Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park, which proudly houses Senanyake Samudhraya, Sri Lanka’s largest reservoir, is the ultimate location in which to see elephant herds all year round. Navigate the national park by boat across this majestic reservoir, inspect ancient Brahmi inscriptions in the Henebedde cave and spot an abundance of fauna in their natural habitats, including the rare and regal leopard.
Home to wild elephant and indigenous tribes, Gal Oya is a secluded national park, located 314km from Colombo, in South Eastern Sri Lanka, and is an area of exceptional natural beauty. Tourists are few and far between at the park so it is truly a wild Sri Lankan paradise. The park has a range of extraordinary vistas, from the enormous reservoir, to grassland, to its three soaring granite mountains, Nilgala, Ulpotha and Danigala. Gal Oya is famous for the Dighavapi stupa, built in the 2nd century BC, which thousands of Buddhist pilgrims visit every year, as it is believed to be the spot where Buddha meditated when he visited Sri Lanka for the third time.
Gal Oya National Park is brimming with wild animals and jeep or boat safari here will not disappoint. From the stunning Sri Lankan elephant, who you are likely to spot in large herds, to the Sri Lanka leopard (if you are very lucky), Toque monkey and wild boar. Gal Oya, due to its thick canopy of lush green trees, has an amazing 150 recorded bird species, and a great number of reptiles, including crocodiles. Like most national parks in Sri Lanka, it is best to come at the beginning or end of the day to see as much wildlife as possible.
Boat safaris are a highly recommended activity when you visit Gal Oya, and you might even be able to spot elephants swimming from island to island in search of food. The Senanyake Samudhraya has a vast surface area of over 19,000 acres and the park was originally created to protect the wildlife that was attracted to the area because of the reservoir. There are plenty of places to stay in the park, from hilltop villas and luxury tented camps, to bungalows in the reservoir. Staying overnight in the park can give you the opportunity to wake up to stunning sunrises and to increase your chances of spotting remarkable wildlife. The park is quite small, with two jeep safari tracks, one 5km and the other 13km long, but truly marvellous never-the-less.