Wasgomuwa National Park is located between the Central and North Central provinces, 39,000 hectares of riverine and dry evergreen forests, grasslands and wetlands which are home to numerous animals including sloth bear, sambur, spotted and barking deer, wild boar, purple-faced leaf monkey and 143 species of bird. Wasgomuwa is famous for the elephants which frequent the Mahaweli River which runs along one of the boundaries of the park, and its canals and water-ways which run down from the 470-metre-high ‘Sudu Kande’ nearby. There are also archaeological ruins of ancient settlements within the park, the most important of which is Buduruwayaya, which is comprised of ruins of Buddha statues which are estimated to be over 1,800 years old and buildings which date back to the Polonnaruwa period.
Wasgomuwa was closed to visitors until 1948, when it was changed from a Strict Nature Reserve to a National Park. As a relatively ‘new’ park, the animals are still not used to people and so your encounters can be very memorable! Elephants are the main attraction of this park – there are over 150 here – and they are particularly large in size due to their varied diet. Other mammals inhabiting this park include leopard, sloth bear, golden jackal, wild boar, wild buffalo, black-naped hare, sambar, spotted and barking deer, fishing cat, rusty-spotted cat and primates including the grey langur, the endemic toque macaque and purple-faced leaf monkey and the nocturnal grey slender loris.
Wasgomuwa is also excellent for birdwatching. Nearly 150 species of birds can be seen in the park, including migrants, forest birds, water birds and waders. Some of the highlights include the endemic species red-faced malkoha, Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka spur fowl, Sri Lanka green pigeon, Sri Lanka brown-capped babbler, crimson flamback, Sri Lanka grey hornbill and yellow-fronted barbet. Other species include the globally endangered lesser adjutant and painted storks, black-headed ibis, and grey-headed fish eagle. Wasgomuwa is also a very good location to see the elusive spot-bellied eagle owl, also known as the ‘Devil Bird’. Other forest birds include little green bee-eater, blue-tailed bee-eater, common iora, black-headed cuckoo shrike, brown shrike, black-headed munias, Indian pitta, forest wagtail, yellow wagtail, orange-headed ground thrush, jungle prinia, ashy prinia, white-rumped shama, Malabar-pied hornbill and the chestnut-headed bee-eater.
Other animals which can be seen at Wasgomuwa are various species of butterflies – including the rare five-bar swordtail and colourful banded peacock, common jezebel, blue mormon and common birdwing – and reptiles including two types of crocodile and land monitors. If you are lucky you many also see the Indian python crossing in front of the jeep tracks in the early morning.