Located in the remote arid lowlands of northwest Sri Lanka, Wilpattu is the country’s largest and most remote national park: a huge tract of wilderness spanning over 130,000 hectares. Situated within the country’s dry zone, the park’s terrain predominantly comprises grassy plains, arid scrub and dense forest, interspersed with a series of over 50 distinctive ‘villus’. These are natural lakes which fill with rainwater during the monsoon season which runs from September to December, serving as vital reservoirs for the wildlife during the region’s dry period from May to September.
Partly thanks to its far flung setting, visitor numbers are far lower than in other national parks, even during high season. The park is home to over 30 mammal species including the Asian elephant, wild buffalo, sloth bear, crocodile, cobra, and muntjac deer. It also hosts a decent leopard population, although not on the same scale as in Yala NP, and this also is reflected in visitor numbers. A proliferation of resident and migrating birds can be found, including the Asian paradise catcher, white egret, red wattled lapwing and spot bellied eagle owl. The scale and remoteness of this region means that the shy inhabitants of the park can be elusive; accordingly visitors should be aware that wildlife sightings are not guaranteed, unlike in some of the more densely populated parks. Nature lovers will, however, appreciate the sense of immersion within a truly unspoilt wilderness.
Yala National Park in the SW of Sri Lanka is the countries premier location to go on safari and spot leopard, however it is often over run with safari vehicles, and Wilpattu offers a far greater sense of wilderness and if you do find leopard, a fire more rewarding wildlife experience free of the over tourism in Yala.