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This Is the Best Safari Destination Outside of Africa - Forbes (2019)

Seven Wildlife Highlights

Seven animals you have to see in the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

The Sri Lanka department of Wildlife Conservation recently published a list of the seven most iconic wild animals in the island as a way of promoting tourism and the conservation of all species in and outside this list.

Sri Lanka is somewhat of an outlier when it comes to biodiversity. Experts have been studying the biodiversity of this small island since the early 20th century, and all with good reason. The number of animal species in the island is said to be five times as much as it is supposed to be in an island of its size, and the number of endemic species in the country is amazing. From endemic birds to endemic primates, Sri Lanka has them all. The wonder of Sri Lanka – being such a small island – is that you don’t have to travel far to see any of them.


The top 7 wild animal species on the list are:

Sri Lankan Leopard

Panthera pardis kotiya – apex predators

Leopards are considered the most successful of the big cat species in the world. The Sri Lankan subspecies of leopards is testament to the adaptability of these spotted felines. Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park is prime leopard territory, as it is said to have the highest leopard density in the world.

Leopards are the apex predator in Sri Lanka’s wild. Usually lone hunters, these cats can sometimes be seen sleeping during the day, hidden away from view on a tree branch. It is during sundown that they come down to hunt. With an indiscriminate diet, ranging from wild hares to deer, leopards survive the elements better than any other big cat in the world. Although most species of leopards are known to carry their prey up into trees, Sri Lankan leopards take advantage of their position on top of the food chain to eat their catch where they please.

Sri Lankan Safaris gives you the opportunity to view these magnificent felines in the wild in Sri Lanka’s many National Parks. Inquire today about our leopard safaris, and make your bookings today. Our guides are well equipped to find where you can see these big cats, and will take you there.


Sri Lankan Elephant

Elephas maximus maximus – Majestic and gentle giants

The Sri Lankan elephant is a subspecies of the Asian Elephant. By far Sri Lanka’s largest land animal, these magnificent animals are a symbol of Sri Lanka as much as anything.

Once extensively hunted for their ivory, the population of elephants in Sri Lanka dwindled to a few thousand, from a few hundreds of thousand before colonisation. Although the number of elephants with tusks has dropped dramatically as a result, the overall population of elephants has somewhat stabilised in the country due to conservation efforts in the country.

Elephants were very much a part of everyday life until very recently in Sri Lanka. They have been used in the logging industry and continue to be part of the cultural procession known as the Kandy Perahera.

To get the best elephant experience, though, you have to see them in their natural habitat. The Yala and Minneriya National Parks, as well as a few other national parks around the country, are prime locations to view these giants in the wild.

Sri Lanka Safaris offers great opportunities to view Sri Lankan elephants in their element. Our expert guides know where to find the herds of pachyderms, so that you get the best experience.



Sloth Bear

Melursus ursinus inoratus – large omnivores of the lowlands

The Sri Lankan sloth bear is a subspecies of the sloth bears found in the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Characterised by a shaggy black coat, white muzzle, and white claws, they can range from 60-90cm at the shoulder, and can weigh up to 130kg, with females being smaller than males.

Sloth bears are basically termite eaters, and are known to supplement their diet of with other insects, honey, fruits, and other plant matter. Sloth Bears are excellent climbers, and are known to be able to climb tall trees to reach honeycombs.

Usually found in Sri lanka’s Eastern and Northern lowland forests in the dry zone, Sloth Bears travel in pairs or small family units, with males usually gentle with cubs, and females being generally protective. Sloth bears were once found throughout the island, but loss of their habitat due to aggressive land use for agriculture has meant that their numbers have dwindled. Hunting for sport during colonial times also led to the decline in these bears.

Seeing sloth bears in the wild is a rare experience, and Sri Lanka Safaris’ expert guides give you the best chance to see these bears in their natural habitat. Inquire and book today!


