One of the many things I liked about Sri Lanka, which I am sure you will love too, is the number of national parks across the country. On my trip to Sri Lanka, I got the chance to visit the largest national park in Sri Lanka, Wilpattu National Park.
Wilpattu national park is famous for leopard sighting and also for other animals like sloth bears, elephants, and a variety of birds that you can spot there. As an animal lover, I had to take a trip to this national park. Honestly, it was worth it, and I enjoyed every bit of it.
The best part of the Wilpattu National Park trip was indeed the safari tour. This is by far the best wildlife safari experience I ever had, and I am going to share my experience in this blog.
Overview Of Wilpattu National Park
The park got its unique name from the word “Willus,” meaning natural lakes in Singhalese. Willus is natural water basins that attract wildlife, especially when they are filled with rainwater.
Wilpattu National Park is not only the largest but also the oldest national park in Sri Lanka. The park is located on the western coast of Sri Lanka and is just an hour away from the city of Anuradhapura.
|Location||–||Approximately 45kms away from Anuradhapura and 190kms from Colombo|
|Entrance Gate||–||Hunuwilgama Entrance (Main Gate)|
|Visiting Time||–||6 am to 6 pm|
|Mode of safaris||–||Only Jeep safaris are allowed.|
|Best time of the day to visit the park||–||6 am to 10 am (morning safari) &3 PM to 6 pm (evening safari)|
|Wildlife in Wilpattu National Park||–||Sri Lankan Elephant, Sri Lankan Leopard, Sloth Bear, Spotted Deer, Buffalo, Sambar, Mongoose. A lot of birds as well.|
|The closest town to the park entrance||–||Nochchiyagama (20kms~), Puttalam(30kms~)and Anuradhapura(45kms~)|
|Best months to visit the park||–||February to October is the best time to visit.|
|How to reach||–||Taxi or tuk-tuk.|
The park covers a vast area of dense forest that is filled with abundant wildlife. Unless you hire a guide, you simply cannot explore the park. Our tour guide took us to the known territories so that we could get the best glimpse of wildlife out there.
The area inside the park is so vast that you need a jeep to explore the entire park. Safari jeeps travel through different routes, so you won’t get to see other vehicles often. The only time you can face traffic is while entering and exiting the park. That’s because all the safari jeeps are on the same schedule, and they need to be on time.
In Wilpattu National Park, you can witness different environments out there. This includes dry zone, forests, natural lakes, and open grasslands. You will not find so many variations in other wildlife parks in Sri Lanka.
Besides wildlife, there are some ancient ruins of stone pillars. As per the guide/jeep driver, these ruins are the remains of the Queen Kuweni’s palace. She was the wife of King Vijaya, Sri Lanka’s first ruler.
From rich wildlife to beautiful scenic views to palace ruins, Wilpattu National Park is a must-visit. I had the best experience of life out there.
How to reach Wilpattu National Park?
Reaching Wilpattu National Park From Anuradhapura
Since I was staying in Anuradhapura, I had to take a car ride from the city to the park. The city of Anuradhapura is just 50 minutes from the park, at a distance of around 45kms. You can either book a car ride or enjoy a tuk-tuk ride.
Reaching Wilpattu National Park From Colombo
Most tourists start their Sri Lankan adventure from Colombo. So I did some research to find out the best way to get to the park from Colombo.
If you are travelling from Colombo, then you can book a cab ride to the park. It will take you around 3 hours and 15 minutes to reach your destination. However, the duration can increase if you are caught up in traffic jams.
There are no direct buses to the park from Colombo. However, you can take a bus ride to Anuradhapura or Puttalam, which is close to the park. From there, you can take a tuk-tuk ride or a taxi to the park.
What are the entry fees and timings of Wilpattu National Park?
The fees to enter the Wilpattu National Park will vary depending on whether you are going through a package with other people or solo. A jeep safari has a capacity of 6 people, so depending on the number of the people the cost varies when divided. Since this is my first time in Sri Lanka, I opted for a safari package from my hostel, which cost me around 6000LKR including reaching the park, the safari and coming back to our hostel. But I will tell you guys the official charges of entering the park.
