Udawalawe National Park Safari

When planning a trip to Sri Lanka, include a visit to Udawalawe National Park. This incredible sanctuary offers a truly captivating safari experience, showcasing exotic wildlife amidst breathtaking landscapes.

It stands out as one of the country’s finest safari parks for witnessing wild elephants in their natural habitat.

Two Sri Lanka Elephant looking for food at Udawalawe National Park

In September 2023, we had an unforgettable experience visiting the park. Our post gives you our firsthand knowledge and insights to aid you in planning your journey.

Luke and Kay from Flawless Journeys standing at the front entrance of Udawalawe National Park

The information provided here is from our personal experiences. We will include recommendations on accommodations, the optimal time to visit, essential items to pack, appropriate attire, and invaluable tips to ensure you maximize your adventure.

Discovering Udawalawe

Check out our video, where we share the mesmerizing photographs we captured of the wildlife we encountered on our safari adventure.

From majestic elephants to the diverse range of birds inhabiting the park, our photos are only a touch of what you can see in this National Park.

Udawalawe is nestled within the picturesque landscapes of Southern Sri Lanka and stands as one of the country’s smaller yet captivating national parks.

Female Sri Lanka Elephant at Udawalawe National Park

With its dense wildlife population, this sanctuary spans approximately 310 kmΒ² and boasts an astounding amount of Sri Lankan elephants.

Unlike other national parks, witnessing these majestic creatures is pretty much guaranteed, offering a truly unforgettable encounter with nature’s remarkable wonders.

Baby elephant looking like its smiling at Udawalawe National Park

Planning Your Udawalawe National Park Safari

Preparation ensures a memorable and comfortable experience at Udawalawe Park. At Flawless Journeys, we appreciate that organizing such a trip involves careful consideration and research. That’s why we’re here to assist you in planning your ideal safari escape.

A baby elephant at Udawalawe National Park

We’ll offer guidance on the safari options available, the most favourable time to visit, essential items to bring along, and suitable clothing to wear during your safari.

Getting to Udawalawe

For a hassle-free and enjoyable vacation, we chose a tour company called Apple Vacations Pvt Ltd to manage our arrangements, from transportation, trips and stays for our honeymoon trip through Sri Lanka, including our Udawalawe National Park Safari.

They offer an excellent transfer service that includes an air-conditioned vehicle and bottled water for the journey. They will also arrange the entrance fees and entrance ticket, your own jeep with a driver and a udawalawe safari guide (optional), allowing you to focus on your safari adventure.

Luke and Kay from Flawless Journeys sitting in a safari jeep at Udawalawe National Park

Alternative public transport options like buses or tuk-tuks are available but are less comfortable on the long journey and require extra travel time.

Safari Options

When considering which safari option you prefer at Udawalawe, various choices are available, including half-day or full-day safaris, group excursions or private tours. You can even opt for an overnight stay in a campground for a unique and immersive experience with nature.

Whether you choose an early morning safari, an afternoon exploration, or spend an entire day amongst the varied wildlife of Udawalawe, you’re sure to create lasting memories.

An Elderly Elephant walking through the tree line at Udawalawe National Park

To secure competitive rates and ensure all details are handled, it’s advisable to book your safari in advance if possible! Some hotels offer booking services but do check the prices beforehand.

We booked a half-day early morning safari, which included four hours at Udawalawe from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. We were fortunate to witness so much during those 4 hours, and I feel that was enough time in this smaller national park.

Safari Transport

When visiting Udawalawe National Park, only jeeps are permitted for transportation within the park. These offer a safe exploration and full appreciation of Udawalawe’s wildlife and natural beauty.

Luke and Kay from Flawless Journeys sitting in a safari jeep

We had the privilege of having a safari jeep just for us (including the safari drivers and a guide to help with spotting wildlife), enabling us to deeply engage with the environment and relish the adventure at our preferred pace.

Witnessing wild animals in their natural settings was truly remarkable, and having the jeep to ourselves allowed us to move freely and capture the images we wanted.

Kay from flawless journeys taking pictures with her camera on the back of a safari jeep at Udawalawe National Park

Do I need a safari guide?

From our personal experience, we highly recommend getting a guide for your safari at Udawalawe. Our guide was skilled at spotting animals and sharing insightful information about each species, transforming our trip from sightseeing to educational.

While you can enjoy a safari without a guide, having one significantly enhances the experience.

