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National Park

In Alankuda beach / Kalpitiya

Wilpattu national park

Experience the wonders of a safari in the jungle with Makara Resorts. Wilpattu National Park – the largest and one of the oldest National wildlife parks in Sri Lanka. With over 30 species of mammals and an impressive variety of flora and fauna spanning it’s forest and nature trails, take one of our naturalists free of charge with you who will educate you on animal behaviour, the park and all its wonders.

The name Wilpattu essentially means a land of many lakes or ‘villus’ as commonly referred to and this is what you’ll find here as you navigate your safari jeep from one villu to another. In addition to the lakes with white delicate sands, the park is full of dense, dry zone woodland forest interspersed with many birds, some endemic and an awesome array of wildlife including deer, elk, wild boar, sloth bear, elephant and leopard among many others.

Where is Wilpattu National Park located?

Wilpattu lies inland on the northwest coast of Sri Lanka, approximately 25 km north of Puttalam and 175 km north of Colombo. It spans towards the ancient capital of Anuradhapura, which is approximately 25 km east of the park. The park spans the border of North Central and the North Western Province of Sri Lanka and covers an impressive 130, 000 hectares (1,300 sq km/500 sq miles), making it the largest national park in the country! The border west of the park stretches 36 km along the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. There are two zones of Wilpattu – the main zone in the north and the smaller zone which lies to the interior and is where most of the animal activity is; this area has no coastal border.

When was Wilpattu National Park established?

Wilpattu was declared as a national wildlife sanctuary in the year 1905, and was upgraded to National Park status on 25th February 1938, making it the oldest and largest park in Sri Lanka. The northern area of Wilpattu was declared as Wilpattu North national Sanctuary on 7th November 1947. The park was closed for several years from 1988 onwards due to security concerns the country was facing. It was reopened in February 2010 and is now open to visitors.

How to reach Wilpattu National Park?

The main entrance and office to the park is at Hunuwilgama, where one can obtain a ticket and enter the park. This is approximately nine kilometers from Thimbiriwewa, which is a small hamlet located in between Puttalam and Anuradhapura. Thimbiriwewa is reached by travelling on the kalpitiya - palavi road approximately 17kms and the on the  A3 main motor road from Colombo (approximately 4 kms north) and then along the Puttalam- Anuradhapura A12 main road (40kms north-east) to the Wilpattu Junction. From here to the main park entrance,  is approximately 9kms.

Travel time

- Makara resorts to Puttalam; 20 mins
- Puttalam to Wilpattu: 40 mins

When is the best time to visit Wilpattu National Park?

The park never closes and is open 12 months of the year. The best time to visit the park is from February to October. It is best to avoid rainy weather which usually occurs during the inter monsoon periods of October and May, and to visit the park during early morning or late afternoon as it is difficult to see animals in the afternoon as they take cover in the forest to avoid the heat. The park is open throughout the year for visitors.

What is the landscape like at Wilpattu National Park?

The park consists of mostly dry zone high forest, with open plains and lakes. Since it is so large and ranges from 0 – 152 meters above sea level, the park supports over ten habitats covering three ecosystems within it (forests, wetland and coastal & marine ecosystems), making it a biodiversity hotspot of flora and fauna.

The main feature of the park of course is its name sake – the presence of ‘villus’ or natural lakes that are found all over. These natural lakes are natural water basins that are surrounded by white sand that fill with rainwater. There are over 50 natural lakes that span the park and range from ponds to large natural reservoirs. The majority of the villus are filled with fresh water and are extensive wetlands, whilst some are filled with sea and brackish water.

In addition to these natural lakes, certain zones of the park have copper red loamy soils. The western side of the park has deeply forested areas and thorny bushes similar to Yala National park. The park also has minor irrigation reservoirs or tanks over the eastern boundary, which were rehabilitated in 2010. The incredible variety of terrain, ranging from jungle and plains to wetland makes the park a haven for all kinds of flora and fauna

What is the climate like in Wilpattu National Park?

