Visit This Island Country In The Indian Ocean To Spot Wildlife Up Close

Sri Lanka is an island country that lies in the Indian Ocean just southeast of India. Separated from the mainland by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, the country is known for its diverse landscapes. With everything from tropical beaches and deciduous forests to dry savannahs, the island has 48 unique ecological zones and boasts an unbelievable variety of flora and fauna. In fact, Conservation International lists the region as one of the 36 world biodiversity hot spots.

It's thought that in the third century BC, the very first wildlife sanctuary on earth was established in Sri Lanka by a Buddhist monarch. With tremendous biodiversity and an abundance of majestic species, it's no wonder why ancient royalty chose to preserve and protect the island's animal population. If you're obsessed with animals and are looking for a travel destination, Sri Lanka may the perfect choice for your next trip.

Wildlife species in Sri Lanka

The country's variety of habitats allows for a diverse multitude of animals to call the island home. Sri Lanka is inhabited by approximately 91 species of mammals, 16 of which are considered endemic, meaning they are native to Sri Lanka alone. Some mammals, like elephants or monkeys, are abundant and can sometimes be seen roaming through local villages. However, others must be sought out in particular locations. For instance, if you want to catch a glimpse of the Sri Lankan leopard, you'll need to make a visit to Yala National Park, which has the world's most concentrated population of leopards. Or, if you're hoping to spot the island's local blue whales, the town of Mirissa is where sightings are most frequent. 

For birdwatchers, Sri Lanka will be an absolute haven for you to explore your hobby, and there's an extensive array of trails you can follow into the Sri Lankan jungle. With 233 resident bird species inhabiting these verdant landscapes, you'll never get bored of observing the skies and treetops. You won't want to miss a stop at Sinharaja Forest Reserve, the UNESCO World Heritage site where 80% of the Sri Lankan bird species reside. Off land, you'll find the waters surrounding Sri Lanka are equally bountiful. Beyond the whales in Mirissa, you'll find turtles, dolphins, sharks, and more incredible wildlife swimming in the island's turquoise waters.

Visiting Sri Lanka's national parks

With 14 national parks across the island, these parameters make up 13% of the country.  While you may encounter wild animals while exploring the cities and villages of Sri Lanka, there is no better way to witness the island's awe-inspiring furry inhabitants than taking a safari tour through one of its national parks. Many of the country's most popular national parks, such as Yala, Wilpattu, and Udawalawe, serve as sanctuaries for these magnificent creatures. Guided wildlife safari experiences allow visitors to immerse themselves in the heart of nature.

Each national park is home to a unique array of flora and fauna. Wherever you go, make sure to book a reservation with a local safari guide for a safe, but closeup look at Sri Lanka's wildlife residents. However, if you're keen on spotting the country's wonderful creatures, you'll also want to time your trip to Sri Lanka so you optimize sightings. Months where water levels are the lowest, like February and July, make animal whereabouts more predictable.