Lying on the borders of the Uva and Sabaragamuwa provinces, the Udawalawe National Park is situated 180 km away from Colombo in the south-central part of the island. Created as a national park as a sanctuary for the wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir and to protect the catchment of the reservoir. The national park covers an area of 30,821 hectares and ranges in an altitude of 330 ft. up to 1225 ft while the top of Ulgala is the highest point within the park. Officially named as a national park of Sri Lanka in the year of 1972, the Udawalawe National Park is the third most visited park in Sri Lanka.
Udawalawe being an important sanctuary for water birds and elephants, also houses several other wild animals within the park. Water Buffalo, Wildboar, Spotted Deer, Sambur Deer, Jackal, Samber, Black-naped hare, Mongooses, Bandicoots, Foxes, endemic Toque Macaque and Gray Langers are several of the other wild animals that could be spotted within the park. However, the Udawalawe National Park remains as one the best national parks in Sri Lanka to spot the Sri Lankan elephant. Roaming the park in herds of around 100 elephants, the park has an estimated total of 500 elephants while the high number of elephants in herds at Udawalawe is one of the major features of the national park.
In addition to the mind-blowing herd of elephants, the Udawalawe National Park is also home to a great variety of birds where Raptors are a highlight. In addition to the Raptors, Sri Lankan Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Woodshrike and Sri Lanka Swallow are some of the endemic species of birds that can be spotted. Additionally, Spot-billed Pelican, Little Cormorant, Grey Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Painted Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Green Bee-eater, Crested Treeswift are some of the other birds at the national park.
Located in the dry lands of Sri Lanka, the Udawalawe National Park consists mostly of thorny-scrubs jungles and grasslands. The Walawe river flows across the national park and the Udwalawe Reservoir is situated right at the heart of the park.
In the early 1950s, the park was a mature tall forest with a few scattered hamlets. Used as land for chena cultivation (shifting cultivation) by farmers in the thereafter, these cultivations were later removed after the park was named a national park on the 30th of June 1972.
An important landmark within the park, which is the Udawalawe Reservoir was commissioned in the year of 1969 and is a main hydro power plant in Sri Lanka contributing a massive amount of power supply to the national power grid. The total dam length of the reservoir spans over a length of 3.9 km and consists of 7 spillways through-out the dam. Additionally, the reservoir also provides irrigation to many human habitations living around the area in order to maintain their cultivations.
How to Get There
There are several options to choose from when travelling to the Udawalawe National Park from Colombo and they are by road, bus, train and air.
By Road – The easiest and the cosiest way to get to the park would be by either renting a vehicle to drive or by taxi. The only route to get to Udawalawe from Colombo is through the A8 route where you must turn on to the A18 route from Pelmadulla which will lead to Udawalawe. The total distance of the journey is around 181 km and the estimated time for the journey is 3 hours and 20 minutes. Taxi services or self-driving services can be chosen with the guidance of the consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays.
By Bus – Bus is the cheapest mode of transport to Udawalawe. However, it should be noted that there are no direct busses to Udawalawe. Firstly, you must take a Balangoda bound bus from the Pettah bus terminal which would take approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes to reach Balangoda. Thereafter you need to taxi to Udawalawe for 71 km which would take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
By Train – No train services from Colombo to any station of close proximity to Udawalawe.
By Air – This is the costliest mode of transport to Udawalawe. Air travel services are provided by Sri Lankan Airlines and Cinnamon Air. However, it should be noted that there are no direct flights to Udawalawe. For this it is necessary to taxi to Diyawanna Oya from Colombo. You then have to take the 30-minute flight to Hatton and then either taxi or drive to Udawalawe. This part of the journey will take approximately 3 hours and 10 minutes to travel 139.6 km. Booking arrangements can be made through our travel consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays.
From Kandy -The quickest way to get to Udawalawe is by air; approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. You should fly from Katugastota to Hambantota before driving to Udawalawe. An alternative is to taxi Udawalawe directly from Kandy which would approximately take 4 hours and 20 minutes. If you wish to take a train, you need to go up to Idalgashinna by train and then taxi to Udawalawe which would take 7 hours and 50 minutes all together.
From Galle – The easiest mode of transport to Udawalawe from Galle is by hiring a taxi or self-driving vehicle. The distance between Galle and Udawalawe is 153.5 km and it would approximately take 2 hours and 55 minutes to reach the destination. It is not advised to use any other mode of transport when travelling to Udawalawe from Galle due to long distance and long duration when taking other modes.
All arrangements regarding vehicles and flight bookings will be handled by Epic Sri Lanka Holidays.
The Udawalawe National Park is a dry monsoon forest with an annual rainfall of 1520mm while the average temperature of the national park ranges from 24 degree Celsius to 29 degree Celsius. Most of this rainfall is experienced between the months of March to May and October to January. Relative humidity in the park varies between 70% to 80% on average.
Food and Drink
If you are looking for a real dining experience in the city, the popular eat outs that offer international dishes like American and Western dishes are Ice Burge Family Restaurant, Bath Gedara Restaurant, Common Rose Restaurant, Wanapetha Buffet and Restaurant, Frozen Lemon Restaurant etc. while these restaurants also offer Sri Lankan dishes. Perera and Sons Cafe and Restaurant is also available in close proximity for any need for any snacks or other refreshments. All restaurants and cafes are conveniently located in Embilitpitiya which is minutes away from the National Park.
Udawalawe National Park Safari – For all wildlife enthusiasts who wish to witness one of the largest number of elephants in a national park in Sri Lanka, Udawalawe National Park is the place to be. A safari through the park will allow you to see herds of around 100 elephants together if you are lucky. The safari will also allow you to see Raptors which are another major highlight at the Udawalawe National Park.
Camping at Udawalawe National Park – If you are a wildlife enthusiast looking for an opportunity to be in the midst of a national park with one of the highest densities of elephants and enjoy the thrill of nature, camping at Udawalawe is a must to do. These camps will allow you to capture a close glimpse of the Sri Lankan elephant in its own habitats while capturing some amazing photographs.
Udawalawe Reservoir – Situated right in the heart of the national park, Udawalawe reservoir consists of a dam and a hydro power station. Built across the Walawe river, this dam provides irrigation to many agricultural lands surrounding the area while also supplying valuable power to the national power grid.
Elephant Transit Home – Run by the Department of Wildlife Conversation and supported by the Born Free Foundation of UK, this place is a home for orphaned elephants. These elephants are brought into the complex and taken care of until they are rehabilitated to be released back to wild.
Diyavini Ella Falls – Situated 8km south of Balangoda, the Diyavini Ella (Diyawini Waterfall) is a breathtaking site. Cascading down within the thick forest cover of the jungle, Diyavini Ella is a part of the tributary that comprises the Diyavini river.
Autodrome Race Track – Situated in the outskirts of the Udawalawe National Park, the Craftsman Autodrome Race Track is one of the best and toughest gravel tracks in Sri Lanka. Hosting the biggest national racing competitions such as the Walawe Supercross, this stunning destination is a must visit for any racing enthusiast.