A baby elephant meekly trotting behind its mother, a herd of elephants quenching their thirst at a water hole and a lone elephant trumpeting in the distance, are not sights and sound that are uncommon to Udawalawe. Declared a National Park on 30th June 1972, Udawalawe is one of the few National Parks where one can come within close range of the majestic elephant. It accommodates approximately 150 resident and 200 migratory elephants.
Udawawe National Park plays an invaluable dual role, in supplying silt free water to the reservoir, and providing a ‘ home to the wildlife, that was displaced by the opening up of land in the lower regions of the Walawe Ganga. Prior to its declaration as a National Park, this area was solely utilized for Chena cultivation, which was detrimental to the survival of the wildlife that it sustained. Located in the Ratnapura and Monaragala districts, within the Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces respectively, Udawalawe is known for its exception scenic beauty and colorful wildlife.
Udawalawa National Park is not one that is of rich historical importance. Ancient Buddhist ruins discovered near Veheramankanda is the only remaining significant cultural evidence found in the area.
The most prominent, physical features at Udawalawe ate the Katota escarpment, and the stunning Diyawinno falls found to the north. Ulgala situated in the west of the park is the most prominent peak. The colossal Walawe reservoir that has a total capacity of 3405 ha, as well as most of its catchment area, is also sited within the parks The Walawe ganga that flows through this reserve, not only provides water to the animals, but also sustains many surrounding villages, where livelihoods are dependent on cultivation.
Located in Sri Lanka’s dry zone, the mean annual rain fall and temperature are in the range of 1524 mm to 32 “C respectively. After the dry season which prevails from February to April, the southwest monsoon is welcome during the month of May. This National Park spans over 30,821 ha. The altitude ranges from 100 m to 373 m to the top of Ulgala, which is the highest point at Udawawe.
Scattered grasslands and thorny-shrubs are representing large percentage of the Vegetation types of the park. There are patches of dry evergreen forests in the northern end of the parks Satin (Chloroxylon swietenia), Halmilla (Berrya cordifolia), Ebony (Diospyleas ebenurn), Ehala (Cassia fistula), Kolon (Adina cordifolia), Mina (Vitex altissima), Kon (Schleicherti oleosa), and Kunumella (Diospyros ovalifolia) are sortie of the noteworthy hardwood Tree species. Scattered trees account for 20-50% of the existing forest cover in the park. Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna), Mee (Madhuca longifolio)) Kunu-Mella (Diospyros ovalifolia) and Thimbiri (Diospyros malabarica) dominate the riverine forests. The grasslands are mainly comprised of Mana (Cymbopogon confertiflorus), Illuk (imperata cylindrica), Gini grass (Panicum maximum), and Pohon (Pennisseturm polystachyon)
Herds of elephants (Elephas maxirnus maximus) are not an uncommon sight at Udawalawe. Elephants have become the major attraction for local and foreign tourists to the park. Sambar (Cervus unicolor), Spotted Deer (Axis axis cejelonensis). Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak), Wild Boar (Sus scrota), and Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) are also roaming the park. Other mammals include the endemic Toque Monkey (Macaca sinica), Gray Langur (Semnopithecus Priam). Jackal (Canis aureus). Toddy Cat (Paradoxurus hermaphroditis), Black Naped Hare (Lepus nigficollis) Small Indian Civet (Viverricula indica). Endemic Golden Palm Civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis ), Rat (Rattus rattus), Soft-furred Field Rat (Millardia meltata), and the Indian Bush Rat (Golunda elliotti). Although it is difficult to observe, there have been few sightings of Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus), and Leopard (Panthera Pardus kotiya) within the park
There is a high diversity of the bird species in the Udawalawe Park due to the high habitat diversity. Large numbers of Warblers, Prinia and Munia species occupy the grassland. Varieties of rapters are also most commonly sighted in the park. The Indian Cormorant (Phalacrocoraz fuscicollis), Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala) and Open Bill stork (Anastomus oscitans) are common water birds that reside in the reservoir. Noteworthy endemic birds include the Sri Lanka Spur fowl (Galloperdix bicalcarata) Sri Lanka Jungle flow (Gallus lafayettii), Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingaiensis), Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot (Loriculus beryllinus), and Brown-Capped Babbler (Pellomeum fuscocapillum). Black-Capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata), and Ospray (eandion haliaetus) are rare winter visitors that visit Udawalawa National Park annually.
(Photo credit: Sandun jayarathne)
At the centre of the park lies the constructed reservoir with a surface area of 3400ha providing irrigation for farmlands downstream & generating hydroelectric power to the tropical island of Sri Lanka. You will be reaching the park by following the road along the 4km bund across the Uda Walawe rainwater reservoir.
Thoughtful thoughts to your inbox