An Amazing Safari in Udawalawe National Park

by May 31, 2016South Asia, Sri Lanka, Video6 comments

Our time in Udawalawe National Park didn’t start off so well. We’d been staying at some cheap and underwhelming places during our time in Sri Lanka but Happy Elephant Resort pushed us over the edge. The first thing we noticed when we got to our room was the smell. The room was dirty, there were flies all over the beds, and a cockroach that had clearly made the bathroom his long term home.

We got the wifi code, and quickly started looking up another option nearby. Having already pre-booked this place, we knew we would have to pay a bit to get out of it and after a painfully awkward conversation with the owner (made worse by the severe language barrier) where I was used as the scapegoat (sorry, baby!) for why we didn’t want to stay, we handed over some money to cover his commission from the booking site and made our way to a MUCH nicer place for the night. It even had a pool!

The much nicer accommodation we stayed at was Nil Diya Mankada Safari Resort – check it out here

Safari in Udawalawe National Park

The next morning we had a super early 4am start to our day as we had booked in for the morning safari at Udawalawe National Park to finally see some Sri Lankan elephants we had heard so much about. Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia however, the numbers are declining and they have been on the endangered list for 20 years. The majority of the decrease has been caused by elephants being killed to protect land and crops as well as stepping on land mines during the many years of Tamil conflict.

I was a little bit nervous about the safari as animal treatment in Asia is notoriously bad and we had already seen our share of (stupid/naive) tourists riding on elephants throughout the country (full disclosure: I rode an elephant in Indonesia before I learned about the conditions they are kept in and how bad riding is for the animal). However, for the most part I was happy with how the elephants were treated in the park. There were a couple of moments where I felt they were being a bit too crowded by all the different trucks and our driver chased one on the road at one point to get us closer (all while we were complaining and asking him to stop). But overall I got the feeling that the elephants were pretty happy in the massive park.

Elephants weren’t the only animals we got to see either. There were deer, water buffalo and heaps of different birds including eagles and huge peacocks. I think we all agreed that our Udawalawe safari was the highlight of our trip to Sri Lanka so without further ado, here are some of the hundreds of photos I took that morning!

More Information about a Safari in Udawalawe

Where to Stay in Udawalawe

We were booked in to stay at the very cheap Happy Elephant Resort as we mentioned above. After the grimy, smelly introduction to the room and seeing we’d be sharing with a bunch of bugs including a huge cockroach in the bathroom, we opted to move elsewhere.

The place we found was Nil Diya Mankada Safari Resort and we couldn’t have been happier with the upgrade even if it cost a bit more. The awesome pool there was worth it even without the rooms being much nicer and cleaner (check out the pool below!).

How much does a Udawalawe safari tour cost?

We hired our own car and paid the entrance fees to the National Park for a total of 7,330 Sri Lankan Rupees (about $50 USD). All the hotels organise this for you but you can just turn up at the main gate to the Park and arrange it there (and a tour guide is an option too although we opted not to after hearing they don’t add much).

*Some of the links used above are affiliate links – there is no difference in cost to you but we do get a small commission if you book or buy through the link. As always, we only ever recommend and link to accommodation that we have stayed at and thought was good or things that we use ourselves.