With its vast array of animals and especially its population of elephants, Udawalawe National Park is Sri Lanka’s best kept little secret. While the masses all head to the more well known Yala National Park, Udawalawe is a lot less crowded, cheaper and less of a tourist trap. It is also the best park on the island to spot wild elephants making the park an easy first choice and also the best Sri Lanka safari.
Established in 1972 as a sanctuary for wildlife displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir. The park is now home to elephants, buffalo, sloth bears, leopards, peacocks, lizards, crocodiles and countless other amazing animals. Udawalawe is truly a garden of eden.
Before we begin, if you have decided to visit Sri Lanka (and after reading this article we know that you will have) here is a price guide that we wrote for this amazing country so that you can get a general idea of the costs involved: Do You Want To Know How Much It Costs To Travel Sri Lanka? and also don’t forget, never travel anywhere without using the list of resources that we use to travel: The Secrets Of Budget Travel, The Websites And Apps That You Need To Be Using!
Where To Stay
You will hear many stories both online and from Sri Lankans that it is difficult to find budget accommodation near Udawalawe National Park. Maybe that was true a few years ago but this is now no longer the case. As soon as you exit your bus you will be mobbed by Tuk-Tuk drivers trying to offer the best deal.
We had a look at some of the more cheaper options but in the end opted for The Jungle Hotel, located 15 minutes from the park entrance. Here is a general idea of what you should expect to pay for accommodation. These are prices from different Hotels and Lodges. So use them as a guideline and always search about for the best deal. We have not included Dorm Rooms on the list as we were told that there is no Dorm Rooms available in the area, however this may change in the near future.
- Budget Double Room with fan: 2000 LKR ($13.12)
- Twin Room with fan: 2700 LKR ($17.71)
- Twin Room with aircon & en-suite: 3200 LKR ($20.99)
- Double Room with aircon & ensuite: 4500 LKR ($29.52)
The Jungle Lodge, where we stayed on our Safari
You will find that all of the Lodges and Hotels all offer meals for the same price: 600 LKR ($3.93). Normally the meal is a delicious set of Sri Lankan Curries similar to an Indian Thali. The meals for a set price are unlimited portions, so eat as much as you can.
Where to book your safari ticket
We opted for the easiest option when booking our safari. We booked our tickets through the Lodge in which we were staying. This included park entry, a seat on an 8 person jeep, driver and guide. We paid 5347 LKR ($35.00) per person, which is a little more expensive than booking an independant tour outside of the park entrance, but far less hassle.
If you do wish to book outside of the park entrance you can save yourself around $10 if you haggle well. Also if you do decide to book a driver yourself , be aware that they may not be very knowledgeable. The independent drivers know far less about all of the animals in the park and sometimes may not speak very good English.
However if you book through your Lodge/Hotel you will have a an easier and more enjoyable time, be given a driver, a knowledgeable guide and also have transport to and from the park. Your adventure will start at 5:30am and here is what you can expect to see.
Click on the pictures to get a closer look.
Udawalawe National Park Sri Lanka Safari
If you are really lucky, like we was, you may even have a sighting of a baby elephant. We were told that this was an incredibly rare opportunity. Take a look at how the mother protects the calf by standing in between the baby and us. This was a real privilege to for us to able to see. Which stands up there with any of our visits to the the man made wonders of the world. Take a look for yourself.
We hope that you enjoyed our article and found it useful and interesting. Hopefully this has inspired you to get out and see the world. Here are some other great posts for you to read and get your daily dose of wanderlust.