Spanning an area of 1317 square km, Wilpattu is the largest national park in Sri Lanka. It spreads along the western coastline, from the entrance of the Puttalam lagoon and almost all the way to the peninsula of Mannar, encompassing a large portion of the coastline of the Gulf of Mannar. The park gets its name from the 60 or so natural lakes or ‘villus’, a striking feature for an island otherwise absent of natural lakes. These sand rimmed shallow depressions gather rainwater from the Northeastern monsoon as well as the intermonsoon seasons and are able to sustain the lush forests that line their banks. Wilpattu is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest National Parks, and its forests much older, their tales leading back to the very beginnings of the Sinhalese race.
The abundance of water throughout most of the year and the immense forest cover support many species of wildlife. While being famous for its Leopard population, the park is also home to Elephants, Bears and many all the other megafauna that are found in Sri Lanka. The lakes and the long stretch of coastline provides a home for many wintering birds and good viewing opportunities for all kinds of wildlife, not to mention stunning backdrops for photographs.
For nature lovers, the best thing about Wilpattu is that while being such a large park with good opportunities to see animals, Wilpattu never gets as crowded as Yala NP. This makes for much more quiet jeep rides, slow paces, less dust and most importantly absence of overcrowding animals. Personally, it is our second favourite National Park (Horton Plains NP takes the cake! 😊) and we believe it takes a full day to do it justice! The park can be visited throughout the year, but the best month to visit are February and October.