Located in a dry zone of Sri Lanka, Wilpattu National Park is unlike any other national park in Sri Lanka. Situated 30 km west of Anuradhapura, 25 km north of Putlam and 180 km north of Colombo, the Wilpattu National Park spans over an area of 131,693 hectares and hence is the largest national park of Sri Lanka. The park also ranges at a geographical height between 0 -152 metres from the sea level. Approximately 25% of the park remains accessible for visitors while the rest is covered with dense forests and scrubs. The accessible 25% of the land consists of a good network of gravel roads which increase the chance of spotting wildlife at Wilpattu. The most recommendable period to visit the park ranges between the months of February and October where comparatively higher wildlife activities can be spotted.
Named as a national park in the year of 1938, Wilpattu National Park received its name through the natural lakes abundant in the park. In Sinhala vocabulary, wilpattu translates to natural lakes and hence that is what you will find at the park in addition to the exotic wildlife. Accordingly, there are close to sixty different lakes and tanks distributed throughout. These lakes, also known as ‘Villus” are natural and also man made which makes the Wilpattu National Park an eco-system like no other.
The topography of the park also consists of a 5 – 10 km coastal belt which is covered mostly with low scrubs and grasses such as salt grass. Further in towards the park, rather tall wooded forest can be found while a portion of ¾ is covered with dense forest and shrubs which is not accessible.
In terms of its wildlife, Wilpattu National Park is a major destination for the wildlife enthusiasts who are eager to capture a glimpse of one of the largest populations of leopards in the world. A remote camera survey conducted during October of 2015 identified nearly 50 individual leopards roaming the park and hence it is world renowned for its leopard density. In addition to the leopards, Wilpattu is also a habitat for 31 species of mammals. Among these mammals the Sloth Bear stands out while Asian Elephants, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Jackals, Sambhur, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Wild Pig, Water Buffalo, Mugger Crocodiles, Peacocks and many other migratory birds give the park a unique diversity of its own. Butterflies recorded in the park include the Great Eggfly, Blue Mormon, Common Mormon, Common Rose Great Orange Tip, Glad-eye Bushbrown, and Crimson Rose.
When compared to the other national parks of Sri Lanka, Wilpattu stands out among them due to its untouched nature. The park remains less congested with humans when compared to other national parks of Sri Lanka which makes it somewhat harder to spot these animals in their own habitats.
According Mahavansa, an ancient piece of literature which is considered as one of the most important sources to the past of Sri Lanka, Prince Vijaya an exile from India with his hundreds of followers landed at Tambapanni now known as the Kudiramalei point (Horse Point) and discovered the island of Sri Lanka. He later married a local girl known as Kuweni and conspired to topple the leadership of the island by displacing the island’s original inhabitants (Yakkhas) with the support of his wife Kuweni who supported his venture from the inside betraying her own race. Prince Vijaya then established his kingdom in Sri Lanka becoming the first recorded King of Sri Lanka and the ancestors to the modern Sinhalese people. However, to ensure his legitimacy to the kingdom, King Vijaya had to marry a Kshatriya princess. Therefore, he married the daughter of Kind Pandu from India who also sent along several other brides for the followers of King Vijaya. Due to this, Kuweni fled back to a city of remaining Yakkha people where she was murdered for betrayal by the Yakkhas.
It is also mentioned in the history books that the Kudiramalei point (Horse Point) was also visited by a subject of the Roman Emperor Claudius who was blown off-course by a monsoon.
In terms of the Wilpattu National Park, the park was first declared a wildlife sanctuary in the year of 1905 and elevated as a national wildlife park in the year of 1938. The park had to be closed in the year of 1988 when the Sri Lankan civil war began to take place and was closed for 16 years since then. It was re-opened in the year of 2003 after the Sri Lankan Army took back the Wilpattu Park from the local anti-government militants.
How to Get There
There are several options to get to Wilpattu from Colombo and they are by road, train, bus or by air.
By Road – Easiest mode of transport to Wilpattu is by a taxi or by renting a vehicle to drive. The total distance of the journey would be 203.4 km and it would take approximately 3 hours and 50 minutes to complete. For this you have to take the A3 route leading to Puttalam and then take the A12 route towards Anuradhapura from Puttalam. The consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays will make necessary arrangements about the vehicle facilities for this purpose.
