• Sri Lankan Sloth Bear

Horton Plains National Park Nuwara Eliya

There are 24 species of mammals, 87 species of birds, nine species of reptiles and eight species of amphibians that inhabit the Horton Plains National Park. The most commonly seen mammal on a walking safari is the Sambar Deer of which there is an estimated population of 1000 to 2000. Other mammal species found in the park include Toque Macaques, Purple-faced Langurs, Rusty-spotted Cats, Sri Lankan Leopards, Wild Boars, Stripe-necked Mongooses, Sri Lankan Spotted Chevrotains, Indian Muntjacs, and Grizzled Giant Squirrels. The Horton Plains Slender Loris which is a subspecies of the Red Slender Loris is found only in the highlands of Sri Lanka and is considered one of the world's most endangered primates and a rarely seen inhabitant of the Park.

Birdlife in the Horton Plains National Park

Horton Plains is one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka and of the 21 endemic species all the highland ones occur here.  These include the Dull-blue Fly Catcher, Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Spot-Winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Scaly Thrush and the Brown-capped Babbler.  The Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl and the Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush reside here too. Migrants to be found here include the Pied Thrush, Hill Munia, Hill Swallow, Pied Bushcat, Black Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, Kashmir Flycatcher, Indian Pitta, Black Bird and the Mountain Hawk Eagle.

Reptiles and amphibians in Horton Plains

About nine amphibian species inhabit the Park and among them are Microhyla zeylanica, Ramanella palmata, Fejervarya greenii, Rana gracilis, Philautus alto, Philautus femoralis, Philautus frankenbergi, Philautus microtympanum, Philautus schmarda, and Polypedates eques. The reptiles to be found are Calotes nigrilabris, Rhino Horn Lizard, Cophotis ceylanica, Lankascincus taprobanensis, Common rough-sided snake and the Rat snake.

Flora in the Horton Plains National Park

The vegetation in the Park is classified into two distinctive groups - wet patana (Sinhalese for montane grasslands) and subtropical montane evergreen forests. Nearly 750 species of plants belonging to 20 families have been recorded in the Park. Nearly 54 woody plant species have been recorded as well of which 27 are endemic to Sri Lanka. Tree trunks and branches are adorned with many species of ferns and orchids of which about 16 of the orchid species are endemic to the island. Twisted trees are a common sight due to the prevalence of high speed winds. The forest canopy is dominated by the endemic Keena (Calophyllum walker) and is about 20m in height. The endemic Binara and Nelu have beautiful flowers. Tuttiri is the main grass. Rhododendron arboretum is now common and its flowers bloom every 14 years after which the plant dies.

Horton Plains History and Geography

Located on the southern plateau of the central highlands of Sri Lanka, Horton Plains is at an elevation of 2,300 meters above sea level. The mean annual rainfall is greater than 2,000 mm and the mean annual temperature is 13°C. Although some rain falls throughout the year, a dry season occurs from January to March. The headwaters of important rivers such as the Mahaweli, Kelani and Walawe are in Horton Plains. Slow moving streams, swamps and waterfalls are the important wetland habitats found here.

The original name of this National Park was Maha Eliya Thanna but in the British period the Park was renamed after Sir Robert Wilmot Horton, the British Governor of Ceylon from 1831 to 1837.  Stone tools dating back to the prehistoric Balangoda period (34,000 BP) have been found here.

Horton Plains was designated a wildlife sanctuary on 5 December 1969 and was elevated to a National Park on 18 March 1988 because of its evident biodiversity. Horton Plains is 3,160 hectares in size and contains the most extensive area of cloud forest still existing in Sri Lanka.

Climate in the Horton Plains National Park

Horton Plains is located on the southern plateau of the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The Park's elevation ranges from 2,100 to 2,300 metres. The mean annual rainfall is greater than 2,000 mm. The mean annual temperature is 13°C but the temperature varies considerably reaching as high as 27°C during the day time, and dipping as low as 5°C at night. Although some rain falls throughout the year, a dry season occurs from January to March. Ground frost is common in February and mist can persist during most of the day in the wet season.

Getting the most out of your Horton Plains National Park Safari

The closest city to this National Park is Nuwara Eliya and it takes approximately one and a half hours to get there. You can request that we pick you up from Nuwara Eliya if necessary. You will need a proper vehicle as low ground-clearing vehicles will not allow you to navigate the many hairpin bends that lead the way to Horton Plains. The best time to start a nature trail here is at 6.30 a.m. since locations such as World’s End will be covered in mist by late morning or noon and you will also need to avoid the rains. The easiest way to avoid these issues is to opt for a Mahoora luxury tented safari camp inside the Park. You will also need a pair of binoculars, while a naturalist guide comes in handy too. Make sure you have packed with rain and windy weather in mind.


The best time to visit Horton Plains

The Park can be visited from December to February since the rains do not occur that often. However the best time to visit in terms of weather is from March to May when it is also not too cold. You can definitely visit during other months as well but avoid September to November when there are moderate to heavy rains.

