If you were thinking of going on safari, you would probably consider South Africa, Kenya, or Tanzania as likely destinations. And you’d be on to a safe bet. However, you may not consider Sri Lanka. And you’d be missing out if you didn’t.
Sri Lanka actually boasts one of the highest global rates of biological endemism and is in the top five biodiversity hot-spots anywhere in the world. It is a country where the intrepid tourist can easily find Asian Elephants, Leopards, and Sloth Bears in one of the island’s ubiquitous safari parks. Similarly, one may also be lucky enough to see Blue Whales, Sperm Whales, and Dolphins along any of the country’s stunning coastlines.
A great example of a region that celebrates the wildlife of both land and sea has to be Tissamaharama. Tissamaharama (or Tissa for short), a town in the Hambantola District in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, has two world-class game reserves in Bundala and Yala National Parks, which incorporate wild jungle with pristine, unsullied, golden beaches.
Bundala National Park is an Ornithologists’ paradise. That is, the park plays host to one-hundred and ninety-seven species of birds. As a result Bundala was designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1969, became the first wetland to be declared as a Ramsar Site in Sri Lanka in 1991, and was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. Amongst her treasures, one may find Great Flamingo, Rann of Kutch, Little Cormorant, Grey Heron, and Asian Openbill. And in addition to the birds, one may also spot Wild Boar, Mongoose, Common Langur, Toque Macaque, and Spotted Dear.
By contrast Yala National Park is a big game heaven. Here one can readily expect to see Asian Elephant, Mugger and Saltwater Crocodiles, Sri Lankan Leopard, Jackal, and Wild Water Buffalo. As a result Yala is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka. And it’s not hard to see why. Yala became a national park in 1938, encompasses a space of nine-hundred and seventy-nine square miles, and plays a crucial part in the conservation of Sri Lankan Elephants, Leopards, and a variety of aquatic birds.
Tissamaharama itself is a charming town. Once the capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom of Ruhuna, Tissa has been an inhabited town for over eighteen centuries. However, these days the town plays hosts to national and international tourists coming to enjoy the game reserves. At about two-hundred and fifty kilometers from Colombo, Tissa is easily accessible from the Sri Lankan capital. And with a variety of hotels, one is never short of places to stay. The Safari Hotel, The Blue Turtle Hotel, or The Hotel Chanrika are all great options. Similarly, one is never short of guides for the national park, but I would recommend Janaka Safari Jeep Tours or Ajith Safari Jeep Tours. However, more important than where you stay or which tour guide you use, my recommendation would be to consider Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka alongside all the traditional options when considering an exciting, memorable, and value-for-money international safari.
Story & Photography | Andrew Roughton