Mother and Baby elephant getting foliage from trees for food at Udawalawe National Park

Packing Tips for Udawalawe

You will require a few essential items on your Safari at Udawalawe.


Opt for a sturdy rucksack or a zip-up bag to secure your things, especially during the breezy jeep ride. It also ensures your belongings remain dry during unexpected rain showers.


Don’t forget to carry bottled water and snacks such as fruits, nuts, and crisps to keep you going throughout the safari.


Pack essentials like toilet paper and soap since the park’s restrooms are quite basic and may lack these items. For added cleanliness, consider packing antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser.

Mobile Phone

Ensure your phone is fully charged and has enough storage for all the memorable photos and videos you’ll capture.

Photography Equipment

A high-quality camera with an excellent lens, such as a 70-200 lens on a Nikon Camera, can capture stunning wildlife photos to share with your loved ones.

Kay from flawless journeys taking pictures with her camera on the back of a safari jeep at Udawalawe National Park

Portable Charger

A power bank is a worthwhile investment to keep your devices charged, considering the number of photos and videos you’ll be taking during your visit.

Sun Protection

Apply high-factor sun cream early in the morning to guard your skin against harmful sun rays. A pair of polarised sunglasses would be beneficial to protect your eyes from the sun and wind.

Four Painted Storks flying over Udawalawe National Park

What to Wear on Safari

As you prepare for your Udawalawe safari, it’s best to dress in comfortable, light attire that harmonizes with the natural environment – consider hues of khakis, browns, and greens. Wear lightweight trousers or combat shorts as it is hot. I wore an elasticated plain playsuit, which kept me cool from the heat.

Learn from my mistake. If you have long hair, securing it in a bun, braid, or ponytail is advisable, as the jeep rides can be quite breezy, resulting in a windswept look.

Remember to pack a pair of sunglasses for the jeep journey to protect your eyes from the sun and shield them from the wind during your travel to and from Udawalawe.

Animals in Udawalawe

Moving on to what we saw whilst visiting Udawalawe National Park safari trip! Lets start with the animals.


We observed so many elephants of varying sizes and ages moving about confidently and unreservedly, seemingly at peace with each other and their environment.

A Safari Jeep and people in the back with cameras next to a Sri Lankan elephant at Udawalawe National Park

The presence ofsafari jeeps didn’t seem to disturb them. They just got on with their daily business as if we were invisible.

Mother and Baby elephant walking side by side together at Udawalawe National Park

This mother elephant with her calf, were so cute.

Baby and Mum elephant going in and out of trees at Udawalawe National Park

Below is a young adult female elephant.

Young elephant walking towards our safari jeep at Udawalawe National Park

This one was one of the largest wild elephants we spotted, during our half day safari, a full-grown adult elephant. We didn’t see a majestic bull elephant. They are usually larger than the females.

Adult elephant covered in mud at Udawalawe National Park

This elephant was very close, and I managed to great a cracking close-up photo.

Close up of elephant face and eye at Udawalawe National Park

This next image is of an elderly elephant. You can tell by how her head dips in at the temples and how wrinkled her skin looks. She was still moving around well.

An Old Elephant looking for foliage from trees at Udawalawe National Park

Jungle Cat

I was too slow to capture the image, but we spotted a jungle cat. He was so beautiful but did not stick around long enough for a photo.

Spotted Deer

Our safari was graced with numerous sightings of these elegant creatures, also known as axis deer, often cleverly concealed behind the trees.

Five nervous Spotted Deer in the Woodline at Udawalawe National Park

Sri Lankan Monkeys – Toque Macaque

Don’t forget to look up in the trees and spot the toque monkeys huddled together an intriguing and endearing sight.

A Troop of Toque Macaque Monkeys in a tree at Udawalawe National Park. Four red faced monkeys cuddled together.

Also known as red-faced monkeys, these medium-sized monkeys are only found in Sri Lanka.

This one spotted me before I spotted him; look at his funky hairstyle!

Toque Macaque Monkey in a tree at Udawalawe National Park

Read more about these fascinating sri lankan monkeys.

Reptiles in Udawalawe

Moving on to the reptiles spotted during our Udawalawe Safari in Sri Lanka.

Oriental Garden Lizard

With the help of our guide, we were able to spot this creature casually lounging on a tree stump!

A Oriental Garden Lizard on a termite mound at Udawalawe National Park

Land Monitor

Sizable monitor lizard effortlessly traverse the terrain and are hard to overlook.

