The Sri Lanka Travel Specialists
Wilpattu National Park is a contender as the most beautiful national park in Sri Lanka – and that’s quite a claim. Such is the beauty of the trees that at times you might imagine yourself in a landscaped garden. The biggest attraction, though, is the chance to see a Sri Lankan leopard because sightings are more common here than in any other Sri Lankan game park.
Wilpattu, the oldest and the biggest Sri Lankan national park, consists of a complex of shallow lakes called ‘villus’ which are surrounded by grassy plains and set within scrub jungle. Many of the `big game’ found in Sri Lanka including elephant, sloth bear, water buffalo, and spotted deer can be seen here.
This extensive park lies in Sri Lanka’s north-west, to the west of the cultural triangle and the ruined city of Anaradhapura. It stretches over an area of 1,300 sq kms, of which around 25% is normally open to visitors, and is comprised of varying habitats including coastal belt, natural lakes, clifftops, scrubland, open grasslands and dense forest. Wilpattu is among the oldest and most important protected areas in Sri Lanka and, while it does not always deliver as any game sightings as some other parks, its position slightly away from the common tourist route often means it is a park that can be enjoyed in tranquil seclusion.
Wilpattu translates as 'land of the lakes’ in Sinhala and '10 lakes' in Tamil. It is these lakes, which even survive the dry season, that give the park its own character and provide natural watering holes for wildlife. Turtles still come ashore to lay eggs on the beaches of its western extremity at Kudrimalai Point where the cliffs are copper-coloured and could provide a good imitation of another Star Trek planet.
It is said that the Sinhalese nation began at Kudrimalai Point in 534BC and, if it did, it chose a striking place to do it.
Wilpattu is open throughout the year, but the most popular time to visit is June to early October when a period of dry weather brings wildlife out to more easily seen lakes. It also offers a quieter alternative to Yala in peak tourist season in December and January and can be a shorter journey for those not planning to travel to the south-east extremities of the island.
If leopard sightings are the prize at Wilpattu, there is the chance to see other mammals too. More than 30 species have been recorded in Wilpattu. Some of the regulars include the Asian Elephant (although not as common here as in several other parks further east), Sloth Bear (particul;arly attracted to the fruit of the Palu tree in July and August), Wild Buffalo, Spotted Deer, and Barking Deer.
Endemics spotted here include Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lankan Woodshrike and Black-Capped Bulbul. Wilpattu is also very good for migrating birds like waterfowl and waders. Some of the commoner migrants seen include Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Great Stone-curlew, Whiskered Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Curlew Sandpiper,Black-winged Stilt, Gargany & Northern Pintail. Forest birds include Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Small Cuckoo, Racket-tailed Drongo, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Coppersmith Barbet, Red-wattled Lapwing, Brown Fish Owl, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Crested Hawk Eagle and water birds include Painted Storks, Asian Open-bill, Eurasian Spoonbill, and Spot-billed Pelican.
Mugger Crocodiles are frequently seen in the Villus, with a few species of fresh water Terrapins are also found in the park. Indian Rock Python, Russell’s Viper, Indian Cobra, Sand Boa, Saw-Scale Viper and Hump-Nose Viper.
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