Wasgamuwa National Park

Wasgamuwa National Park

Wildlife here is abundant and a testament to the success of Sri Lanka's early conservation efforts. Approximately 50 species of butterflies have been observed in the Park, 9 of which are endemic to Sri Lanka. With so many rivers and streams intersecting Wasgamuwa, several species of fish can be seen, including the Stone Sucker and the Combtail.Water monitors and crocodiles are often seen along the riverbanks, together with smaller reptiles including the endangered Skink, the Red-lipped Lizard and the Earless Lizard. One 140 types of birds have been recorded in the Park, including Sri Lanka's largest bird the Lesser Adjutant, the Red-faced Malkoha and the Yellow-fronted Barbet. There is also the Sri Lanka Frogmouth, which appears to have no beak. Of the amphibians – the Slender Wood Frog – is an endangered species and the most noteworthy resident.

a sloth bear at wasgamuwa national park in sri lanka

Sri Lankan Sloth Bears and Elephants at Wasgamuwa National Park

The Sri Lankan Sloth Bear is a recognised sub species of the Sloth Bear. It is considered highly threatened with only a 1000 remaining overall and as little as 500 remaining in the wild habitats of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Sloth Bear is mainly omnivorous and depends heavily on the forest, which is why forest destruction is one of the main reasons for the decline of this species. The Wasgamuwa National Park has long since been known as the place to observe these animals, as the name Wasgamuwa itself is derived from the Sinhala ‘Walas Gamuwa’ where ‘walaha’ means bear and ‘gamuwa’ means the woods.

However, possibly due to the decline in numbers of the sloth bear, the vastness of Wasgamuwa, and since these elusive animals rarely wander out into the open, the most commonly seen animal here is the Sri Lankan Elephant. The elephants at Wasgamuwa are quite different to the ones at the other National Parks. They are completely wild and have limited exposure to safari jeeps. Thus, their behaviour is untamed, allowing you to experience what wild elephant activity is truly like.

Mammals encountered at the Wasgamuwa National Park

There are 23 species of mammals at Wasgamuwa. A number of Sri Lankan Elephants have been recorded in the Park and they can be seen while on a wildlife safari. The Purple-faced Langur and Toque Macaque are endemic to Sri Lanka. While Water Buffalo and Sri Lankan Axis Deer are commonplace, it takes a well trained eye to spot the Sri Lanka Leopard and Sloth Bear as they are rare. The Small Golden Palm Civet is another rare, endemic mammal found at Wasgamuwa.

a hor bill birds at wasgamuwa national park in sri lanka
Birdlife at the Wasgamuwa National Park Sri Lanka

There are 143 species of birds at this National Park and that includes the endemic Red-faced Malkoha and 7 other endemic species. The Lesser Adjutant, Yellow-fronted Barbet and the Sri Lanka Spurfowl are the species that visit the reservoirs and streams at Wasgamuwa. Other aquatic birds that can be seen on a birding safari are the Peafowl, Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis and Eurasian Spoonbill. The rarer Sri Lanka Frogmouth and the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo have been sighted as well while on safari.

Flora at Wasgamuwa National Park

More than 150 species of flora have recorded in the Wasgamuwa National Park. Chloroxylon swietenia, Manilkara hexandra, Elaeodendron glaucous, Pterospermum canescens, Diospyros ebenum, Holoptelea integrifolia, Pleurostylia opposite, Vitex altissima, Drypetes sepiaria, and Berrya cordifolia are dominant in the emergent layer of the forests while Polyalthia korinti, Diplodiscus verrucosus, Limonia acidissima, Cassia roxburghii and Strobilanthes stenoden are common in the other layers. There is also a 1,700 year-old tamarind tree in the Park.

Reptiles & Amphibians

Of the 17 reptile species recorded in the Park, 5 species are endemic to Sri Lanka. The Water Monitor and Mugger Crocodile are common. The endangered Fejervarya pulla is one 1 of the 8 species of amphibians endemic to Sri Lanka.

a elephant at wasgamuwa national park in sri lanka
History and Geography

Barring the southern border, the Wasgamuwa National Park is almost entirely encompassed by rivers. The Eastern boundary is defined by the famous long-flowing Mahaweli Ganga, while the Northern and Western sides are bordered by the Amban Ganga and the Dunuwila Oya respectively.

Historically, the Wasgamuwa National Park is of importance as the ancient tanks and religious sites lend credence to the story of the famous Yudanganapitiya – the site where Sri Lanka’s famous kings, Dutugemunu and Elara, camped during their mighty battles, in the 2nd Century BC.

Water sources in the Park add a particular natural beauty of their own and the small Sudu Kanda Mountain Range has numerous streams flowing from it to the plains below. Reaching to just under 500 metres above sea level, one of these streams cascading from the Sudu Kanda flows east as far as Trincomalee and out into the Indian Ocean. The Sudu Kanda Mountain Range dips and swells, and eventually, under another name, disappears east.

Getting the most out of your Wasgamuwa National Park Safari

There are two essentials to a successful wildlife safari at the Wasgamuwa National Park. One is the aid of an experienced guide, who is knowledgeable about the movement of animals and is able to skilfully track the more elusive ones. The other is of course a 4WD safari jeep with which to navigate the varied terrain. The team at Mahoora can organise both these for you, ensuring an optimal wildlife safari experience.

Climate and best time to visit Wasgamuwa National Park

This National Park's annual daily temperature is 28°C and has a dry zone climate. Annual rainfall ranges between 1,650 to 2,100 mm with the months of July to September being the dry season. The highest elevation of the Wasgamuwa National Park is Sudu Kanda (White Mountain) which is 470 metres tall.

The best time to visit Wasgamuwa National Park

The Wasgamuwa National Park can be visited all year round, but the best time to visit is during the period of January to March.

How to get to Wasgamuwa National Park Sri Lanka

The Wasgamuwa National Park is located in the districts of Matale and Polonnaruwa and is bordered by the Mahaweli and Amban Rivers. If you are travelling by road, turn off at Hasalaka on the Kandy-Mahiyangana road and proceed via Wilgamuwa up to Wasgamuwa which is 140 miles (225 km) from Colombo. You can also take an Air Taxi from Colombo (Peliyagoda) and land in Kandy either at Victoria or Polgolla and reach the Wasgamuwa National Park by road. You could also fly in by Helicopter and board it at either the Bandaranaike Airport or Ratmalana and land at Wasgamuwa, and from there reach the Park by road. For more information on air travel please visit www.flysrilanka.lk.

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