A Land monitor at Udawalawe National Park


Keep an eye out for crocodiles subtly emerging from the water bodies. We didn’t see many crocodiles during our safari in Udawalawe, compared to Yala National Park were they had loads!

An Egret and Crocodile in a lake at Udawalawe National Park

It may look like he is going for that great white egret, but it is rare for them to eat birds! They usually feed on fish, frogs and small mammals. There were plenty of fish in the lake for the birds and crocodiles to share!

A school of Lake fish jumping out of lake at Udawalawe National Park

Birds in Udawalawe

During our visit to the Udawalawe in Sri Lanka, we were fortunate enough to encounter a variety of bird species. Here are the ones we saw during our short safari.

Great White Egret

The Great White Egret, a large egret known for its pure white feathers, was another bird we spotted. Seen above with the crocodile.

White-Necked Stork

We spotted the majestic White-Necked Stork, a large wading bird from the stork family.

A White Necked Stork at Udawalawe National Park

Also known as a Woolly-necked Stork. Its unique white ruffled neck and dark salmon-tipped bill made it stand out from the rest.

Lesser Adjutant

Another member of the stork family, was also seen during our visit. This large wading bird has a distinctive bare neck and head, making it easy to identify.

Lesser Adjutant on top of a tree on look out at Udawalawe National Park

Not the greatest picture, but he was far from us!

Painted Storks

The park is also home to Painted Storks, large wading birds that are usually found in the wetlands.

A Painted stork standing in water at Udawalawe National Park. Large bird with long pink legs, orange beak, orange and pink head. With mostly white and black deathers and a few pink feathers.

Their beautiful, colourful pink plumage is what gives them their name.

A muster of Painted Storks in a lake at Udawalawe National Park

A muster of storks is such a beautiful sight.

Green Bee-Eater

Green Bee-Eaters, a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family, was another delightful spot.

A Green Bee Eater on a tree branch at Udawalawe National Park

Their vibrant feathers and swift movements were truly a spectacle to behold.

Eurasian Hoopoe

This bird, known for its distinctive crown of feathers and long, thin tapering bill, is known to be a regular visitor to the park.

A Eurasian Hoopoe on a tree branch at Udawalawe National Park

White-throated Kingfisher

The White-Throated Kingfisher has vibrant blue feathers.

White Throated Kingfisher on a tree branch at Udawalawe National Park

Its sharp calls and swift flight patterns added an extra layer of excitement to our bird-watching experience.

Red-wattled lapwing

This ground bird from the lapwing family is easily identifiable by its loud alarm calls, red wattles, and broad wings with white patches.

Red Wattled Lap Wing looking for food in the grass at Udawalawe National Park


Sri Lanka’s national bird the junglefowl with its vibrant colours, is a common sight at Udawalawe.

Sri Lanka national bird the junglefowl at Udawalawe National Park


Peacocks are a common sight throughout the park.

A Peacock on a rock in the rain at Udawalawe National Park

Known for their iridescent tail feathers, these birds added a splash of colour to every turn during your safari.

A Peacock at Udawalawe National Park

Crested Hawk Eagle

This powerful raptor, also known as changeable hawk. Piercing eyes and feathered legs, is a master hunter.

Crested Hawk Eagle perched on a tree at Udawalawe National Park

Seeing it perched majestically on a tree branch, scanning its surroundings for prey, was truly a thrilling experience. We think that there is another one in flight above him, too. I needed a better camera lens for this one. But you can just about make him out from this photo.

Crested Serpent Eagle

Another Crested Eagle but this time much closer!

Crested Serpent Eagle on a tree branch at Udawalawe National Park

This crested serpent eagle was quite happily perched in a nearby tree, posing for a photo, and here I am, capturing that picture to show you how close I was!

Kay from Flawless journeys taking a picture of a crested serpent eagle perched in a tree at Udawalawe National Park


For those passionate about observing elephants in their natural habitat, you must visit Udawalawe National Park. The elephant transit home (elephant orphanage) is also a great place to see elephants close up.

An elderly elephant that has lost a lot of weight at Udawalawe National Park

Comparing Udawalawe to Other National Parks in Sri Lanka

We were fortunate enough to embark on more than one safari, we had three exceptional safaris across different National Parks in Sri Lanka: Yala, Udawalawe, and Wilpattu.

Baby Sri Lankan elephant feeding its self at Udawalawe National Park

Out of the three, our safari in Udawalawe was undoubtedly the best for elephant sightings! With it being a small park, it felt like there was always something to see, so no dull moments!