Blue Whale

Balaenoptera musculus- true giants of the ocean

Blue Whales are thought to be the largest animal ever to have lived on the planet. Like all species of whale, it is a marine mammal, and can reach up to 30m in length, and more than 170 tonnes. Commonly living alone or in pairs, they are part of great colonies which generally migrate long distances throughout the year.

Sri Lanka is the best country in the world to view blue whales, without exception. A blue whale population off the coast of Sri Lankan is believed to have up to 1,000 individuals, making it the largest blue whale colony anywhere in the world. It is also the only known pod of blue whales that is non-migratory, so visitors to the island have a chance to view these giants all year round.

Blue whales are not just the largest animal. They are said to be the loudest as well, although their calls fall outside the range of human hearing at 10 to 40Hz.

Sri Lanka Safaris offers a great opportunity for you to see these magnificent creatures up close. A short boat ride from any of several locations will get you close enough to see these giants in their natural habitat!


Black-necked Stork

Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus – a large wetland wader

The Black-necked Stork is a large wader that belongs to the family Ciconiidae. A bird which can be as tall as 130-150cm, have a wingspan of 230cm, and can weigh approximately 4kg, they typically live alone, as couples, or as small family groups.

Sri Lanka’s many wetlands are ideal for these large storks to thrive, as they are rich in the stork’s food sources, which can include crabs and other crustaceans, molluscs, bird and turtle eggs, and even other small aquatic birds, which they catch using their large bill.

Black-necked Storks get their name from the distinct glossy and iridescent bluish black colour of their head and neck. Other visual cues to identify them are the flight feathers and tail of the same colour, bright white belly and back, and bright red legs. Females and males look very similar, except for the colour of their iris – in females, it’s yellow, and in males, it’s brown.

The IUCN has named this species Near Threatned, due to loss of wetland habitat over the past few years.

Sri Lanka Safaris offers you some great opportunities to see this large stork in a few of Sri Lanka’s national parks, such as Yala and Minneriya.


Saltwater Crocodile

Crocodylus porosus – largest reptiles in the country

Tipping the scales at up to 2000kg and up to 6m long is the largest reptile species found in Sri Lanka, the Saltwater Crocodile.

These adaptable carnivores are opportunistic eaters, and their varied diet consists of everything from fish to crustaceans to even mammals. Resident in a large number of wetland habitats – mangrove swamps, estuaries, river deltas, lagoons and lakes – they are usually the apex predator in all habitats due to their size and unrestricted diet.

Although once spread out through the entire island, hunting (eggs included) and loss of habitat due to human behaviour (pollution, construction, and logging) has diminished the range of these large reptiles. As a strictly protected species, though, it has had resurgence over the last few years, and is now classified by IUCN as “Least Concern”.

Sri Lanka’s national parks, including Yala, Udawalawe and Minneriya, are among the crocodile’s habitats, and Sri Lanka Safaris will take you to where the action is. Although a crocodile hunting a juvenile mammal is not for the squeamish, it is one of the truly great sights of nature in action. We ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the action. Ask us about viewing Saltwater Crocodiles today!


Leatherback Sea Turtle

Dermochelys coriacea – graceful swimmers of the ocean

The leatherback turtle is the largest species of turtle alive today. What sets them apart from other turtles is the fact that they don’t have a shell, but a skin carapace. These beautiful sea reptilians can grow up to more than 2m in length, and weigh up to 250 - 500 kg.

Although they are great swimmers and divers, they are not very fast on land, where they have to visit every few years to lay their eggs. Humans living in coastal areas used this to their advantage and hunted these turtles for their meat and eggs. The dramatic reduction in numbers means that these turtles are now listed as critically endangered.

Although the habitat of the leatherback turtle is varied due to them travelling great distances, their numbers are cause for concern. Recent international conservation attempts have managed to stop the reduction in their numbers, but it is thought that it will take a long time for their numbers to get back to historical values.

Sri Lanka Safaris offers you an opportunity to see these magnificent reptiles in their natural habitat. Make an enquiry now and book soon for your chance to see these rare reptiles in their element.