By Bus – This is the most economical mode of transport to Wilpattu. You must first travel to Pettah, Colombo and take a Puttalam bound bus from the bus station. After arriving at Putalam you have then taxi to Wilpattu which will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes while the total journey would add up to approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes. However, it should be mentioned that this mode of transport could leave you tired and weary.
By Train – Tambuttegama is the closest railway station to the Wilpattu National Park. To get to Tambuttegama from the Colombo Railway Station it would take approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes. Thereafter, you have to again taxi for 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the Wilpattu National Park.
By Air – This is the costliest mode of transport to Wilpattu. However, it should be noted that there are no direct flights to Wilpattu. For this, you have to taxi to the Katunayake Airport and then fly to Sigiriya which would take approximately 30 minutes. From there you have again taxi to Wilpattu 116 km which would take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
From Kandy – The easiest and the quickest mode to get to Wilpattu from Kandy is by a taxi. From Kandy you have to take the A10 route towards Kurunegala and then turn to the A28 route from Padeniya. This journey of 173.2 km would approximately take 3 hours and 30 minutes. An alternative mode is to take a train to Medagama and taxi to Wilpattu which would take approximately 4 hours and 40 minutes.
From Trincomalee – The easiest and quickest mode from Trincomalee is by taxi which would approximately take3 hours and 40 minutes through the A12 route. An alternative to this is to take the night mail train to Kekirawa and then taxi to Wilpattu.
All arrangements regarding vehicles and flight bookings will be handled by the Consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays.
Situated in a dry zone, the average temperature of the Wilpattu National Park is 27.2 degrees Celsius while the annual rainfall adds up-to approximately 1000 mm. The main rainy season is between the months of September to December due to the North Eastern Monsoon while the inter monsoonal rains hit the park in March and April. The drought season of the park carries on from the month of May to September.
Food and Drink
Most popular restaurants for dining if you visit the Wilpattu National Park are located in the city of Anuradhapura which is approximately 45 km away from the park. These restaurants provide local cuisines and foreign cuisines to suit your needs. Some of the famed restaurants in the city for visitors are the Little Paradise Restaurant, Mango Mango, Caserole, Ceylon Lodge Restaurant, Lakeside Restaurant, Milano Tourist Rest and Restaurant, Ananas Kitchen and Juicery, 2Too and Gemi Gedara Restaurant.
Wilpattu National Park Safari – Undoubtedly, this is the most sort after activity for any individual traveling to Wilpattu. A ride through the largest national park in Sri Lanka will definitely leave you with several great photographs and even greater memories. The park houses one of the largest populations of leopards in the world while several other species of mammals, butterflies and migratory birds also reside.
Camping at Wilpattu National Park – If you are a wildlife enthusiast looking for an opportunity to live among all the activities of the largest national park in Sri Lanka, this is the perfect opportunity. The un-disturbed eco systems of the Wilpattu National Park will indeed make your camping time the best you could possibly experience.
Kudiramalei Point – An ancient sea port which lies in the western coast of the Wilpattu National Park holds great importance in regard to the history of Sri Lanka. Also known currently as the Horse Point and in the past a Tambapanni, this point is the historical port where Prince Vijaya landed in the Sri Lankan shores.
Palace of Kuweni – This venue situated in the heart of the Wilpattu National Park holds great significance. remaining of an ancient palace which was the house to Kuweni from the Yakkas tribe of Sri Lanka who helped the Indian Prince Vijaya to be the first recorded king of Sri Lanka could be seen here.
Day trip to Manawari Temple – Situated 9 km north of Chilaw, the Manawari Temple is a sacred pilgrimage site for the Hindu devotees. According to Hindu literature, it is believed that Lord Rama installed the first Lingam at the Manawari Temple. This temple is the first stop of the Hindu devotees who follow the Ramayana trail to visit places related to Lord Rama.
River Bathing at the Neelabemma Dam – The Neelabemma weir constructed across the Kala Oya connecting the cities of Puttalam and Anuradhapura is a breathtaking site. This picturesque Neelabemma tank provides a great venue for anyone to dive into a flow of fresh water and have a bath while enjoying the beautiful surroundings.
Thanthirimale Raja Maha Viharaya – This venue is an ancient monastery complex built in the third century BC and used by King Devanampiyatissa as a one day stop. The highlights of the monastery include the Samadhi statue, the reclining Buddha statue and the Bodhi tree which is one of the first eight shoots to spring off from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura.