The Ultimate Guide to Sri Lankan Safaris

Photo by Rajiv Perera

Sri Lanka is a stunning country in South Asia that is home not only to a tropical mix of land creatures but is also surrounded by incredible marine life. With dense rainforests, mountainous valleys, marshes, lagoons and vast plains perfect for larger species such as wild elephants and buffalo, you can expect to see plenty of wildlife throughout your stay. 

Photo by Tom Paisley

As a diverse land mass, Sri Lanka is home to many natural sanctuaries where unique species can be found. And its picturesque beaches are not only perfect for lazing in the sun with a cocktail, but also make a brilliant nesting site for sea turtles. Beyond the shore, vibrant coral reefs are teeming with breathtaking marine life, from fish, to sharks, to dolphins.

Here are just some of the multiple ways to go on safari in the gorgeous holiday destination of Sri Lanka. 



Photo by Reisetopia

Water Safaris

With a vast selection of waterways, rivers, waterfalls and lagoons throughout the stunning landscape of Sri Lanka, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy a water safari. For those looking for a gentle cruise along calm waters, the Mahaweli River that runs through the Wasgamuwa National Park is the perfect place to spot wild monkeys, elephants, crocodiles and buffalo.

On the west coast, the smooth lagoon of the Kalpitiya peninsula offers dreamy tours led by local families, where you can expect to see monitor lizards and an amazing array of tropical bird and fish species as you drift through seagrass meadows and rural fishing villages. It’s not unlikely that you’ll be invited to a home-cooked meal by your local guide, as Sri Lankan people are known for their generous hospitality and warm welcome toward travellers. 

If you are looking for a more thrilling adventure, you can whizz through the lush rainforests that surround the Kelani River to experience white water rafting, kayaking and waterfall trekking whilst getting the chance to see plenty of local wildlife. Monkeys and elephants are frequently spotted along the riverbanks, as well as a huge array of birds such as herons, kingfishers and of course plenty of interesting fish species.



Photo by Geoff Brooks

Land Safaris

Yala National Park is the place to go if you want to spot some leopards whilst in Sri Lanka, as it’s home to the largest leopard population in the world. Private Jeep tours take you deep into the jungle and dense vegetation to the favourite hangout spots for these incredible big cats. Crocodiles and water buffalo are also frequently seen, and if you’re lucky you may see a sloth-bear. Just travelling through the stunning scenery of this park is beautiful, with peacocks and junglefowl scattered across the southeast coast. 

Photo by Fergus So

For those who have their heart set on seeing wild elephants, Udawalawe is the place to go. The inland plains of this national park feature a vast reservoir which draws herds of elephants, buffalo, jackals, deer and crocodiles from miles around. Again, these tours are taken via arranging a private Jeep with a local guide, to ensure the safety of both visitors and the animals. There are plenty of stunning birds to be spotted throughout the plains as well, from multiple species of eagles to pelicans and spoonbills. 



Photo by Farhath Firows

Spoilt for Choice

These are just a few of the incredible experiences to be found in Sri Lanka, all of which offer a unique insight into the natural diversity of this beautiful country. With so many options, which safari will you choose?