- Local Resident Adult: LKR 60.00 per head
- Local Resident Child (6 to 12 years): LKR 30.00 per head
- School Children: LKR 20.00 per head
- Foreign Adult: $15
- Foreign Child (6to 12 years): $8
Also, to the initial entry fee, you will be charged 15% VAT along with separate charges for the vehicle. You can either opt for safari trips organized by the park or book it yourself from some other third-party company.
As far as the entry timing is concerned, the park remains open from 6 am to 6 pm, so you will get enough time to explore the park.
Best Time To Visit Wilpattu National Park
The park remains open throughout the year. But if you want to enjoy your safari trip to the fullest, then I would suggest you visit the park from February to October. This is the best time to visit the park as there is little or no rain to ruin your trip. It also allows you to get a better sighting of wildlife in the park.
I visited the park in January and I hoped of spotting leopards, and it turned out to be quite lucky for me. The worst time is the monsoons season. It is better to avoid visiting the park at this time as you will not be able to enjoy much.
Wildlife Safari In Wilpattu National Park
There are two types of safari trips you can opt for. You can either go for a half-day safari trip or a full day safari trip. But I shall warn you, no matter what trip you choose, chances of spotting a leopard or sloth are not guaranteed.
Should you opt for a half-day safari or full-day safari?
If you only have one day
Since I had limited time in hand, I opted for a half-day safari trip. But exploring the entire national park in just one day’s full safari can be tiresome so I wouldn’t recommend it. I would suggest opting for a half-day morning safari.
In my opinion, you should opt for Morning Safari and visit the park early in the morning as this will give you a better chance of spotting wildlife. The best times to see wildlife are from 6:00 am to 10:00 am. The Highest possibility of spotting leopards is early in the morning around 6-7 am.
If you have 2 days or more
In case you are a wildlife enthusiast and want to spend more time, then the best thing to do is to spend a night in Wilpattu and make two half-day safari trips. I would suggest you go for an afternoon trip on the first day. On the next day, you can go for the morning trip. There are evening safaris from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm.
If you have more time in hand, then you can even book a two night trip to the park. This will improve your chances of spotting wildlife. You cannot only go on multiple safari trips, but you can also get more chances of spotting a leopard.
Booking Your Safari
I booked my stay in one of the well-known hostels named- Feel like Home Hostel in Anuradhapura, so I visited the park in the safari arranged by the hostel.
But if you stay near or in the park, you can book the safari trip offered by the park. But make sure that you make a booking in advance, especially when you are visiting the park in the peak season.
Wildlife You Will Explore On Your Safari Trip
Coming to the wildlife, I am delighted with my safari trip. Wilpattu national park is rich in wildlife. You have tons of different animals to explore in the Wilpattu National Park. This includes elephants, sambar, wild boar, crocodiles, mongoose, etc. however, leopard and sloth bear remains to be the main animals. Luckily, I had the chance to spot a leopard. But if you want to see sloth bears, then the best time to visit the park is in June.
On your safari trip, they take you close to lakes, so that you can see more wildlife. Many of the animals, including elephants, come to the lake to drink water. They park the safari jeep at a safe distance from where you can see the wildlife. You can animals drinking and some of them taking a bath in the water. This is the kind of thing that I had only seen on the TV. Seeing them right in front of your eyes was a completely different experience.
What I learned from my experience is that you need to carry binoculars on your safari trip. This is required so that you can see animals even at a distance. Luckily, they provided me with a binocular. Although it didn’t have much zoom, it was still better than nothing.
They give you short breaks while touring through the park. You should carry some snacks like chips, a dry cake, and coke. You can have them while traveling through the park.
The best thing about Wilpattu National Park Safari is that you will hardly see anyone else in the park. It’s only you and a few other jeeps that can be seen only at the time of entry and exit. Even the guides are great as they know a lot about the park and the animals. They will try their best to show you as much wildlife as they can. They take you to places where you are more likely to see them.
