Udawalawe – National Park of Sri Lanka

Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka: elephant safari

The Udawalawe National Park is 180 km from Colombo, the de facto capital of Sri Lanka. The reserve is located on the borders between the provinces of Uva and Sabaragamuwa and includes the districts of Monaragala and Ratnapura. Udawalawe Park was founded in 1972 as Sri Lanka’s fifth national park. Today it is the third most visited park in the country. Udawalawe National Park has a total area of 31,000 hectares, making it one of the largest parks in Sri Lanka.

The main attraction of the park is the Uda Walawe Reservoir, which covers an area of 3,500 hectares. The Udawalawe area includes grasslands, forests, pastures, riverine wetlands and dry sierozem soils – the recognizable red-brown soils found in abundance in this particular region of Sri Lanka. The main areas of the Udawalawe Reserve are grasslands and plains covered in scrub and dry grasses, which provide habitat for numerous wild elephants and endemic bird species, as well as leopards, deer, and amphibians. Udawalawe is most often visited for jeep safaris and observations of butterflies, fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, etc.

One of the main goals of tourists in Udawalawe is to encounter a herd of unique endangered Lankan elephants (Elephas maximus maximus), one of the three subspecies of Asian elephants. The elephants are most likely to be seen at dawn or in the afternoon at the headwaters of the rivers and at the Udawalawe Reservoir, where the elephants come to drink. Udawalawe cannot be visited on foot but only by jeep.

Udawalawe Park on a map of Sri Lanka

Driving to Park Udawalawe

How to get to Udawalawe from Colombo

You can get to Udawalawe from Colombo by bus to Udawalawe town:

  • No. 3, 3-1, 122/210, 122/210-1, 122/210/168, 122/210-2, 122/98-19, 98, 98-1, 98-2,98-3, 98-4, 98-5from Udawalawe town to the national park by tuk-tuk.

How to get to Udawalawe from Galle

Udavalave can be reached from Matara by bus, with a change in Tanamalville, the journey takes about 4 hours:

  • From Galle to Tanamalvila by bus #35 Galle – Ampara,
  • Then Tanamalvila – Udavalawe by tuk-tuk, or by bus Tanamalvila – Embilipitya passing through the park entrance.

How to get to Udawalawe from Matara

You can get to Udawalawa from Matara by bus, connecting at Tanamalvila or at Embilipitiya. The journey takes about 3 hours:

  1. From Matara to Tanamalvila by bus #31, 31-1, 31-2, then Tanamalvila to Udavalawe by tuk-tuk, or by bus Tanamalvila to Embilipitiya passing through the park entrance.
  2. From Matara to Embilipitiya, take bus #11 Matara – Ratnapura to Udavalawe, or #11-1, 11/342 Matara – Embilipitiya, then Embilipitiya – Udavalawe by tuk-tuk, or bus Embilipitiya – Tanamilvila passing through the park entrance.

Driving to Udawalawe from Ella

You can take a bus from Bandaravela to Udavalave from Ella district with a change in Tanamalvila, the journey takes about 4 hours:

  • From Bandaravela to Tanamalvila by bus #31 Bandaravela to Matara ,
  • Then Tanamalvila – Udavalawe by tuk-tuk, or by bus Tanamalvila – Embilipitya passing through the park entrance.
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How to get to Udawalawe from Nuwara Eliya

You can take a bus to Udavalave from Nuwara Eliya, connecting in Tanamalville and it takes about 6 hrs to get there:

  • From Nuwara Eliya to Tanamalvila by bus #31-1 Nuwara Eliya – Matara or #10 Kandy – Kataragama,
  • Then Tanamalvila – Udavalawe by tuk-tuk, or by bus Tanamalvila – Embilipitya passing through the park entrance.

Opening hours, admission tickets to Udawalawe Park

The reserve is open throughout the year without weekends, unlike Yala Park, it does not have an annual closure period. Udawalawe National Park is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm. Jeep safari through the park lasts about 4 hours. It is possible to conduct a safari through the park, followed by overnight stays in exclusive eco-camps on the territory of the reserve.

