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Chambers at Large in Udawalawa National Park and Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

Whilst on sojourn in Sri Lanka I took the opportunity to visit two large national parks in the south of the country, resulting in me seeing an array of wild animals. I travelled by jeep, with my guide, Neel, in Udawalawa and with a lovely group of five other travellers through Yala. The roads in the latter were full of craters, not really pot holes and from the presence of a steam roller it seems it’s a full time job flattening out the roadways. To say my trip was a little bumpy is an understatement, but it added to the excitement and fun.

Not rocks, but crocs!

I learned very quickly that I had to keep my eyes peeled and I’d have made a terrible explorer in days of yore. Crocodiles are incredibly difficult to spot, lying like rocks on land or logs in water. I wouldn’t last two minutes in crocodile territory, they are so well camouflaged and incredibly still. They only blink a watchful eye and even that seems to be once an hour. (Slight hyperbole there, but not much!)

Those are not rocks, but crocs!

I was informed these amazing animals are very lazy and I didn’t see one move the entire eight hours I spent in the national parks! I was impressed by them and delighted to be able to see them in all their glory. It was my first time of seeing an adult crocodile, only having seen babies in zoos and parks elsewhere. They feed on the fish in the waters, and I was surprised to see water buffalo and deer not too far from them. I guess snagging a passing fish is easier than hunting down a more athletic land animal.

Can you see anything in the undergrowth?

I was hopeless at spotting the snakes in Yala and would have been crushed by a python or bitten by a cobra. I’m still searching the photos to see if I can spot these elusive creatures! (I’ve a great admiration for snakes having come up close and personal in a recent visit to my old school!)

Elephants are truly majestic and I saw many in Udawalawa Park, all roaming the rather dry landscape. Water is much needed in the area and it seemed a shame as other parts of Sri Lanka are literally awash with waterfalls, rain and flooded fields.

On the way to Yala National Park the fields were flooded and a beautiful lake was home to storks and other birds.

In Udawalawa there were bull elephants wandering the park alone, whereas mothers with calves were in a group. I was very grateful for my binoculars as it seemed I was within feet of with them and the females were a real treat to see being most protective of their curious offspring.

Monkeys were everywhere in Yala, playing on the rocks or scouring for food in the undergrowth.

I did spot wild boar and deer in Yala AND, after a good ten minutes of searching a tree, I finally spotted a leopard on a lower branch. I was over the moon! This is the cat I wanted to see and he was beautiful.

A large, well fed animal, who completely ignored the throngs of tourists clamouring to see him, being asleep in the scorching heat. When all the other jeeps moved away, ours being last, the leopard woke up, looked in our direction disdainfully, then went back to sleep. It was a real treat to see his beautiful spotted face, dark eyes and long whiskers. My photographs were dreadful, thus I’m grateful to my fellow travellers who provided me with theirs.

Believe me, the black blob is the sloth bear!

Moving on the driver suddenly stopped the jeep and pointed into the undergrowth, assuring me a bear was there. All I could see was a black hole! It was only when the black hole moved did I realise it was the damn bear! Once again I have to thank my fellow travellers for the photo!

I was impressed by my guide who not only drove the jeep but managed to spot the smallest of birds and creatures. A chameleon was basking on a tree in Udawalawa and a monitor lizard was taking in the sun at Yala. These reptiles, like the crocodiles, are well camouflaged, but I did see the latter roaming across the roadways and in the grounds of my hotel.

They are monkeys on that rock, not birds!

Yala National Park is along the south east coast and the monkeys seemed to love playing on the tallest rock along the seafront. I live near the sea where cattle often come to sit on the warm sand and take in the salty air. Seemingly the animals on occasion do the same here.

Deer by possibly croc invested waters

Hornbills were cawing in the trees, storks came out at sunset to enjoy the waters and I saw foxes, rabbits, and a plethora of peacocks. If only peacocks were elephants at Yala, because it was only as we were leaving the park did one of my fellow travellers spot a bull making its way to a watering hole.

That made the day in Yala complete, but I’d really gone to see the leopard having seen a copious amount of elephants in Udawalawa.

Water buffalo playing in the deadening landscape

Kudos to all who do their utmost for the animals in the parks and many thanks to my drivers and my fellow passengers who were terrific. I wish them all health, happiness and the opportunities I had when travelling in Sri Lanka.


Please take a look at my other blogs of Sri Lanka, which is a fabulous country for a holiday. It was great value for money and I was well rested after three joyous weeks. Just click on the links to learn of my adventure.

I'm a supporter of Dublin zoo which does tremendous conservation work. To learn more about their contribution please click on the links.

Belfast Zoo too does incredible conservation work and the bears there are quite a couple of characters.

Fota Wildlife Park in County Cork is doing amazing work breeding cheetahs and is well worth a visit. Take a look at what I learned and saw by clicking on the link.

And finally I saw some beautiful bears at Wildlife Ireland in Donegal, where I spent a cold, but glorious afternoon.

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What an impressive amount of animals you saw and photographed! As I'm turning 83, I know I will never make a trip to experience what you shared, so I thank you for your blog with pics.

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