It is best to visit the park during the dry season, which falls between February and October. The rainy season at the Wilpattu is between September to December during the north eastern monsoon. Inter monsoon rains occur between March and April, followed by a drought from June to early September. The park has an annual temperature of 27.0°C and an annual rainfall of approximately 1000 mm. Although the park is situated in the dry zone where the humidity is low, the flora is green and luscious due to the presence of various water bodies and sources.

What fauna can be found in Wilpattu National Park?

There are several different types of animals to be found here, with an impressive array of mammals, birdlife and reptiles. The elusive Leopard which is largely a nocturnal feeder and is the ‘king of the jungle’ the top predator. Of the 43 endemic birds of Sri Lanka over 15 are found here.

What flora can be found in Wilpattu National Park?

The majority of Wilpattu park is composed of dense forest and scrub, while the remainder is made up of pockets of open plains and villus. There are several flowering plant species in the park, with over 25 endemic plants. There are three main types of vegetation found in the park.

Littoral vegetation which consists of an abundance of salt grass and low scrub that is adjacent to the sea front.

Low stature monsoon scrub is found 4 – 8 km within the coastal belt.

Monsoon forest with tall emergents is located further inland, some of the tall emergent trees to watch out for include Manilkara hexandra (slow growing evergreen tree that can grow up to 40 – 80 feet tall and 1 – 3 mtr in circumference, with a grey black rough bark), Chloroxylon swietenia (also known as Sri Lankan satinwood, tropical hardwood medium sized deciduous tree that grows up to 50 – 60 feet with a fissured, corky bark), Vitex altissima (woody plant that grows up to 60 feet in height with a scaly grey bark), Diospyros ebenum (hard black wood tree) and Alseodaphne semecarpifolia (endemic 60 foot tree with a brown bark). Every year the palu trees put out their fruits which bears love.

Mammals at Wilpattu

The best place to view mammals is in the middle of the park at the interfaces between the jungle, the scrub and grasslands in the western part of the park, as well as around the natural lakes and drainage systems. This is because most animals take refuge from the sun during the day in the jungle and then come out to the open plains to feed and lakes to drink water particularly in the early morning and late afternoon when it gets cooler.There are 31 species of mammals that have been identified at Wilpattu and the park is an excellent location to view several species such as the leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), which is the top predator of Sri Lanka. Enjoy looking out for sloth bears (Melursus ursinus), golden jackals (Canis aureus), sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), spotted deer (Axis axis), barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak), ruddy mongoose (Herpestes smithii), wild boars (Sus scrofa) and many more mammals on your safari. A number of endemic mammals of Sri Lanka can also be sighted here include the golden palm civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis), northern mouse deer (Moschiola meminna) and a subspecies of the purple–faced leaf monkey (Semnopithecus vetulus nestor). Elephants (Elephas maximus) and water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) can also be seen. Herds of elephants are only usually spotted on the west side of the park during the height of the dry season, although lone bulls can be seen occasionally throughout the year. .

Birdlife at Wilpattu

Birders are in for a treat at Wilpattu and will be able to spot an array of birdlife. The lakes around the park support a large number of resident and migratory wetland bird species. Resident bird species at Wilpattu include the endemic brown-capped babbler (Pellorneum fuscocapillus babaulti), endemic Ceylon grey hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis), Sri Lanka green pigeon (Treron pompadora), dark-fronted babbler (Rhopocichla atriceps saccatus), little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius jerdoni), Black-capped bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus), racket-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), golden-backed woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense jaffnense) and the spot-bellied eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis). Commonly viewed migrant birds such as the Indian paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradise), orange-headed ground thrush (Zoothera citrine), Asiatic golden plover (Pluvialis fulva), Indian pitta (Pitta brachyuran), Indian blue robin (Luscinia brunnea), black tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) and pintail snipe (Gallinago stenura) can also be spotted in the park .Other bird species include the spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), white ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala), openbill stork (Anastomus oscitans),garganey (Anas querquedula), whistling teal (Dendrocygna javanica), large white egret (Egretta alba modesta), cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), purple heron (Ardea purpurea), lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) and Indian darter (Anhinga melanogaster). Other common birds that are found within the vicinity of the lakes of Wilpattu are white-shafted little tern (Sterna albifrons), whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybridus), gull billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), great stone-curlew (Esacus recurvirostris), red wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicus) and black winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus).Common raptors that can be spotted include the white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) crested serpent eagle (Spilornis chela), and crested hawk eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus). Don’t forget to look out for ground feeding birds in the park such as the peafowl (Pavo cristatus) and the Sri Lanka jungle fowl (Gallus lafayetii), the latter of which is the national bird of Sri Lanka.

Reptiles at Wilpattu

Given that Wilpattu is full of natural lakes, several reptiles can be spotted at the large permanent villus. The land monitor (Varanus bengalensis) is a common sight at Wilpattu. However, other species can be found including the mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), pond turtle (Melanochelys trijuga) and the soft shelled turtle (Lissemys punctata) in addition to star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) which can be found on the grasslands.There are a few snake species present at Wilpattu such as the cobra (Naja naja), rat snake (Ptyas mucosus), python (Python molurus), common bronzeback (Dendrelaphis tristis), common bridal snake (Dryocalamus nympha), Indian Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii), Forsten’s cat snake (Boiga forsteni), endemic flowery wolf snake (Lycodon osmanhilli) and the endemic Sri Lankan flying snake (Chrysopelea taprobanica).

Butterflies at Wilpattu

There are many species of butterflies that can be spotted at Wilpattu at the end of the rainy season making it a treasure trove for lepidopterists. The Ceylon lesser albatross (Appias paulina) is a white butterfly that gathers in large numbers close to water puddles. Colourful butterflies found around the park include the blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor), the Common Mime (Papilio clytia), Common Banded Peacock (Papilio crino), Great Orange Tip (Hebomoia glaucippe), Common Jay (Graphium doson), Large Salmon Arab (Colotis fausta), Dark Wanderer (Pareronia ceylanica), great eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina), Indian sunbeam (Curetis thetis), Redspot Duke (Dolpha evelina) and the tawny rajah (Charaxes bernardus).

What is the cultural significance of Wilpattu National Park?

Apart from the amazing flora and fauna, the park and its coastal belt are steeped in history and legend, which adds to the excitement of your visit, as you are also visiting a culturally important site. According to history, in 543 BC Prince Vijaya from India landed at Tambapanni on the north western coastal belt of the park which is known as Kudrimalai Point (Horse Point). It was here that he married Kuweni and thus founded the Aryan Sinhalese population. Queen Kuweni, who is considered to be the mother of the Sinhala race, lived in Kali Villu which is also located in Wilpattu. Both Kudrimalai Point and Kali Villu are thus culturally significant points of interest.In addition to this, history shows that Prince Saliya, the son of King Dutugemunu, lived with Asokamala in Maradanmaduwa in Wilpattu approximately 2000 years ago. Another significant location is Pomparippu, as remains belonging to people from pre-Vijayan times were excavated from that site. There are also remains of an ancient harbor between Palangaturai and Kollankanatte. Ruins of Buddhist temples are also located in Wilpattu that are overgrown by jungle and are covered with dense forests.

What types of safaris are available at Wilpattu National Park?

Wilpattu is best explored via a 4wd jeep safari. The guides or trackers are experienced forest rangers and will be able to ensure that your time is well spent inside the park as they are familiar with the areas most frequented by animals. The guides are also experts at spotting wildlife and will also be able to ensure that all safety precautions are adhered to.There are two types of safaris available – full day and half day. Tours can be arranged according to your preference. Half day tours can either be in the morning (6 am to 11 am) or evening (3 pm to 6 pm). Most animals can be sighted easily during a half day safari, but true fans of nature will enjoy the full day safari and picnic lunch , which allows one to enjoy the beauty of the park at a slower pace. Full day safaris include approximately 12 hours of game drive. As approximately 65% of the park is dense forest, visitors will usually tour 25% of the park area. The park has a good network of sandy roads between water holes, although the ride can get quite bumpy at times. Makara resorts will arrange excursions to Wilpattu, which includes transport to and from the park to the resorts, jeep fees, ranger fees, park entrance fees and refreshments, lunch if required. 4x4 Jeeps can accommodate up to 6 guests comfortably.

