Sri Lanka

Visiting Elephants in Sri Lanka National Parks Udawalawe and Yala

Women sitting on jeep and looking at Elephant in Udawalawe National Park Sri Lanka

We visited two Sri Lanka national parks during our time traveling the country. Our goal was to see some elephants in their natural habitat. In the end, we saw many other animals too, and it was a memorable experience.

In this post, we have collected all our information about the two national parks Udawalwe and Yala, that we visited in Sri Lanka to compare them and give you tips about both.


Elephant at water hole in Udawalawe National Park Sri Lanka

Udawalawe National Park

Where to stay

The first Safari that we made was in Udawalawe. We stayed at a sweet guesthouse from a local family which is called Baby Elephant Green House. The family has only two rooms for visitors, they were currently working on two more rooms on the upper floor. They cooked us very delicious Sri Lankan food and made us feel at home. We love to stay in a Homestay with local people.

The family also organized the Safari for us. We arrived there in the late afternoon and after our arrival, they organized a safari for the next morning. We had a Jeep with a driver to ourself which picked us up early in the morning. We did a half-day Safari and it cost us about 23 Dollars for the driver with Jeep and 40 Dollar (for 2 People) for the entrance of the park.

Safari at Udawalawe National Park

The Udawalwe National Park is the home to many elephants and, compared to its size, one of the smaller parks. The chance to see elephants on a Safari there is very high, and we have seen many of them there. Even a mother with her calf. We felt that the elephants at Udawalwe weren’t afraid of the visitors. They looked like they are used to it, and sometimes they came pretty close to our Jeep, which was terrific.

But there is an issue which could be the reason for that behavior. As no one told us about it before and because we would have been happy about it, we want to let you know. Since Udawalwe got a sanctuary, the forest grew a lot, which is very good for many of the animals living there. But for the elephants, it is not. These giants need a lot of grasslands to eat, and now they don’t find enough food anymore. It’s quite difficult for the people there because, in a protected area, they aren’t allowed to interfere with nature. For that reason, many of the elephants are thin. As we didn’t expect anything like that, we’re somehow shocked. Especially the mothers with their calves which have to give milk to their calves are in danger. But the national park has a sanctuary that helps the young elephants that don’t get enough food.

For the same reason, you meet elephants at the border of the national park where the street to get to Udawalwe extends. A lot of tourists feed the elephants, and now they go there and wait for food. As this is not a natural behavior, it’s not good for the elephants, and we ask everyone not to feed any elephant.

Except for elephants, we saw a crocodile, many buffalos, peacocks, monkeys, deers, and many more animals. Overall, it was a fantastic experience for a reasonable price.

Udawalawe National Park river
Women sitting on jeep and looking at Elephant in Udawalawe National Park Sri Lanka

Yala National Park

The second national park we visited was Yala. It’s on the south coast and one of the biggest parks in Sri Lanka.

Where to stay

We stayed at the exceptional Wild Coast Tented Lodge and it was an amazing experience. Of course, this place is a bit more expensive than what we normally spend, but it was worth the extra money. As a tip, if you like to book accommodations like this, we recommend you to book early in advance and save money. We had all the food and drinks as well as one Safari included in the price.

Our room was a vast and beautiful furnished tent. We loved every detail about this room and especially the stunning bathtub. We also loved the resort’s commitment to sustainability. For example, all the used water is recycled and used over and over again.

Staying at a place inside of a national park has the benefit of having wild animals around your housing. During our stay, we saw several wild boars and buffalos.

Safari at Yala National Park

When we arrived, we decided to go to the late afternoon Safari this time because of the bad weather forecast for the next morning. The ranger from the resort, which guided our Safari, did a fantastic job. It was so much fun and very interesting because he knew everything about the animals living in the park. We shared the Jeep with another couple, the guide, and the driver. The driver did a great job too because when we heard of a leopard sight, he drove like crazy so that we made it there to see them before they disappeared. To see those two leopards on a tree was the highlight of this Safari even though we could see them only through a telescope.

The Yala National Park is way bigger than Udawalwe, and if you go on a Safari there, the driver brings you to only one of the sectors of the park. The park is too big to drive all the way through. But this leads to meeting way less other Jeeps with tourists, what we liked. We saw some elephants again but from further away, and we also saw many deers, buffalos, wild boars, a crocodile, and monkeys. Also, our ranger made us attentive to many beautiful birds living there, which a lot of people overlook because they only looked for big animals. It was overall a very great experience and a very high quality of guidance at the Safari.

Yala National Park Elephant Family

When we got back from the safari, we only changed clothes and then directly went down to the beach at the Wild Coast Tented Lodge, where they had a beautiful beach bar under the stars. It was so romantic, and after the sunset, we had a fantastic dinner there. We have to admit that there weren’t many vegetarian options on the menu, which was the single one thing that we can criticize during our stay.

Wildcoast Tented Lodge Beach
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