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Sri Lanka Safari - The great Leopard comeback in Wilpattu national park

Posted in: Sri-Lanka


Sri Lanka safari – The great leopard comeback in Wilpattu national park

Back in the time when safari aficionado’s regarded Yala national park as just a good place to see elephants, Wilpattu national park shone like no other wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Wilpattu was the number 1 location for a leopard safari in Sri Lanka and provided some amazing big cat encounters. Then the civil war which tore this country apart started and Wilpattu became a base for rebel soldiers and its rich wildlife retreated to the shadows.

The rise of Wilpattu national park from the ashes

Because of its strategic location mid-way along the western coast of Sri Lanka, when the Sri Lankan civil war was at its peak, Wilpattu national park suffers more than any other wildlife sanctuary. However when the conflict ended in 2009, scientists, wildlife photographers and lovers of this great park returned quickly to access the damage and the potential for it to rediscover its former glory. Despite the many years of war, the park still have viable prey populations of deer for the remaining wild leopards and the most pressing issues was to repair the park infrastructure and make sure there were no remaining mines from the war. Once this was done, it was soon discovered that leopard and sloth bear sightings were relatively common and as the fear of the wildlife towards humans and their vehicles reduced, so the leopard encounters in Wilpattu national park would increase. Just as with the wildlife recovery in Yala after the Tsunami of 2004, wildlife experts were amazed to see how quickly Wilpattus fauna and flora recovered. As news spread about the parks leopard sightings people soon added it to their choice of parks for their Sri Lanka safari.

A Leopard safari in Wilpattu national park

What are some of the key differences between a leopard safari at Yala national park and a leopard safari at Wilpattu national park? One of the first things you will notice is fewer vehicles at Wilpattu, as it takes time for a park to attract wildlife photographers who have been used to incredible leopard sightings at Yala and worry that they will not have the same experience in Wilpattu. In addition, the tourist infrastructure – especially with regards to mid-range and luxury wildlife lodges is much more advanced at Yala; so more tourists from budget to top end can be accommodated. So you can summarise that clients happy with more simple accommodation, whether that be wildlife lodges or camping safaris and who also prefer a more ‘peaceful’ Sri Lanka safari will choose Wilpattu over Yala.

How to get to Wilpattu national park

It is a very straight forward journey north along the coast road from Colombo/Negombo and you should reach your accommodation in Wilpattu national park in around 3-4 hours. You could consider making a short detour to visit the incredible peninsula town of Kalpitiya. This place is one of the premier whale watching and dolphin watching locations in the whole of Sri Lanka and as well as the chance to see hundreds of spinner dolphins just off the shore, for whale watching boat safaris further out to sea where the ocean becomes much deeper, you have the chance to see the iconic Sperm Whale.

If you would like us to design a tailor-made Sri Lanka wildlife holiday visiting Wilpattu for a leopard safari and Kalpitiya for whale watching then please contact us at [email protected] or click on this 16 day tailor-made Sri Lanka safari which visits Wilpattu national park and Yala national park for leopards. We also have a beautiful 12 day Sri Lanka camping safari which also visit both these iconic parks.

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