Best time to go on a wildlife holiday in Sri Lanka


Locations: Anuradhapura | Colombo
The first thing you need to do when working out the best time to go on a wildlife holiday in Sri Lanka is get your head around the two monsoons. Stay clear of the southwest monsoon in late May to July, although May itself can be perfect. The northeast has its wet season October to January although, these are the tropics, so showers do happen. For more wildlife specific times, read below.
The best time to visit Yala National Park to see leopard and all the other wildlife is March to October as the water tables are getting low and animals come out to exposed lakes to drink.

In Yala and Wilpattu National Parks, the palu trees bear fruit in May, June and July. And this is when the sloth bears come out to picnic on them too.

Birdlife is particularly busy between November and April as there are plenty of migrants, but less rainfall.

The magnificent rainforests in Sinharaja Forest Reserve are most accessible during August-September and January-early April.

The best time to visit the ‘land of the lakes’, or Wilpattu National Park, is May to early September during the drought, when animals are drawn out to their waterholes.

If you want to see blue whales, early March is best. For other carnivals of the cetaceans head there October until April.

May is lovely in Sri Lanka. It is teeming with neither rain nor people.
If you'd like to chat about Sri Lanka wildlife or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team.
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Wildlife holiday in Sri Lanka travel advice


John Beswetherick, Managing Director of our leading Sri Lanka wildlife holidays supplier Tikalanka (UK) Limited:

Advice on where to go

“The Kalpitiya Peninsula, halfway up the west coast, is quite different and off the beaten track. And in November to April you can go whale and dolphin watching. There are wonderful, laid back places to stay here which have a very kick back and sand-between-your-toes feel about them.”

Responsible whale watching

“I think some of the whale watching companies are jumping on the bandwagon, and might not be responsible. The one we use, Mirissa Water Sports, was one of the first to set up after the tsunami. They were fishermen who were sponsored to set up a whale watching safari boat, and they have expanded since. They are very responsible, but there are others who get too close to the whales or chase them, and there are lots of people jumping on the bandwagon, throwing a boat in the water and calling it whale watching, which has been a concern. “

Responsible wildlife watching

"We stopped promoting Pinnewala Elephant ‘Orphanage’ in Sri Lanka in 2005 when we were approached by Born Free Foundation and became supporters of their global animal welfare campaign, Travellers’ Animal Alert. We always state our negative position regarding Pinnewala in our replies and most customers decide not to visit once they are made aware of the animal welfare issues, thankfully." Read more on elephant trekking and Pinnewala here.

Wildlife in unexpected places…

“Overnighting at a jungle camp in Yala West National Park, a loud crashing noise resounded from behind the kitchen tent and out came a large male sloth bear looking for food! Hollers from the cook sent the bear packing but it was an amazing, if nervewracking couple of minutes!”

Best time to go

“The best time to visit most of the national parks is from April to August when there are generally fewer tourists and the wildlife is more plentiful. Personally, I feel that May is absolutely superb, all around the country, as it is outside both monsoon seasons. And it is the quietest time of the year too, so you can have a really good holiday then, and yet it is still considered low season. The monsoons aren’t as predictable these days anyway.”

Wildlife holiday in Sri Lanka advice from our travellers


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful wildlife holidays in Sri Lanka travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
“We stayed in a wide variety of accommodation avoiding large hotels. We found the smaller places offered better and more tailor made services, and gave us the opportunity to experience local cuisine – the best bit?... The opportunity to see so much wildlife in their natural habitat. This includes loads of wild elephants, wild buffalo, peacocks, so many monkeys, a leopard and blue whales. For those interested in bird watching, Sri Lanka could not be surpassed.” – Pat Callear

“Take leech socks and raincoats. Although Nandana, our guide, did have some socks available. As the national speed limit is only 35mph – 45mph on most roads, it takes longer than you think to get from one place to another... The whole two weeks were packed with so many memorable moments. Every day there was something new to experience but we can try and pick out a few highlights. First of all the birds, birds and more birds. My surprise at being got by a leech on the very first day! (Never felt a thing.) Sharing breakfast time at Martin’s Lodge with fabulous blue magpies. Our delight when the clouds and mist disappeared to give us clear views at World’s End. Actually seeing leopards at Yala!” – Mario Chin

“Don’t take too many clothes! When it says it’s hot, it means it!” – Fiona Cowan

“Don't forget your mosquito spray!” – Clare Tickner

“We have excellent vehicles, excellent drivers and great guides who knew so much about the flora, fauna, farming practices, local economy and culture that we came away feeling that we had learned a great deal and that most of our questions were comprehensively answered... Yala National Park is one of the best parks I have been to, despite the state of the appalling roads that one must use to travel through it.” – Keith Pigdon
Photo credits: [TempChart: S J Pickney] [Advice on where to go: Amila Tennakoon] [Best time to go: José Ozorio] [Responsible wildife watching: Ivo Verhaar] [Tip1: Amila Tennakoon] [Tip2: Miran Rijavec]
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: José Ozorio]