How to get to Horton Plains National Park

Horton Plains is accessed by road through Nuwara Eliya, Ambewela, Pattipola (20miles/ 32km); Haputale or Welimada, Boralanda, Ohiya (24miles/ 38km); Nuwara Eliya, Hakgala, Rendapola, Ambewela, Pattipola (24miles/ 38km). The more adventurous can trek into the park along the Thalawakele-Agarapatana-Diyagama and the Belihul Oya-Nagarak trails. Alternately you can take an air taxi from Colombo (Peliyagoda) and land in Nuwara Eliya and go by road from there to Horton Plains. For more information on air travel please visit www.flysrilanka.lk

Minneriya National Park Sri Lanka

The Minneriya National Park is also home to Sri Lankan Leopards and Sri Lankan Sloth Bears. It is listed as one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka. The wildlife here comprises 26 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish and 75 species of butterflies. The Park is an important habitat for the two endemic monkeys of Sri Lanka - the Purple-faced Langur and the Toque Macaque. It is also home to large herbivorous mammals such as the Sri Lankan Sambar Deer and Sri Lankan Axis Deer. Rare and endangered species such as the Sri Lankan Leopard and the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear also inhabit Minneriya and the Grey Slender Loris has been reported here as well.

Elephant Culture in Sri Lanka

Hardly a ceremony or celebration goes by without elephants being showcased, generally decorated in vivid colours, reminiscent of the heady days of Sri Lanka’s vibrant and exuberant past. To this day, most Buddhist Temples own an elephant.

The Sri Lankan Elephant is a recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant and is recognized as a threatened species. In a recent census of the elephant population in August 2011, it was estimated that there are approximately 5,800 of these majestic animals living mainly in the low-lying areas of Sri Lanka. During the country’s British Colonial era, and before the highlands were stripped bare of vegetation for the coffee and tea plantations, elephants could be found roaming freely in great numbers. The decline in the numbers of elephants in Sri Lanka has been due to loss of habitats, and the possibility that the best specimens had been taken from the breeding stocks and used for hunting or domestication.

Birdlife in the Minneriya National Park

Large water birds such as Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, and Spot-billed Pelican are recorded in the Minneriya National Park with instances of a flock of approximately 2000 Little Cormorants being sighted.  The Great White Pelican, Ruddy Turnstone and Grey Heron are the other water birds seen here. Birds endemic to Sri Lanka are represented by the Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Black-crested Bulbul and the Crimson-fronted Barbet.

Reptiles and amphibians in the Minneriya National Park

Amphibians of Fejervarya pulla and Polypedates cruciger have been recorded in the area. There are eight species of reptiles endemic to Sri Lanka in the Minneriya National Park and all of them are considered threatened, of which the Painted-lip Lizard and Lankascincus fallax are noteworthy. Other reptiles include the freshwater Crocodile, Indian python, Water monitor, and Bengal monitor.

Flora in the Minneriya National Park

The main habitats of Minneriya are of several types, including low-canopy montane forests, intermediate high-canopy secondary forests, scrub lands, abandoned chena lands, grasslands, rocky outcrops, and wetlands. Terminalia arjuna, Manilkara hexandra, Neem, Azadirachta indica, Sacred fig (Ficus religiosa) and Bauhinia racemose floral species are common in the area surrounding the Minneriya tank. Plantations of Eucalyptus and Teak grown by the Forest Department can be seen as well.

The Minneriya National Park - History and Geography

The Minneriya National Park lies in the North Central province of Sri Lanka, and although declared a protected Wildlife Sanctuary in 1938, it was given National Park status only in 1997. Its wide open spaces, combined with the Wasgamuwa and Flood Plains National Parks allow the elephants vast tracts of protected land to safely reside in. Minneriya has a huge man made tank or reservoir, which dates back to the 3rd Century A.D. and was built by King Mahasen. During the monsoon rains the tank fills up, and when it is dry season the water starts to deplete. Never empty, the tank is a source of water and a feeding area for huge numbers of birds, mammals and amphibians year round.

Getting the most out of your Minneriya National Park wildlife safari

As with any wildlife safari an expert naturalist guide is high on your list of essentials. Being at the right place at the right time is key when it comes to observing wildlife and your guide will ensure that you miss nothing and that you do not obstruct the way of nature, especially when such large numbers of elephants are present at the gathering. Navigating the varied terrain of the Minneriya National Park requires the right kind of safari jeep and do give careful consideration to your safety as well.

Climate in the Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

Minneriyais situated in the dry zone of Sri Lanka and receives an average rainfall of 1,500–2,000 millimetres. The lowest and highest temperatures recorded in the park are 20.6°C and 34.5°C respectively. The wet season lasts during the north eastern monsoon from October to January and from May to September the dry season occurs.

The best time to visit the Minneriya National Park

Elephants can be seen in Minneriya throughout the year but the best months to visit are from July to September when large herds can be witnessed ‘gathering’.

How to get to the Minneriya National Park

Situated 20 km northwest of Polonnaruwa, the Minneriya National Park is in the Polonnaruwa District in the North Central Province. The Park’s boundaries on the north, west and east are outlined by roads: the Habarana-Polonnaruwa highway, Sigiriya-Moragaswewa and Katukeliyawa-Diyabeduma roads respectively. The distance from Colombo via the Habarana-Polonnaruwa Road is 182 km. You can also take a sea plane. For more information on air travel please visit  www.flysrilanka.lk.

Read more about Mahoora Minneriya National Park