Uda Walawe National Park
Many elephants, their forest homes cleared for farming, voluntarily came to this 119-square-mile (308-km2) national park when it was established around Walawe Reservoir to help compensate for wildlife displacement caused by the Walawe River Development Program. An estimated 350–400 elephants are here now, sometimes in large herds along the Walawe River. Macaques and langurs remain in uncleared jungle in the park’s northern section. Grazers—water buffalo and spotted (axis), barking, sambar, and tiny mouse deer—enjoy sprouting greenery available in southern, formerly agricultural land. Fishing, jungle, and civet cats are at home beside waterways, along with crocodiles, six-foot (2-m) water monitors, 50 kinds of butterflies, and many birds including an endemic Sri Lankan subspecies of jungle fowl, spurfowl, gray hornbills, and red-faced malkohas. Brahminy kites circle gracefully. White-bellied sea eagles dive for fish. Painted storks wade for small aquatic prey.
Uda Walawe is 103 miles (165 km) southeast of Colombo. Best times are during or just after May–September monsoons, when fresh grass attracts elephants. A 4WD vehicle is a good idea on dirt roads. Campsites, bungalows available. Civil unrest to the north has not been disruptive, but check ahead.