One of Asia's top wildlife destinations" - BBC Wildlife
For a tiny island (435 km long and 225 km wide), Sri Lanka features an unbelievable diversity of terrain and habitats that nurture a remarkable assortment of flora and fauna. We are proud to call home one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world.
To illustrate further, Sri Lanka is home to:
6 Ramsar wetlands
2 Natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Mammals: 123 species, of which 16 are endemic
173 species, of which 103 are endemic
140 species, of which 109 are endemic
492 recorded bird species, of which 34 are endemic
93 species of fish, of which 50 are endemic
(Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of biological endemism)
245 species of butterfly
18 species of scorpions
Over a dozen species of Dolphin (Spinner and Striped dolphins are most common) reside along our coastline – probably in their highest visible concentrations off Kalpitiya and Mirissa. December to March is the best window to be amongst them –pods consisting of hundreds of dolphin frolic gleefully approximately 1km – 2km off our shoreline and make for quite a spectacle. Alankuda, in Kalpitiya, is a little over an hours’ drive from our Wilpattu camp, and we can make arrangements for our guests to take a break from the jungle and spend a morning out at sea with an entertaining pod of Dolphins during the season.
Blue Whales have become a prominent feature on the tourist map and are visible around the same time of year. Reports of Killer Whale (Orca) have made the news recently, and this has kept researchers busy trying to figure out what they’re up to in our warm waters. Large pods of Sperm Whales are common while Pilot Whales are seen occasionally as well.
Interestingly, some researchers are of the opinion that it is a land-based phenomenon that keeps these mammals resident along our coastline. The plethora of the island’s rivers that flow into the ocean bring with them a rich collection of nutrients to the edge of the continental shelf, which helps sustain a strong whale and dolphin population close to our shores. Three Sisters is a gorgeous beachfront villa, and offers swift access to Mirissa, which is the epicentre of the island’s whale watching experience. Three Sisters is a part of the Haritha Collection.
The island’s assortment of habitats – cloud forests, rain forests, arid scrub, denser wooded jungles and riverine forests, wetlands and grassland plains, estuaries and lagoons – supports a remarkable mosaic of biodiversity.
The shallow lagoons of Mannar (northwest of the island) are a blur of pink as thousands of flamingos descend to feed during winter. Lurking beneath the surface of most bodies of water around the country are ‘Mugger’ Crocodiles. Yala is one of the best locations on the island to view these imposing crocodilians. The dry season reveals just how dense a population of Mugger Crocodiles Sri Lanka holds, when countless individuals sun themselves on the banks of receding waterholes. We are also home to Estuarine Crocodiles (also known as Salt Walter Crocodiles, or “Salties”) that inhabit brackish lagoons and river mouths.
Coined Sri Lanka’s “Big Five”, Blue Whale, Sperm Whale, the Sri Lankan Leopard, the Asian Elephant, and Sloth Bear are the most marketed and sought after natural tourist attractions. But our Kulu Guides don’t overlook a shy, yet important supporting cast that includes (but not limited to) the nocturnal Loris family (Grey Slender Loris and Red Slender Loris), endangered primates (Purple Faced Leave Monkey and Bear Monkey), small cats (Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat, Rusty Spotted cat and the cheeky Palm Civet), and the fabled yet ominous Forest Eagle Owl.
Barking Deer and Mouse Deer (best seen in Wilpattu) are skittish yet fascinating to watch if approached with stealth. Black Eagles glide haughtily along the edge of mountains and rocky outcrops and a sharp eye can often spot them above mountain roads as they hunt for monkeys and other small prey.
The most dangerous and imposing of all our wildlife species is the Wild Buffalo (referred to as “Kulu Harak” in Sinhala). Local guides would reverently agree that an aggressive Wild Buffalo is the most chilling encounter to experience on safari (even more so than Leopards, Bear, or Elephant). They gather in large numbers in Kumana National Park, but healthy populations can be found in Yala, Wilpattu, and Uda Walawe National Park as well.
Perhaps the most under-appreciated mammal on our island is the Sloth Bear. Unlike Leopards who are photogenic and have a degree of predictability to their behaviour, Sloth Bear mannerisms are random at best. Their dishevelled appearance and clumsy gait understate their true intrigue. They are nimble tree-climbers and make for ferocious adversaries. They nap with the innocence of tired children in the most random of places, like the hollow of a tree or in a storm drain. Yet their screams when startled or in combat reach a blood curdling pitch. Sloth Bear sightings in Yala and Wilpattu are relatively frequent and a treat for any wildlife enthusiast.
Every dawn in the jungle begins with a symphony of countless birdcalls that only nature herself could compose to such perfection. Birdlife is abundant throughout the island, and while all our camps are stocked with “bird books”, we believe getting your own for the duration of your trip will be money well spent.