Yala National Park

However, if you have to pick just one safari experience, we enthusiastically encourage you to visit Yala as the top choice for a Safari in Sri Lanka. Read more about our fantastic trip on this Yala National Park Safari, and read our Hotel Review of Cinnamon Wild Yala.

Sightings of elephants, leopards, bears, water buffalo, and many reptiles and birds are simply unmatched, making every turn an adventure.

Wilpattu National Park

If you have time for a full day or multiple days, Wilpattu National Park (being the largest) may be your better choice. We only had a half-day safari here, and it felt like we just scratched the surface. The highlight was staying in a delightful safari camp Mahoora Wilpattu by Eco Team, offering a guided Wilpattu tour to bring us closer to nature, the food there was amazing a BBQ served under the stars. We will post about it soon!

Minneriya National Park

We did not visit the Minneriya National Park, but it is another one of Sri Lanka’s safari parks, a popular national park you may want to consider. We didn’t visit, but we hope to next time!

When to Visit Yala National Park

Scheduling your trip to Udawalawe is key. The dry season, from February to July, is often recommended.

Luke from Flawless journeys looking at a elderly elephant in the tree line at Udawalawe National Park

However, this period attracts more visitors, resulting in more safari jeeps within the park.

We embarked on our Udawalawe safari in September 2023 and appreciated the lack of typical tourist crowds, offering a more serene and intimate safari experience.

Two Red Wattled Lap Wings on the safari road at Udawalawe National Park

Accommodation near Udawalawe

We stayed at the Centuria Wild Hotel near Udawalawe in Sri Lanka during our trip. The hotel was lovely, but we would not recommend it to others due to the food.

The room was very large, with a great view from the balcony. It may have been bad timing, but they also had an infestation of flying ants during our stay!

All the dishes looked lovely at dinner and breakfast, but the hot plates were turned off, so it was all cold! It was a worry for us how long the food had been sitting around for to be so cold. Even the tea and coffee were cold! This was a bit disappointing considering the warm hospitality we received from the staff during our stay.

Instead, we went for breakfast at Thuduwa Eco Resort so I can recommend that for a fantastic breakfast, the staff went out of their way to please us with a mixture of continental and sri lankan breakfast. The camp was beautiful, overlooking a lake in a peaceful setting.

Luke and Kay from Flawless Journeys eating breakfast at Thuduwa Eco Resort before going on safari at Udawalawe National Park

But we did not stay there overnight, so we can’t comment on the rooms! See below for other places to stay nearby.

Combining Yala with Other Sri Lankan Adventures

Exploring Sri Lanka can be a rewarding journey. Consider budget, trip duration, and distances when planning your adventure. Break up the journey by visiting other places and staying in hotels.

We came straight to Udawalawe National from Yala. Read more about our Yala National Park Safari.

After our afternoon Udawalawe safari, we returned to our hotel to relax. The next morning, we went to the Elephant Transit Home, an elephant orphanage. It was amazing to see the baby elephants being taken care of. Post coming soon!

Our driver continued our journey by heading south to Ella, where we stayed in the most beautiful accommodation, 98 Acres Resort & Spa. Read more about our honeymoon at 98 Acres.

Ella is a great base to explore many Sri Lankan tourist sights, including Nine Arches Bridge, Ravana Pool Club, The Flying Ravana Mega Zipline, Tea Plantation and Factories and Lipton’s seat.


What kind of safari activities are available at Udawalawe?

Udawalawe Park offers a variety of safari activities, including half-day or full-day jeep safaris, nature walks, camping experiences, bird watching, and elephant rides.

What is the best time to visit Udawalawe?

The dry season, from February to July, is popular but crowded. We went on our Udawalawe safari in September 2023 and enjoyed a serene and intimate experience without the usual tourist crowds.

How much does it cost to go on a Udawalawe National Park safari?

Prices for a safari tour at Udawalawa vary depending on duration and type of tour chosen. You can lower the costs by joining a group, or sharing a jeep. Or pay extra for a private jeep for a more intimate private tour. Make sure to ask if the park entrance fee is included with the price quoted.

Elephant pulling foliage from a tree with his trunk at Udawalawe National Park

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2 thoughts on “Udawalawe National Park Safari”

    • Thank you so much Gillian
      Sri Lanka is an amazing country to visit and doing a safari at Udawalawe National Park was brilliant
      Seeing the wild elephants was a fantastic experience πŸ™‚


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