With so many safaris to choose from, we read the reviews and opted to go with Udawalawe Safari – and what a great decision it was. Here’s our experience.
Which Sri Lanka Safari Should You Choose?
Ok, so we’re not going to list every safari in Sri Lanka. But here are the top picks that tend to come up in conversation…
The most popular safari in Sri Lanka. Yala safari has many entrance points as well as many species of animals, most popular for its wild leopards. It is said to have almost one cat per square km. We heard mixed reviews on Yala safari. Bad points being – having too many jeeps crammed into the park at once.
Originally created to protect the Udawalawe Reservoir, Udawalawe National Park has become one of the leading parks in Asia to see wild Asian elephants. Home to mostly the same wildlife as Yala (minus the leopards) but a little less busy. We opted for this the Udawalawe safari after researching a few reviews/videos online.
Also known as Yala East, not such a big player in the safari world but if you travel out to Arugam Bay, then you’ll hear of it for sure. There are jeep safaris that head from Arugam Bay to the most eastern part of Yala daily. So this could be a great option if time is limited on your trip and you can’t make it to the big Yala safari itself.
Prices for Udawalawe National Park
Like everything in Sri Lanka all of the tour companies have ‘negotiable’ prices. It all depends on how many people are in your tour for the Udawalawe Safari.
Most companies you book through include your entrance ticket to the park in the package of renting their vehicle. It should come out somewhere between 10,000-20,000 rupees with the maximum of 6 passengers which is pretty damn good for a safari in Sri Lanka.
We ended going with a small company named Niluka Safari in Udawalawe that we can’t recommend enough. We paid them 3000 rupees to hire the jeep and a driver for the afternoon, and then paid our own entrance to Udawalawe National Park at the gate. The price was 7000 rupees for 2 people. So overall a total of 10,000 for a 4 hour safari and private jeep (around £50).
Our Udawalawe Safari Experience
We were staying in Mirissa and took the long journey up to our Udawalawe Safari via public bus. So the afternoon slot was perfect for us. Afternoon safaris start around 2.30pm with morning safaris running between 7-10am.
Among the travellers you meet and reviews you hear, you’ll never know exactly when the best time is to take a safari in Sri Lanka. Although we were advised by a lot of people that more elephants are usually visible in the PM, as they make their way to their watering holes. It was the first time we have both seen wild elephants, so our Udawalawe safari will always be in the top highlights of our travels.
So after arriving and meeting at our collection point, our guide helped us up into the 4×4 and we were all set for an afternoon of animal spotting.
We paid our fees at the Udawalawe National Park Entrance and after heading through the gate it was only minutes before we were greeted by a family of 4 beautiful elephants!
Our guide was full of information about the size, age and origin of these amazing mammals and every other animal we saw. He was constantly on the look out to find some of the rare breeds that used Udawalawe safari as their habitat.
Throughout the tour we spotted everything from water buffalo to crocodiles and monkeys to eagles. Plus every colour and breed of bird you can imagine.
The Udawalawe Safari Reality Check
As the evening set in and the excitement died down at Udawalawe National Park, it was nice to sit back and take in everything that had happened. As we headed towards the end of our trail we found ourselves reflecting.
Sometimes we can take for granted what’s right in front of us, but at our Udawalawe safari experience we were fully aware of what was happening and how special the day had been. This safari in Sri Lanka truly made us appreciate the power of now!
As we exited the park our tour guide drove us back to our agreed drop-off point. Cruising up the highway, looking out into the planes and watching sun set over the park made us pinch ourselves. We ended the Udawalawe safari feeling unbelievably happy and full of gratitude. It was a perfect end to a beautiful day!
Luxury – Mahoora Tented Safari Camp – For an unforgettable, unbeatable experience at Udawalawe Safari, then this I definitely your place.
Mid-Budget – Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort – A spot of luxury amongst the amazing wildlife. Perfectly located and with a stunning pool and hotel grounds to relax in.
Budget – Humming Birds Safari Resort – If you’re not looking for the luxury and just want to spend the night near Udawalawe National Park itself, then this little resort is ideal. Clean, cheap and cheerful.
To check out the prices of places to stay in Udawalawe, click here.
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