With its stark, open landscape and a herd of around 250 elephants, Udawalawe National Park is a great place to spot one of these incredible creatures. The best way to see them is on a safari-style jeep tour where you’ll explore the landscape with a knowledgeable guide, learning all about the endangered creatures along the way. You’ll then get the chance to catch feeding time at the Elephant Transit Home. This Born Free supported rehabilitation centre rescues orphaned baby elephants and cares for them before gradually returning them to the wild. And there’s a viewing platform where you can stand metres from the little ones and watch them being bottle-fed.
Minneriya National Park is the place to be for elephants during dry season. From May until November, hundreds of elephants migrate to the shores of an ancient reservoir here – an event known as ‘The Gathering’. If you’re visiting during this time, you’ll see groups of around 30, making their way Jungle Book-style across the muddy rivers and marshes. If you follow them all the way to the reservoir, you’ll be greeted with an elephant-style pool party where you can watch them sunbathe, drink and spray water at each other.
Yala is the most-visited national park in Sri Lanka thanks to its huge variety of wildlife. You can expect to see monkeys, crocodiles and storks as well as the Sri Lankan ‘big four’ – leopards, sloth bears, buffalos and, of course, elephants. Join a Yala excursion to get the most out of your day in the park, and tour the stunning forests, grasslands and lagoons with an eagle-eyed guide. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive hard-to-spot Sri Lankan leopard – there are around 35 of them in this park.
Fancy spending an entire day with an elephant? At the Elephant Freedom Project you can do just that. The organisation looks after two former working elephants – Manika and Seetha – and aims to give them a comfortable retirement in their own huge enclosure. The project only accepts a few visitors at a time, but while you’re there you can accompany the elephants on a guided countryside walk and help to bathe them in the river. You’ll even get an authentic Sri Lankan cooking lesson from locals and meet some kids from the local school as part of the day. Make sure you book in advance to bag your place on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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Author: Selina Akhtar
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Stay at Goldi Sands in Sri Lanka’s ‘Coconut Triangle’. This boutique-style hotel is set on a huge swathe of beach.
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