Sri Lanka activities and attractions | Bundala and Tissa wetlands

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Bundala & Tissa Wetlands

Bundala & Tissa wetlands combine 20km of beach, lagoons and scrub hosting more than 150 bird species. It’s also the first Ramsar wetland site in Sri Lanka. These wetlands are home to winter migratory birds and large flocks of flamingos. The lagoons are also popular with crocodiles. From October to January the park also receives visits from the endangered marine turtles that lay their eggs on the shore.

Stats in Brief

Stratification: Thorn forest, lagoons & sand dunes

Size: 6,216ha

Status: National Park & Ramsar wetland

Altitude: 0-10m

Temperature: 27 (degree c)

Annual Rainfall: 900mm to 1300mm

Best time of year to visit: October to April

Optimum duration of stay: 1 to 3 nights

Accommodation Options: Yala,Tissa

Highlights: Over 15,000 migratory shore birds during the Northern hemisphere winter.


The first Ramsar site in Sri Lanka, Bundala National Park is a mix of scrub jungle and sand dunes bordering the sea. The park falls within the South-eastern Arid Zone of Sri Lanka, with a general climate that can be classified as hot and dry. The park consists of mainly dry thorny scabland and lagoons. The shallow brackish water lagoons located within the park are Koholankala, Maala, Embilikala and Bundala form a complex wetland system that harbours the rich bird life including several species of migratory birds. This is unmissable park for any bird watcher visits the island.

Flora & fauna of Bundala & Tissa Wetlands

The vegetation in the park can be categorized as terrestrial vegetation types and wetlands. The first type includes dry thorny scrubland, arid zone forests, sand dune vegetation, gentle seashore vegetation, maritime grasslands and Riverine forests. The wetlands consist of Salt marsh, Mangrove, Brackish water lagoons, water holes and tanks, seashore, streams and Salterns. A total of 383 species of plants have been recorded in Bundala. These consist of six endemic species and seven nationally threatened. The dominant large tree species are Weera, Neem, Palu, Kohomba and Divul. Andara is the dominant scrub.


Viewing big game is not the best thing to do in Bundala. If one is very luck you will see an Elephant or two. Other smaller mammals in this area include Spotted Deer, Wild buffalo, the endemic Toque Macaque, Hanuman Langer, Jackal, Fishing cat, Rusty-spotted cat, Smabar, Porcupine, Indian Pangolin, Black-naped Hare and Wild Pig.


Endemic species include the Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl and Sri Lanka Woodshirke. The large number of migrant birds comprises mainly of Golden Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Lesser and Large Sand Plovers, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank, Little Stints which are the common ones and the rarities include the Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff and the Bundala specialist Red-necked Phalarope. Bundala has long been popular for its frequent flock of Greater Flamingos seen during the migrant season. They were also recorded for a number of years to be resident and seen through out the year. Lately however, due to changes in the water quality of the lagoons and salterns, the Greater Flamingos have not been seen for a few years in their original numbers.

Many thousands of waterfowl like the Pintal, Gargany and Northern Shovelller ducks are also found in Bundala. Many species of forest birds that are seen in Yala are found here. Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-faced Malkoha and Indian Silver-bill are some of them.

Many species of water birds are also now seen in Bundala and adjoining wetlands. Spot-billed Pelicans, all species of Egrets, Cormorants, Whistling Teal, Painted Storks, Asian Open-bills, Grey Heron and many other birds can be observed in large numbers. Bundala is also good for birds of prey.

Amphibians & Reptiles

Noteworthy amphibians include the endemic frog Bufo Athukoralei. The park is famous for its crocodiles also, including very large specimens of the Mugger Crocodile and the rare Estuarine Crocodile. Four species of Marine Turtles also come ashore to nest in the beaches of Bundala. The Hawksbill and Green turtle are the common species while the Olive Ridley and Leather-back Turtles are rare.

Accommodation Options

Yala Village Hotel, Kirinda:  Yala Village boarders the Yala National Park and close to the Bundala and Tissa Wetlands.  Situated on 10 acres of scrub jungle, Yala Village is immersed in nature.  Animals may wander through the village unhindered as the management pursues a policy of existing in harmony with nature. The nearby beach is remote and attractive, although swimming is not recommended here, although a large swimming pool is good compensation. The view from the top deck of the bar-restaurant over the pool and to the lake beyond, where animals and birds come to drink and bathe, will tempt some to stay for hours. (More)

Elephant Reach Hotel, Yala:
  A new mid-range hotel option for those wishing to visit Yala and Bundala, Elephant Reach is built on a four-acre site and made up of chalets built under the shade of tropical trees laden with ripe mangoes and cashew. Initial feedback is promising with guests commenting on the property's relaxing natural feel and the friendly, courteous staff. (More)

Tissamaharama Resort, Tissa:
  This Ceylon Hotels Corporation guesthouse occupies a scenic position on the banks of the ancient Tissa Wewa (reservoir) that dates back almost 2,300 years. Located minutes from Tissamaharama town, this guesthouse is a sound base from which to explore the jungle shrine of Kataragama, and Bundala and Yala National Parks.  Different categories of accommodation are on offer here.  Red Dot recommends the New Wing Superior rooms or the Family Suites that are clean, comfortable and have better lake views.  Nature lovers will enjoy spotting the numerous species of birds that inhabit the small island in the reservoir, just in front of the guesthouse. (More)

Priyankara Hotel, Tissa:
  This three-star hotel is situated in Tissamarahama and is in close proximity to the jungle shrine of Kataragama, Yala National Park and Bundala.  Wildlife enthusiasts will be particularly taken by Priyankara, which has a restful location close to the Tissmaharama tank. From your private balcony, relax on colonial-style cane chairs and watch an array of birds in the nearby rice fields, as well as the timeless rituals of paddy farming.  Priyankara’s facilities will ensure that nature lovers will find no longer have to forego home comforts. (More)

Mahoora Camping in Bundala:
Mahoora Safari Camps, managed by Eco Team, one of the premier wildlife companies in the island, offers camping inside a range of national parks including Bundala.  Mahoora offer two grades of camping: luxury and standard and unlike the other competitors, Mahoora offers one-night stays in the parks which are useful when trying to keep down costs. But a two-day stay inside the parks is still recommended.  (More)


From the A2 at the Weligatha junction, near the 251Km post, take the turn to the Bundala Village. The park office and entrance is on this road and there is a very good visitor centre here.

Media Reviews

'Bundala – Park of Birds'
By Sarasi Wijeratne, Travel Sri Lanka, Vol 4 No 4

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