Sri Lanka: Top Safari Animals

What makes Sri Lanka a great wildlife destination? Well, where else can you see the largest animal on land (the elephant), the largest animal in the planet AND the country’s top predator (the leopard) within a span of days? Plus, where else can you see 300 wild Asian Elephants gathered in one location? That’s right, it’s all here in Sri Lanka! So keep on reading to discover the best safari options.

Blue Whales at Mirissa

A coastal town in the south, it’s now a renowned whale-watching destination. In these southern waters, there are small crustaceans called ‘Krill’ that attract the world’s largest animal: the Blue Whale. Krill are one of the smallest creatures on earth, so it’s quite ironic that the world’s largest inhabitant devours these minuscule swimmers. Blue Whales can consume up to 6 tonnes of Krill per day, and luckily the waters are full of them so whale sightings are quite common. But be sure to avoid the monsoon season, when the waters are rough.

Blue Whale

Leopards at Yala

En route to watching whales, with the help of a decent local tour company, you can always arrange a trip to Yala National Park, which is a 4-hour drive. Yala is the country’s most famous national park. It has a diversity of animals such as wild boar, buffalo, deer, sambar, elephants and… leopards. Leopards are apex predators in Sri Lanka – meaning they have no competition (like in Africa or India, where there are lions and tigers). Hence Sri Lankan leopards are quite bold and often encountered on open trails.

Sri Lankan Leopard

Sloth Bears at Yala

Yala is also great if you want to see the Sloth Bear – a shaggy, black-coated animal found exclusively in the Indian subcontinent. Starting from May, a fruit called ‘Palu’ ripens, and these elusive bears come out to eat the juicy product. Otherwise, observing the Sloth Bear is quite difficult, as they are notoriously shy. So make sure to target May-August during your visit.

Sloth Bear

Elephants at Minneriya

Want to see a LOT of elephants together? Let’s say around 300? Imagine having your safari jeep surrounded on all sides with ’em! That’s exactly what happens during the dry season; starting from May, elephants start to migrate in search of food – their final destination is Minneriya National Park. The sanctuary has a large tank; as its waters recede during the dry season, rich grass is exposed underneath, providing plenty of food for the elephants who gather in large herds. This amazing visual spectacle is called the ‘gathering’ and is a wonderful opportunity to watch wild elephants feed, socialize and even bathe together.

Sri Lanka Elephant (Tusker)

So, if you’re planning a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka, make sure to keep these animals and places in mind! Also, as a primer – be sure to check out this video too.