Uda walawe is fast becoming one of the most popular national parks. This is This is partly because it is only a few hours’ drive from Colombo and partly because elephants are a sure thing. The landscape is not as exciting or as varied as Ruhuna, but with elephants available no-one seems to mind. This is not to say the park is devoid of scenery. The hills in the background across the grasslands make for a nice setting and remind travelers that the highlands are not too far away. The serious birdwatcher and wildlife buff will prefer Ruhuna as it has a much better mix of animals.
The park is a mixture of abandoned tea plantations, grassland, scrub jungle and reverine gallery forest along the Walawe River and Mau Area. It was established as a reserve to protect the catchment to the Uda Walawe reservoir. It is feasible to visit on a long day trip from Colombo.
During a visit, it is not unusual to see whole herds of adults and young elephants – feeding or bathing and playing in the water! In addition to this main attraction, the park is home to many Water Buffalo, Water Monitor, Lizards, Sambar Deer, Monkeys and the occasional Leopard, as well as being an exciting location for Bird enthusiasts.
A 4WD open-top safari is the only way to see all the wonders that this protected reserve has to offer and our experienced and knowledgeable nature guides will make this an unforgettable experience.
What to see
On entering the park you will pass through abandoned teak, plantations interspersed with grassland which has largely been created by Chena (slash and burn) cultivation. A few economically important tree species such as satin, ebony and halmilla are present. River margins are characterized by the water-loving kumbuk trees whick are easily indetified by their pale trunks.
The park is good for raptors and good views can be had of black-winged kite, white-bellied sea eagle, crested serpent eagle, changeable hawk eagle, the threatened grey-headed fish eagle and the shikra. Endemics include the Sri Lanka jungle fowl, the locally present Sri Lanka spurfowl, Sri Lanka ergy hornbill and the endangered red-faced malkoha. Over the reservoir, numbers of Brahminy kites can be seen. Among the dozens of cormorants on the reservoir, look for the darter, or snake bird as it is sometimes known on account of its long slim snake-like head and neck. Interesting forest birds include sirkeer malkoha and blue-faced malkoha.
Look for the scarce migrant black-capped purple kingfisher at Burutha Golla Wewa. Other residents at the wewa(tank/lake) include stork-billed and common kingfishers, egrets, hornos, white-naked stork, black-headed ibis and painted storks. Flocks of Malabar pied hornbill give themselves away by their raucous cacophony. Look out for jungle bush quails that often run across the track. A scarcer, beautiful quail is the blue-breasted quail. Two rare birds that an be seen are the grey-headed fish eagle and the internationally endangered lesser adjutant. Adding a touch of color are the Indian rollers, and Asian paradise flycatchers. A game drive can yield up to 100 species when migrants are in.
Among the mammals likely to be seen are the endemic toque monkey, Hanuman langur, spotted deeer, wild pit, black-napped here, ruddy mongoose and sambhur. Rarely seen mammals include the stripe-naked mongoose, muntjac, pangolin, giant flying squirrel, jungle cat, porcupine and the nocturnal slender loris. The endemic golden palm civet has also been recorded. Leopard is present but rarely seen.