Tourist groups in jeeps with a guide can visit the park in three formats:

  • Morning from 6-00 to 10-00;
  • Evening from 14-00 to 18-00;
  • Full day from 6-00 to 18-00.

The cost of admission is the price of admission tickets (per person) + park fee (per person) + jeep rental (per group). Visiting the park without a guide or on foot is not possible – it is a matter of tourist safety.

  • Entrance ticket for an adult foreigner – 5200 rupees;
  • Entrance ticket for a child under 6 years of age – 2,600 rupees;
  • Half day jeep rental costs 5000 rupees, one jeep accommodates up to 6 people.

Half day Udawalawe safari for 2 persons is calculated as follows: price 5200*2 (the cost of the ticket with park fee) + 5000 (jeep rent) = 15,400 (about 80$). The price does not include transfer to the park.

Udawalawe Elephant Nursery: elephant feeding observation

Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home is located on the border of Uva and Sabaragamuwa, a region favorable to elephants. The nursery is located on the left side of the Udawalawe Reservoir, 5 km from the national park of the same name. It was established in 1995 under the leadership of the Department of Wildlife Conservation of Sri Lanka to rehabilitate parentless elephants, in order to release them back into the wild once they are strong enough to ensure their survival.

The aim is to increase the number of wild Lankan elephants in Sri Lanka, which are greatly affected by human activities. In 2008, 65 elephants were released from the cattery into the jungles of Udawalawe National Park. In addition to providing medical care and feeding the elephants, the nursery conducts educational activities for visitors through the Information Center, as well as educational activities for schoolchildren.

It is not possible to ride elephants in the Udawalawe elephant nursery, because the purpose of the nursery is not to tame them, but to help the elephant for its survival, which requires minimizing human contact with the animal. You can watch feeding of elephants in the nursery, it is made every day at 6-00, 9-00, 12-00, 17-00.

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Udavalawe National Park scheme

Map of Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

Attractions near Udavalawe

Udawalawe Dam, Sri Lanka

Udawalawe Reservoir & Dam

Udawalawe Dam is the main landmark of the area, it creates the boundary of the Udawalawe Reservoir, outlines the boundaries of the national park on the road from Embilipitiya and leads to one of Sri Lanka’s largest hydropower plants, Udawalawe Hydroelectric Power Plant, which generates electricity for the area.

The Udavalawe Dam was built in 1969. This dam, built across the Valave River, provides irrigation for the agricultural lands surrounding the area. The size of the Udavalawe reservoir is 8.6 km by 7 km.

The total length of the Udawalawe Dam is 3.9 km, with nine main spillways at the eastern end of the dam and two additional spillways at the center of the dam that help control the water level in the reservoir.

Elephants can often be seen swimming across the Udawalawe Reservoir from deep inside the national park to the borders of the park, where they come to the edge of the road in search of grass. The elephants are separated from the road by a special fence.

Vaulpane Limestone Caves, Kaltota, Sri Lanka

Waulpane Limestone Caves

Waulpane Limestone Cave is also called Waulpane or Wawula Pane and is the second largest limestone cave in the world. The name of the caves comes from the Sinhalese words “Wavula Pane” – “Bat Cave”. The name of this place is not given by chance: more than 250,000 bats, belonging to 6 species, live in the caves of Vavulpane.

The Vavulpane caves are located in the Rakvana area near the Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya cave temple in Ratnapura district at 278 meters above sea level. Vavulpane Cave consists of one main cave structure and a dozen other smaller caves.

The ancient limestone caves of Vavulpane contain traces of ancient man from Balangoda, as well as large columns of stalactites and stalagmites formed over many centuries. The entrance to the cave is blocked by a stream of cold water, and stone stairs lead down to the cave.

The stream flowing through the cave feeds a stunning waterfall located near the center of the largest cave, more than 150 meters long, called “Wavulpane Ella” with a height of 45 meters. In and around the waterfall more than 100 endemic species of flora and a significant number of animal fossils have been recorded.

Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya Buddhist Temple, Pallebedda, Sri Lanka

Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya Cave Temple

Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya Buddhist cave temple is located in the town of Pallebedda, a couple of km from the town of Udawalave, on the Phelmadulla-Embilipitiya road. The temple is located in a rocky area teeming with natural caves.

On the territory of the temple there are 14 caves of different size. For example, cave number 5 contains the ancient place of worship of the Buddha, and cave number 3 – Kataragama. The largest cave of the Sankapala temple is about 20 meters long.

According to the Mahavamsa and Tupavamsa chronicles, the giant Pussadeva was the commander of the army of King Dutugemunu, the first Sinhalese king to unite Sri Lanka. One of Pussadeva’s duties was to announce the start of a battle, which required him to sound a sea shell signal, so the shell became his emblem. Having defeated his enemies, King Dutugemunu rewarded 10 of his commanders, including Pussadeva. All the territory where the sound of the shell could be heard as he blew into it from the top of Mount Sankapala was given to him as a reward. Then Pussadeva settled at Sankapala and founded a temple, entered the ministry and found enlightenment, as evidenced by the inscriptions carved in the stones. His burial place is in one of the rooms of the temple. Later, during the reign of the Kandyan king Rajadi Rajasinha, the then abandoned Sankapala temple was donated to a Buddhist monk as a reward for an elaborate poem that delighted the king.

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There is a panoramic view of the valley from the area where the white stupa is located. Photographs are allowed in the temple, entering the area without shoes, shoulders and knees must be covered.

Dwili Ella Falls, Sri Lanka

Duwili Ella Falls

Duwili Ella Falls also called East Wallawe Ganga Falls is near Kaltota town, 15 kms north of Udawalawe National Park. The area where the waterfall is located is considered one of the habitats of primitive people in Sri Lanka. The Walawe River flows through the Dwili Ella Falls to the Kaltota Dam.

The name Dwili Ella Falls means “dusty waterfall” in Sinhalese (Dwili means dust and ella means waterfall), and it is so named because the streams of falling water create a kind of dusty curtain of fine water droplets. Duvili Ella Falls are 40 meters high and have a flight of stairs (about 400 steps), it takes about 10 minutes to get to the waterfall.

Opposite the waterfall is an observation deck, bathing in the waterfall is not recommended. On weekends and holidays to the waterfall comes a lot of local families with children, for them has a small playground. At the entrance to the waterfall there is a parking lot, a small store and a public toilet nearby.

The Duvili Ella waterfall looks the most spectacular during the rainy season, when it reaches maximum fullness. The entrance fee is 30 rupees and the parking fee is 100 rupees.

Photos of Udawalawe Park, Sri Lanka.

Weather in Udawalawe, Sri Lanka

Udawalawe Weather, Sri Lanka

Udawalawe Park can be visited throughout the year, the best time to visit Udawalawe National Park is from January to February and June to August (inclusive). The rainiest months are March to May and October to December. The hottest month is May, and the coolest month is January. The average daytime temperature in Udawalawe is +27C.

Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe National Park

Admission ticket for a foreigner will cost 15 dollars. Children’s ticket costs half as much – $8. Read more about the cost in the text below.

Sri Lanka simply abounds with national parks. A total of 17 such places on the territory of the island state. The sixth largest park is Udawalawe, located nearly 200 kilometers from the large Lankan city of Colombo.

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Before it became a national park, the area was used for slash-and-burn agriculture. This lasted until June 1972. It was then that it was decided to establish a national park in the area. The purpose was simple: to create a shelter for animals displaced to Udavalawe due to the construction of the reservoir on the Valava River.

In the 46 years of its existence, the national park has become not only a natural attraction of the island, but also an important habitat for many species of animals and birds.

Udawalawe National Park


The park is home to a huge population of elephants – about 600. They usually travel in distinct groups of 8-10 females and their offspring. All elephants permanently live in the park and have already become a kind of a symbol of the Reserve, which tourists from all over the world come to see daily.

