With Sri Lanka’s natural heritage, the country can offer wildlife safari’s similar to what one would expect in African countries like Kenya and Tanzania, but of course in a smaller scale as Sri Lanka itself is small. Just like Africa’s Big Five mammals – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and cape buffalo, Sri Lanka too has its counterparts – blue whale, sperm whale, leopard, Asian elephant and sloth bear.
All these five mammals can be seen if you spend some time at National Parks and other wild areas in the country. These animals are not isolated, but patience is indeed required if you want to spot the spectacular Big Five. While planning your itinerary for a holiday in Sri Lanka make sure you target the places where these animals are most popularly seen.
Blue Whale and Sperm Whale
Blue Whale is the biggest living animal on the planet and is visible 9 out of 10 times (during peak season), off the coast of Mirissa in southern Sri Lanka. Nowhere else in the world can Blue whales be seen with such ease and in so many numbers.
The sperm whale is the biggest toothed whale species in the world and is a must see animal during your tour of Sri Lanka. In fact you can see the sperm whale and the blue whale both in the Indian Ocean that is accessible from the southern coast of Mirissa. Sri Lanka ranks under one of the top ten places in the world for seeing sperm whales.
November to April are the best months to go on a whale watching cruise offered by many service providers in Mirissa.
Leopard, Elephant and Sloth Bear
The leopard is the biggest cat in Sri Lanka (3rd biggest in Asia) and it would be a thrill to see such a thing up-close. Leopards are the main attraction for tourists to visit Sri Lanka’s wildlife. Sloth bears often look dopey but be careful not to get too close as they can slit you open in a split second. The elephants in Sri Lanka are slightly smaller than the ones found in Africa but are still the largest in Asia and are very fast and intimidating when the mood strikes.
Yala National Park is probably the best place to sight these three animals in one location. January to June are the best months to visit and you need to schedule about 2-3 days at one of the many luxury camping sites at Yala National Park if you want to explore the park in detail and catch a glimpse of these animals. Sighting them all in one day is almost next to impossible.
Yala National park is said to be home to about 30-35 leopards, 150 elephants, sloth bear, buffalo and many more bird and mammal species. Other parks such as Wilpattu National Park and Udawalawe National Park are also popular locations to sight the Wild Asian Elephants, while the Wilpattu National Park is a good location for viewing sloth bears.