A large stretch of park which is less crowded and where tracking the wildlife will require some skills! This is the first impression I got when i went on to search about Wilapattu National Park-but there is so much more it to than what appears on the surface.
The Wilapattu National park is the oldest and the largest National Parks of Sri-Lanka. It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1905 and elevated to the status of a National Park in 1938. Located some 30 kms west of Anuradhapura, this park stretches 1,317 kms and ranges from 0-152 meters above sea level.
The park is however renowned for its “Villus”. Villus is a water hole, small lake or basins of water. Around 60 Villus and tanks are spread across the park. You should definitely spend a morning or an evening near such a lake and enjoy the view of the wilderness as they come and have water from these lakes and laze around in peace while at the same time getting accustomed to your presence. Another thing this park is famous for is its leopard spotting. The sight of the animal gliding around the park in its graceful arrogance is a once in a lifetime experience.
This park, once the most famous in the countries but the onset of the civil war between the Sinhalese and Tamil saw the mass destruction and killing of wildlife in the park given its frontline position. Due to these the park was shut down in 1985 and was recently fully opened in 2009-10.
The park is slowly trying to restore its old glory and due to these reasons you will find the tourist population to be on the lower side here. A large part of the park is also densely populated with trees and shrubs and various other kinds of flora. So the park is actually quieter and more fun to explore and gives you an authentic experience of wildlife.
Wilapattu also boasts of a wide and increasing array of fauna which includes leopards, sloth bears (the highlights). It also includes Asian elephants, spotted deer, barking deer, sambar, wild boar, Asiatic buffalo and mugger crocodiles. The villus also attracts a large no of migratory birds like the Ceylon jungle fowl, brown-capped babbler, Ceylon wood shrike and black-capped bulbul.
The best time to visit the park is from January to May. You will find a variety of options for accommodations near the park. A lot of tour operators and rangers help organise the jeep safaris which are a must while exploring the park. A guide is always there to show you around the park. They do charge extra for the jeep safari and the entrance of vehicle charges.
The normal fees otherwise is around $15 and the park is open from 6am-6pm. Make sure you carry a sunscreen and a hat and wear sturdy shoes for the walk. Also bring a good camera with a sharp lens and watch the magic happen through it too while capturing some lifelong memories.