The enchanting island of Sri Lanka is a paradise celebrated for its balmy weather, pristine beaches, warm-hearted locals, and tantalizing cuisine. And hidden beneath the surface of this tropical gem lies a treasure often overlooked: the exhilarating wildlife safari experience. Hosting a high number of endemic wonders, this country is regarded as one of the world’s top five hotspots for biodiversity. The elephants, leopards, sloth bears, sperm whales, and blue whales are the renowned ‘big five’ of Sri Lankan wildlife, making every moment in nature a thrilling adventure.
The Wasgamuwa National Park is one such haven that stands out amidst the 26 protected national parks in Sri Lanka. Immerse yourself in the heart of this natural wonder, where every rustle of a leaf and distant roar is a story waiting to be discovered. Wasgamuwa isn’t just a park; it’s a living, breathing testament to the splendors of Sri Lanka’s wildlife.
The Wasgamuwa National Park is a sanctuary for wildlife and a reflection of the island’s rich heritage. It stretches across the boundaries of Matale and Polonnaruwa districts, 225 km away from Colombo but only 50km away from Kandy. The entrance to the park is at Handungamuwa and can be conveniently reached from several tourist attractions. The Wasgamuwa National Park is quite extensive as it covers over 36,900 hectares of land.
This park was designated as a strict nature reserve in 1938. However, it was greatly impacted by the Mahaweli Development Programme which aimed to generate hydroelectric power and improve irrigation facilities. As the Mahaweli River borders this national park, the wildlife in the area was deprived of their natural habitat, resulting in the state recognizing the nature reserve and a neighboring piece of land as a National Park in 1984 in an attempt to conserve biodiversity.
Wandering through Wasgamuwa today, you’ll encounter remnants of ancient villages, rainwater reservoirs, and temples dating back 1800 years. These historic sites echo the prosperity of a bygone era, with irrigation features crafted by the legendary King Parakramabahu. Artifacts unearthed from this hallowed ground tell tales of Sri Lanka’s fascinating past. For history enthusiasts and curious minds, Wasgamuwa National Park isn’t just a destination—it’s an exploration of time, where the past and present harmonize amidst the lush wilderness.
Flora and Fauna
The key attraction of visiting Wasgamuwa National Park is, of course, the unique and mesmerizing flora and fauna. Although this sanctuary is renowned for its majestic elephants, there’s more to discover beyond these magnificent creatures. The Wasgamuwa National Park harbors the elusive Sri Lankan sloth bear, a species considered to be highly threatened, finding refuge in this haven. The park’s name, ‘Walas Gamuwa,’ (shortened thereafter to ‘Wasgamuwa’) meaning bear and wood in Sinhala, perfectly encapsulates this unique habitat. The opportunity of witnessing at least two of the big five of Sri Lanka, definitely makes this park a place to visit.
Venturing deeper, your wildlife safari might introduce you to purple-faced langur monkeys, elegant spotted deer, and the silent mugger crocodile. Bird enthusiasts will be enthralled by 143 avian species, including the rare Ceylon jungle fowl and the vibrant red-faced Malkoha. In addition, approximately fifty butterfly species grace this sanctuary, with a substantial number being native to Sri Lanka.
But Wasgamuwa isn’t just about fauna; its flora is equally captivating. Over 150 plant species thrive here, nurtured by the nearby Mahaweli and Amban Ganga rivers. Amidst this green paradise stands a venerable 1,700-year-old tamarind tree, a testament to the park’s enduring vitality. Therefore, whether you’re an animal enthusiast, a bird watcher, or a botany enthusiast, this would be a great safari for you!
Other Experiences Near Wasgamuwa National Park
While the Wasgamuwa National Park is undeniably fascinating, your exploration doesn’t have to end at the park’s boundaries. As you venture beyond the Park, you’ll encounter even more captivating experiences, each adding a new layer to your Sri Lankan adventure. The region is full of cultural and natural wonders that offer a chance to explore the heart of Sri Lanka.
Rathna Ella Falls Hike: Lace up your hiking boots and hike towards Rathna Ella Falls, a hidden gem amidst the lush wilderness. The trail leads you through a beautiful forest, revealing the mesmerizing cascade of the falls. Feel the cool mist on your skin as you stand in awe of this natural marvel, capturing the essence of Sri Lanka’s untouched beauty.
Sorabora Wewa: Step back in time as you visit Sorabora Wewa, an ancient reservoir that whispers tales of centuries past. The reservoir, an engineering marvel of ancient Sri Lanka, not only showcases the island’s historical prowess but also offers a serene atmosphere for contemplation and relaxation.
Dimbulagala: Explore the spiritual resonance of Dimbulagala, an ancient Buddhist site nestled amidst rugged terrain. The site’s tranquility and the echoes of ancient prayers create a serene ambiance, inviting you to connect with the island’s spiritual heritage. Wander through ancient ruins and temples, letting the aura of the past guide your footsteps.
Kalu Ganga Reservoir: Adjoining the Wasgamuwa National Park is the Kalu Ganga Reservoir, a large man-made lake used for irrigation and power generation purposes. The beautiful calm waters are lined by lush forests on one side and the Knuckles Mountain range on the other. This is an excellent viewpoint to immerse yourself in the scenic beauty of Sri Lanka’s forests, waterbodies and mountains, all in one place.
General Information to Plan Your Trip to the Wasgamuwa National Park
- Climate: Wasgamuwa National Park falls within a dry zone, with the primary rainfall occurring during the northeast monsoon from October to February. The region experiences an average daily temperature of 28°C. Prepare for the heat by bringing along caps, sunscreen, and lightweight, breathable clothing to stay comfortable during your visit.
- Best Time to Visit: The months of July and August, as well as the months of January through April, are ideal for going on Safari in Wasgamuwa National Park. During this period, more waterholes are in the park, making it easier to observe wildlife. But, if you prefer to avoid crowds, the off-season from October to April may be a great time.
- Types of Safaris: Wasgamuwa National Park offers various safari options, including jeep safaris, both private and shared. Jeep safaris at Wasgamuwa are the most popular, allowing you to cover vast areas and increase your chances of wildlife sightings. You can also go on a park safari with a naturalist for a more intimate experience, allowing you to closely observe the park’s flora and and fauna under the guidance of experts. For an ultimate wildlife adventure, camp under the stars in this national reserve, immersing yourself in the wild wonders of Sri Lanka.
- Accommodation: The best accommodation option in close proximity to Wasgamuwa National Park, is the luxurious Santani Wellness Kandy. Book yourself a comfortable stay during your adventurous days, surrounded by lush greenery and world-class amenities. Combine your adventure with a complete retreat experience, rejuvenating spa treatments, and delectable cuisine prepared with organic ingredients. Santani Wellness Kandy isn’t just a stay; it’s a holistic journey, ensuring your relaxation matches the thrill of your safari adventures.