The alluring drone shots of cavorting Blue whales, nesting endangered turtles and great gatherings of elephants at a watering hole will surely give wing to your plans for a wild holiday in the legendary ‘Spike Island’ in the Indian Ocean.
The blue whale is the biggest mammal in the world and Sri Lanka is the place to be for this exotic marine species. Though the Royal Bengal Tiger does not reside in its steaming jungles, nor South Africa’s swift cheetahs inhabit its savannah grasslands, Sri Lanka offers its own unique take on the beasts of the land and of the ocean to serve up some of the most thrilling wildlife experiences to bring you back again and again.
Ranked amongst the world’s top 10 biodiversity hotspots, Sri Lanka is a big draw for sightings of some of the largest mammals and endangered species on sea, soil and skies. With 25 national parks, over 60 bird sanctuaries and at least 90-odd species of mammals Sri Lanka offers fabulous wildlife experiences.
Spot on for Leopard Viewings
Epic sightings of the leopard await the wildlife enthusiast at Yala National Park, the world’s hot spot for the highest concentration of leopards. The apex predator of the Sri Lankan jungles, Panthera pardus kotiya, is endemic to Sri Lanka. For the best sightings, find your way to Yala Block 1 before the crowds descend. A bonus is Yala’s wealth of avifaunal species.
The Sri Lankan elephant, declared an endangered species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is a huge favourite of the wildlife enthusiast. An unmissable treat awaits at an ancient reservoir in the Minneriya National Park, when the world’s largest known Asian wild elephant gathering on Earth comes together during the dry months.
Having a whale of time
Sri Lanka ranks among the best places in the world to see whales. Sperm and blue whales, false orcas, spinner and bottlenose dolphins and turtles thrive in the Indian Ocean waters of Sri Lanka thanks to the depth of waters just beyond the shoreline. Remarkably close to land lies the continental shelf, which allows larger creatures the space to prosper whilst feeding off nutrients that flow from shore.
Mirissa Beach near Galle is a magnet for visitors heading out in the Indian Ocean on whale-watching tours, which are available from November to April. The ocean waters are calm and it’s the time the whales migrate here from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. There are places here for scuba dives and snorkeling with whales and calmer seas for swimming. You can also delight in sightings of the playful dolphins and swim with the great turtles who come back to shore during the nesting periods.
The coastal strip at Unawatuna is a marine hotspot encouraging travellers to go scuba diving and enjoy snorkelling expeditions amongst the shipwrecks and coral reefs. The waters here are also a popular hangout joint for whales, dolphins, eagle rays, turtles, cuttlefish, lion fish and sea stars. Another great scuba destination is Weligama, which offers alluring viewings of blue whales, dolphins, eagle rays, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, humpback whales love who favour this spot.
Amongst the atmospheric ruins of Polonnaruwa, enjoy a guided tour with an expert discovering the unique world of its current residents, three species of primates – the purple-faced leaf monkey, toque macaque and the grey langurs who have inspired its new name —“Monkey Kingdom”
Knuckle Down with New Discoveries
The Knuckles Mountain range, A UNESCO-acclaimed natural World Heritage Site, is an exciting world of new discoveries for scientists and anthropologists peeling away the many-layered veils of its astonishing biodiversity. Mendis Wickremasinghe, a leading Sri Lankan zoologist, has been credited for discovering over 25 new species of reptiles and amphibians, and the rediscovery of several species believed to be extinct for over a century.
Glamping experiences, aerial viewings and up-close safari rides add a pretty exotic cocktail of delights to savour unbeatable encounters with the beasts, both large and small in this little land.