Wilpattu National Park

Wilpattu National Park, aptly nicknamed the ‘Land of Lakes,’ is a sprawling sanctuary situated on the island of Sri Lanka. Its distinctive feature lies in the presence of ‘Willus,’ natural lakes formed by sand-rimmed water basins that fill with rainwater. Nestled in the Northwest coast lowland dry zone, Wilpattu is located 30 kilometers west of Anuradhapura and 26 kilometers north of Puttalam, approximately 180 kilometers north of Colombo. Encompassing an expansive area of 131,693 hectares, the park ranges from sea level to 152 meters above sea level.

Boasting nearly sixty lakes and tanks spread throughout its expanse, Wilpattu is not only the largest but also one of the oldest national parks in Sri Lanka. Renowned globally for its Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) population, the exact count of leopards in Wilpattu remains unknown.

According to the Mahavansa, Prince Vijaya landed at Tambapanni (now Kudrimalai Point) in 543 BC, marking the founding of the Sinhala nation. Designated as a sanctuary in 1905 and upgraded to national park status in 1938, Wilpattu is steeped in historical significance.

The park hosts diverse vegetation, including littoral vegetation such as saltgrass and low scrub monsoon forest with tall emergents like Palu, Satin, Milla, Weera, Ebony, and Wewarna.

Wilpattu National Park is home to 31 species of mammals, including threatened species like the elephant, sloth bear, leopard, and water buffalo. Sambhur, spotted deer, mongoose, mouse, and shrew are among the other residents of Wilpattu.

The park’s avian diversity is equally impressive, with species like the painted stork, openbill, little cormorant, and Sri Lanka Jungle fowl. Wetland bird species such as Garganey, Pintail, and Spoonbill can also be spotted in Wilpattu.

Among the reptiles inhabiting the park are the Monitor Lizard, Mugger Crocodile, Common Cobra, Rat Snake, Indian Python, Pond Turtle, and Soft-shelled Turtle, thriving in the large permanent Villus.

The best time to experience Wilpattu’s splendor is between February and October. For visitors seeking guided exploration, private eco-tourism groups offer safari-like trips, providing an immersive experience in the park’s breathtaking natural beauty.