Buffalo, spotted and samburus deer, wild boars and jackals can be found in the park. Among the inhabitants of the reserve are mongooses, foxes, black hares and even leopards. If you are lucky, you can see crocodiles, bison, monkeys, all 12 species of amphibians, 33 species of reptiles and many extraordinarily beautiful butterflies.

Udawalawe is a paradise for bird watchers and birdwatchers. There are 210 species of birds, including spotted pelican, gray, Indian and royal herons, cormorants, white and wood storks, ibises, fishers, kites, eagles and many others. With the arrival of the migration season, which lasts from November to March, the number of birds multiplies. Kestrel, hawk, pink starling, mallard, several species of wagtails and waders often “winter” here.

Udawalawe National Park


The national park is forbidden to visit on foot. Excursions into the wilderness of the reserve can and should be made in jeeps (so-called safari). Local open-top jeeps, accommodating six passengers, a driver and a ranger, are best suited for this purpose.

Safaris leave twice a day: early in the morning (05:30 – 06:30) and in the afternoon (about 14:30). It is better to clarify the time on the spot. The trip begins from the main office of the reserve and lasts from three to four hours.

There are several ways to find the safari jeep:

  1. Through any local hostel;
  2. By arriving at the park itself in the morning or lunchtime. This option, by the way, will cost the cheapest.
  3. For those who like to plan in advance, online registration for a safari tour will be fine.

As for the cost, a group of six people a jeep with a driver will cost 25-45 dollars. The calculation is done in the local currency (rupees). The price may change depending on the dollar exchange rate.

Udawalawe National Park

Flora and Environment

The flora of the national park is no less rich. In the watered areas Udavala grows valuable satin, also satin tree, which got its name because of the satin sheen of wood. However, because of its repulsive fragrance, it is better to admire the trees from a distance. The waterlogged areas of the savannah provide favorable conditions for the growth of other trees – kumbuk, ebony, millet, pala and two rare species (endemics), which are not found anywhere else – Mandoras and Daminia.

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In addition to the flooded savannah, the park contains a grass savannah with rare trees and a bush savannah with dense and thorny bushes. And in the center of the park is another landmark of the reserve – the reservoir, from the water of which the trunks of dead trees stick out. In general, the terrain of the area is flat. Mountainous areas are found only rarely.

Udawalawe National Park


Udavalawe’s climate is influenced by its location on the border of two zones – humid and dry. The average annual rainfall (1524 mm) in this area falls mainly from May to September. Humidity varies from 70 to 82 percent with an average annual temperature of 29 ° C.

Udawalawe National Park


An entrance ticket for a foreigner will cost $15. The cost of a children’s ticket is half as much – $8. In addition you will need to pay a service fee (a common practice when visiting the Sri Lankan attractions) and the rental of a jeep. Travelers who visit the national park as part of a tour, often everything is already included in the ticket price.

The park is open every day from 06.00 to 18.00.

Udawalawe National Park

How to get there

It is most convenient to get to the national park as part of an organized tour. You can buy a tour in almost any hotel or local travel agency.

It is difficult to get to Udavalawe on your own, but not impossible.

By Bus: If you decide to take this “desperate step,” don’t expect to be back the same day. It is more convenient to go to your destination, stay overnight in a nearby hotel, visit the reserve early in the morning, and then return back. From Galle, Mirissa, Tangalle, Dikwella and Veligama you can get to the park by direct bus, which is called “Galle-Udawalawe”. The option of changing trains is to go to Matara. There, take the bus “Matara – Embilioitiya”, which runs every half an hour. At the end of the route change to another bus or take a tuk-tuk.

If you are in Colombo, you can take bus number 98 to the national park. It will take you almost to the entrance of the reserve. Bus number 122 also does not require a change, but from the stop “Udawalawe Junction” you have to walk about three kilometers or take a tuk-tuk.

If you are going to the reserve from other cities, your route will still pass either through the town of Embilioitiya or Ratnapura.

There is another, the most comfortable, but also the most expensive way – cab or tuk-tuk. For information, the tuk-tuk is a favorite mode of transport among Lankans, characterized by low speed and price. It is suitable for tourists traveling a short distance.

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