Even full on Sri Lanka wildlife enthusiasts like to ‘build in’ a bit of chill out time at the end of their Sri Lanka safari and there are not many better places in Asia to make this type of holiday happen. Sri Lanka is a compact country, with a reasonable road network and some really excellent and friendly local drivers – who are also infact superb guides. In this personal blog based on our own visits to Sri Lanka, we look at the very special Sri Lank safaris you can put together; combining visits to famous national parks and relaxing stays at beautiful beach resorts.
This is one of the most popular Sri Lanka wildlife holidays we put together, as wildlife sanctuaries such as Yala national park and Wilpattu national park have become world famous for leopard sightings. Because the leopard in Sri Lanka is the only big cat, they are incredibly bold and photogenic and are much more diurnal in behaviour; as they do not have anything to fear (apart from humans!) from any other animal in the park. Of course, in India where you have healthy tiger populations, the leopards will stay on the fringes of the national parks and will exhibit more nocturnal behaviour.
The two best places to see leopards in Sri Lanka are Wilpattu and Yala, so maybe after 1 night in the Colombo/Negombo area - on arrival at Sri Lanka international airport - you will start your drive to either Wilpattu or Yala the following day. Wilpattu is only a 4 hour drive north from the airport, so theoretically you could arrive in time for an afternoon leopard safari on Day 2 of your Sri Lanka safari. If you decide to head to Yala national park, then we would suggest breaking the long car journey en route. This stop will be chosen based on your personal interests. If your interest is more Sri Lanka wildlife, then you could consider stopping at Sinharaja rainforest or Uda Walawe national park. If you are interested in culture, then the hill country towns of Kandy or Nuwara Eliya, or the former Dutch port of Galle could be considered – however there are many other locations we can discuss. We always recommend a minimum of 6 leopard safaris in Yala or Wilpattu to maximise the variety of your wildlife encounters.
The first point to make is that we need to consider the time of year you are travelling to Sri Lanka and the effect of the different monsoons on the country. You might find yourself in Yala national park at the best time for leopards, but due to the south west (Yala) monsoon, many of the beach resorts on the south coast of Sri Lanka will have rough seas and not be safe to swim in. However, if you head over to the east or north coast of Sri Lanka, you can find some beautiful beaches and a mixture of water borne activities, ranging from kite surfing and sailing, to snorkelling and dolphin watching. You can also choose to continue your Sri Lanka wildlife holiday with some whale watching. Although the best sperm and blue whale watching in Sri Lanka is from December to April.
So, to summarise, if you were on a leopard safari in Yala national park from around June to September we would recommend a beach resort in either Arugam Bay or Trincomalee to avoid the worst of the south west monsoon. Whereas if you were visiting Wilpattu national park in the January to April period, you can either choose beautiful Kalpitiya, for dolphin and whale watching, or head further south to enjoy calm seas in classic beach destinations, such as Unawatuna, Mirissa and Tangalle. We have chosen these beach destinations in Sri Lanka for travellers looking for a more intimate chill out destination.
Since leopard sightings tend to increase in the dry season when water resources are less plentiful, we would probably choose June to August as the best time to visit Sri Lanka. Please remember that Yala national park closes in September and the first 2 weeks of October as the park becomes just too dry for a good safari experience. However, if you arrive before then you have a great chance to enjoy multiple leopard sightings with a 3 to 4 night stay at Yala and then you can head to beach resorts on the east and north east coast of Sri Lanka for a beautiful end to your Sri Lanka wildlife and beach holiday.
If you feel that a leopard safari in Sri Lanka combined with a beautiful beach stay is your perfect wildlife and beach holiday, then take a look at this Sri Lanka safari we have designed. Or you can contact us at asia(at)wildlifetrails.co.uk and we will customise a Sri Lanka wildlife holiday just for you.