Accommodation In Wilpattu National Park
The park is a huge one, so it takes a good amount of time to be explored. Although I didn’t stay there, I can still suggest some great places to stay in the park.
The good thing is that there are some amazing places to stay inside the Wilpattu National Park. You can select your accommodation based on your budget. If you are travelling with your friends or family, then this will be the best thing to do. This will not only give you more chances to see wildlife, but you will also stay amid wildlife.
1. Leopard Trails Wilpattu
One of the best options available is Leopard Trails Wilpattu. They provide all-inclusive tents that come with a private bathroom. This is an ideal option for those who want to stay close to nature.
2. Thamaravila ByThe Elephant Stables
Another great option, you can check out is Thamaravila ByThe Elephant Stables. They seem to be a great option as they offer you 5 star like hotel experience inside the park. From your desk to air conditioning to LCD TV, they provide it all to make your stay comfortable.
3. Wilpattu Tree House
Wilpattu Tree House is an affordable option available for budget travelers. However, this accommodation is not located inside the park. Instead, it is located at the entrance of the park. However, you shouldn’t expect to get a real tree house feel as they provide normal rooms.
4. Wilpattu Dolosmahe
Located in Wilpattu national park, this is yet another cozy place where you can spend your stay. Besides offering comfortable rooms, they also have a shared garden area and lounge for you to relax. Along with that, you can enjoy other facilities such as 24/7 desk service, room service, and free internet.
No matter what you book, I will advise you to book your stay in advance. There are very limited places to stay, and therefore, they get booked quickly. So if you want your desired place to stay, then you should book it online in advance.
How long should you stay in the Wilpattu National Park?
One day is enough to explore the park if you are visiting from Colombo or Anuradhapura. However, if you want to explore the entirety of the park, you can extend your stay to 2 days. To cover the entire park, you need to go on two safari trips. Staying in the park won’t be a problem as I have already suggested to you the best places to stay in.
Restaurants And Food In Wilpattu National Park
As far as food is concerned, there are few restaurants near the park. If you have opted for a full-day safari in the Wilpattu National Park, then you will be provided with meals on your trip.
The restaurants located close to the park serve Sri Lankan food, which tastes quite good. However, I will still suggest you carry some of your food with you on the trip. You should carry a bottle of water and readymade snacks with you. If you feel hungry during the safari trip, then you can have it.
Tips To Visit Wilpattu National Park
Here are some important tips. I would like to share it with you guys. I have come up with these tips from my own experience. I feel you will find it useful as well.
- When visiting the Wilpattu National Park, you should wear loose and comfortable clothes. It is better to avoid tight clothing like jeans and shorts.
- You should wear sneakers on your safari trip and not any uncomfortable footwear.
- You should not forget to carry a binocular with you. Make sure that the binocular you are carrying has a good zoom capacity. You need this to see animals at a distance.
- You should not forget to carry your camera to click pictures in the park.
- You are advised to carry some food and water with you on your trip.
- Whether peak season or not, you should book your stay in the park in advance. If you fail to do so, you may not get your desired place to stay.
Wilpattu National Park is an unforgettable experience. This is an ideal place for all nature lovers. If you are visiting Sri Lanka, you simply cannot miss visiting the largest and oldest national park in the country.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wilpattu National Park
#1. How far is Wilpattu national park from Anuradhapura?
Wilpattu national park is located at a distance of approximately 55kms from Anuradhapura. It is almost a drive of 1 hour.
#2. When is the best time to visit Wilpattu national park, Srilanka?
Although Wilpattu national park is open throughout the year, February to October is considered to be the best time to visit Wilpattu national park.
#3. Wilpattu national park vs. Yala, which one is better?
Both are unique in their own ways. However, Wilpattu has a higher chance of spotting leopards. Yala is much more crowded, and hence I personally enjoyed visiting Wilpattu National Park more.