Estimated rates per person for a half day safari:
Package up to 6 guests half day 1-2 pax: US$ 170
Additional person US$ 40 plus taxes.
Package includes transfer to the park and back, jeep with driver and tracker in the park lunch or snack pack.
Entrance fees to the park is $ 25 for adults, $ 12.50 for children 6-12, children under 6 free.
The above rates include a 4 hour safari,  jeep fees, park entrance fees, rangers, taxes. Lunch if required can be provided at an extra charge.

Estimated rates per person for a full day safari:
Package up to 6 visitors - full day1-2 person $ 220
Additional person $ 65 plus taxes.Package includes transfer to the park and back, jeep with driver and tracker in the park, breakfast, lunch snack pack and refreshments.
Entrance fee to the park is extra $ 25 for adults, $ 12.50 for children 6-12, children under 6 free.The above rates include a 12 hour safari (6 am – 6 pm), jeep fees, park entrance fees, rangers, taxes. Lunch and refreshments can be provided at an extra charge.

What makes Wilpattu National Park unique?

Oldest and largest national wildlife park in Sri Lanka, spanning over 1,300 sq. km.

Relatively peaceful park, with not many vehicles to obstruct your view or distract you from your safari.

Perfect for dedicated safari goers who enjoy reconnecting with nature.

Over 50 villus and water tanks which attract various species of fauna.

A range of topography from dry zone tropical forest to open grassland and coastal belt to scrubland supports a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Birders will love the impressive array of birdlife of resident and migratory birds.

Leopards, elephants, sloth bears, deer, boars, crocodiles, monitors, turtles and many more animals can be spotted here.

The park can be visited throughout the year.

Historical and culturally significant sites are present within the park.

Excellent and safe guided safari tours with experienced drivers and informative rangers. Makara resorts provides the ideal accommodation option for visitors that are looking to visit Wilpattu National Park. Located by the relaxing beach of Alankuda that is one hours drive to Wilpattu, Makara resorts is the epitome of luxury and serenity with luxury air-conditioned tents, villas, cabana type accommodation, en-suite bathrooms, tantalizing meals and spectacular views of the Indian Ocean. The resorts are the perfect way to relax after your eventful land safari outing.

Elephants at Wilpattu

The Sri Lankan elephant, a distinct sub-species of the mainland Asian elephants of India and Thailand, belongs to the big five of Sri Lanka, with several established “elephant safaris” available in most wildlife parks. It’s contrasting gentle demeanor and indomitable size has made the gentle-giant a much-loved wildlife icon the world over and although as many as 10,000 of them roamed Sri Lanka at the turn of the century, only about 5,000 live in the wild today, their numbers are now growing.

Leopard at Wilpattu

The top predator in Sri Lanka, the leopard is found in all types of forests – from thorn scrub and dry deciduous forests, to lowland rain forests and mountain forests. Research in 1996 led to the Sri Lankan leopard being classified as a separate subspecies, was considered to be the same as the Indian subspecies until then. Weighing 35-90 kg for males and 27-60 kg for females, the leopard is affected in Sri Lanka by largely habitat loss, and is now listed as a threatened species by IUCN (2007).

Sloth Bear at Wilpattu

The Sri Lankan Sloth Bear is the only species of bear found in Sri Lanka and like the elephant, is a distinct subspecies to the Indian species. The wild population of the Sloth bear is little as 1,000 in many isolated areas, although it is only classified as “vulnerable” (IUCN Red List). Destruction of dry-zone natural forest is the main threat to its livelihood. The sloth bear is the most elusive of the Big 5.