the window and give way to epic mountain views giving it the title of one of the best train journeys in the world. What the less wildlife obsessed tourist might miss is the chance to spot all kinds of creatures. For the birders Nuwara Eliya or ‘Little England’ is home to kingfishers. Stop by at the botanical gardens to find these not so camera shy birds as well as many others. While slowly chuffing through the highland forests on the train keep your eyes peeled for elusive bear monkeys. They were too quick for my camera but a great spot never the less!

Getting the Kandy to Ella Train Sri Lanka

Monkeys, monkeys everywhere!

Long tailed Macaque Monkey in Sri Lanka

I couldn’t not mention monkeys! Anyone that knows me will be well aware that I am quite fond of these cheeky little critters in all their forms. The most common monkeys here are long tailed macaques and they can be found pretty much everywhere! Stealing someone’s lunch or posing for the ‘Gram. Purple headed langur monkeys are a bit less common but can still be found in big family groups in places like the ancient ruins of Polunnaruwa.

Swim with turtles in Hikkaduwa

Secret Beach Mirissa

The south coast of Sri Lanka is a beach lovers paradise. There are wide opened palm fringed beaches alongside tropical coral reefs teeming with wildlife. There are a few tame (and rather well fed) green turtle’s that have made the beach at Hikkaduwa their home. There’s no need for a snorkel really as the chirpy turtles come right into the shallows looking for helpful tourist to bring them tasty seaweed from the nearby reef shelf.

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where to see wildlife in sri lanka
Sri Lanka Map
Check out all of the best stops in Sri Lanka here on Google Maps.
What to see in Sri Lanka
Click here for the complete guide!

How to travel better for less

Skyscanner – For flights at the best prices this is my go to site. I have also started using them for car hire and they can’t be beat!

Booking.com – I always book with this site if looking for cheap accommodation as the filters are so easy to use. Become a genius member after five bookings and get great discounts too!

Air BnB – Sometimes you can find great local places to stay on Air BnB. In some countries, like Cuba, it’s the only way to book!

Transferwise – A debit card you can use all over the world and get great exchange rates with no hidden fees. This bank has saved me £100’s in bank fees!

Monzo – A similar travel card to the above with additional features like joint accounts and bill splitting.

World Nomads – Travel insurance is one of the most important things you can have while travelling. Don’t leave home without it! World Nomads provide the very best cover.

Ethical Superstore – My go to site for cleaning products, eco clothing and even groceries. All ethically tagged and delivered free from plastic packaging. Plus eco friendly alternatives to your toiletries.

Omio – The place to go for all of your public transport needs in Europe. Save a bundle!

G Adventures – A sustainable, fun, responsible travel company. I’ve travelled with them many times and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their amazing trips.

Contiki – The day job. Group travel for 18/35 year olds and memories to last a lifetime.

Hey, some links in this post are to affiliate sites. If you purchase something through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

A note on Amazon Affiliates – LW no longer uses this program, instead focusing on eco friendly alternatives. Read the reasons why here. LW will not profit from any links that may remain on this site. Please advise us if you spot any. Thanks!

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Jo Williams

A Brit that got fed up of the 9 to 5 corporate life, I sold everything to become a full time wanderer. Having travelled to over 70 countries so far, I share my money-saving tips and secrets from inside the travel industry. Hoping to inspire you to work less and travel more.