National Parks, Lakes, Beaches and Sanctuaries, Southern Province, Sri Lanka: Travel/Tourist Infomation Guide
Kumala National Park
It is formerly known as Yala East National Park. The park is renowned for its avifauna with its large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds. One of the most important features of this park is the ‘Kumana Villu’ which is a 200 hectare natural swamp lake, fed by the ‘Kumbukkan Oya’ through a half mile long narrow channel. It is at this mangrove swamp that many birds nest in May and June. Kumana is also home to some of the mammals such as elephants and leopards.
Hikkaduwa National Park
Hikkaduwa has a National Park in which is possible to observe many of underwater life found in the Sri Lanka. One can, again, rent snorkeling equipment or glass-bottom boat to see the scene better. The park is at the north of the beach and there is an option to rent the boats from the Park’s offices while snorkeling equipment needs to be rented from outside.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is not as famous as Yala and Wilpattu National Park but it has an undiscovered green haven of its town. It is home to a wide range of wildlife also to waterways, clear lagoons and sandbanks. There are many rare species in the park. There are around 200 species of birds found within the park. The ideal time to go bird watching is between December and March. Bundala National Park is also home to a small population of elephants. December is the best month to see the elephants.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the most visited and the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It extends over two provinces of Hambantota District of Southern Province and Monaragala District of Uva Province. The gateway to Yala National Park is Tissamaharama and it is easy to access the park from the town. It is located 24 km from Tissamaharama. The park consists of five blocks and two of them are open to the public. The blocks have their individual names. The park covers 979 square kilometers. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and it is one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka with Wilpattu National Park. Yala became a national park in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is also an important park for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds. The park is located in the dry semi-arid climatic region and the area receives rain mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala National Park is also one of the 70 important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka because it harbors 215 species including six endemic species. The number of mammals from the park is 44 and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the worlds.
Koggala Lake is located in Matara. Koggala Lake is situated between cinnamon plantation and a Buddhist temple, thus it provides a beautiful and tranquil natural experience. Travellers can traverse the lake in a boat by renting them. There is also a Bird island nearby which you can get access via joining to Bird island boat tours and enjoy wide variety of birds in the environment.
For the ones who are bored from the beach, it is recommended to visit the Hikkaduwa Lake. It has a silent and tranquil environment with various exotic birds and lizards. There is also a boat tour to traverse the lake where is possible to enjoy the calm scenery.
Bentota Beach is one of the most popular and prime beach resort on the south-western coastal belts of Sri Lanka. The beach is surrounded by Bentota river and Bentota Lagoon. The beach is well developed and it provides all kind of facilities to tourists such as hotels, water sports facilities and gears.
Polhena Beach is located in Matara. As Matara is not landlocked, it is always possible to go to the Polhena Beach to swim and surf. It is located approximately 2 kilometers away from the city center. The area that is open for swimmers are cordoned in order to protect locals and tourists to swim into coral reefs and hurt themselves.
Tangalle is a natural paradise located in Hambantota. The beach is the best opportunity to play and relax. The scenic beach stretch expands for about 10 kilometres. Medaketiya Beach and Medilla Beach are located to the east from Tangalel Beach. It is also home to sea turtles which lay their eggs at nights. They can be seen at the beaches between the months of January and July.
It is located about 3km from Unawatuna. It is a small beach loose in the jungle. The area is best for snorkelling because there is an easy access to the water and a sheltered bay from the stronger waves in Unawatuna. It is possible to access the beach by boat, tuk-tuk or walking from the Japanese Peace Pagoda. The beach is less crowded and popular than the Unawatuna Beach. There are sun beds, and small cafes that serve beverage and food.
The coral sanctuary is located in Hikkaduwa and it starts from the shore and goes a long way into the offshore. Although the path to the coral reef is long it’s not deep, it is always possible to walk around the shallow parts of the path as it never gets deeper than 2-3m. It is recommended to bring a snorkel with you or rent a glass-bottom boat to enjoy the view to the fullest. Around the corals, there are many turtles and various colored exotic fish. If one does not have the equipment for snorkeling or scuba-diving, it is possible to rent them nearby. Renting the equipment is cheap, and it’s most eco-friendly way to observe the corals and the fishes as boats sometimes damage the corals themselves. Part of the coral reef sustained damage due to a tsunami in 2004.