North Western Province
In the northwest coast lowland dry zone is Sri Lanka’s largest national park. Wilpattu National Park is not only the largest in size but it is the oldest park on the island to receive national park status. The 130,000 hectare park is defined by a unique feature – it consists of nearly 60 natural lakes, as the name suggests (‘Willus’ meaning lakes). Although the leopard population in Wilpattu is unknown, the park is recognised as one of the top national parks in the world for spotting leopards. It is located just 30km from the historic city of Anuradhapura and 26km from Puttalam and Kalpitiya. The park is a great place for wildlife to sustain as the lakes provides plenty of water during the dry season.
Wilpattu is dotted with a variation of vegetation from dry zone scrub jungles to grassy plains. Like in almost every major national park, Asian elephants are seen here among a spectacular show of wildlife including the sloth bear, water buffalo, Sambhur, spotted deer, mongoose, wild boar and crocodile. The abundance of lakes has created a perfect wetland for aquatic birds and the park in general has an ample bird population. Endemic birds such as Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Babblers, Woodshrike, and Black-capped Bulbul are often spotted here. Wilpattu has an exquisite butterfly population to keep a lookout for, as well.
For nearly 15 years, the park was closed to visitors due to security reasons, and it was re-opened in 2003. It is one of the most tranquil and least-disturbed national parks in Sri Lanka. You have more than one reason to visit this monumental wildlife sanctuary, especially between February and October, when it is the most active. Jeep safaris are the best mode of sight-seeing in Wilpattu and the park is never heavily crowded. The rangers at Wilpattu guide the safaris and will make sure you have an informative and safe journey. For all nature lovers, wildlife photographers and nature enthusiasts, this serene wilderness has much to offer.