Wildlife & Cultural Highlights of Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park lies just to the East of Yala, stretching for more than 20km along a lovely, wild section of coastline made up of coastal dunes, beaches, extensive wetlands, lakes and channels. The park can be rewarding for a wide range of flora and fauna, including elephants, crocodiles, monkeys ... but it is in particular a paradise for birds with almost 200 species confirmed within the park's relatively compact 62 square kilometres. Some of these migrate from as far away as Siberia to reach Bundala, mainly to winter here between August and April. If a bird flies that far for its winter vacation you know the place must have some truly remarkable qualities!.
Bundala is particularly well-known for the population of elegant greater flamingos which sometimes visit the reserve's lagoons in numbers exceeding 2,000. Many of these flamingos are thought to fly down from India's Great Rann of Kutch, which is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert. Even more colour is provided with the park's regal and confident population of peacocks, easily seen strutting their stuff on the roads and rough trails or lording over their territory in Palu trees and scrubby bushes. Sharing the saline lagoons with the flamingos other commonly seen species include the black-headed ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, black necked stork and crested hawk eagle. Such is the importance of the park for birds that it was named Sri-Lanka's first Ramsar Wetland in 1991. In 2005 the reserve also became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Birds shouldn't feel overconfident though. The park harbours a small but visible population of elephants, and at quiet times of day these can even be seen wandering the dunes along the beach front. Common langurs and toque macaques are the area's most easily seen mammals, but leopards are sometimes seen, stalking the dry forest in search for wild boar, muntjac and sambar deer. Spotted and fishing cats, jackals and porcupines are more of the reserve's interesting opportunists.
All species near the park's waterways (including humans) need to have a healthy respect for both species of Sri-Lankan crocodile: the mugger crocodile, which prefers fresher water and the estuarine or salt-water crocodile, which occasionally reach a huge 7m in length. Large crocodiles are not rare here. Although they have a generally bad reputation with people, crocodiles are social, intelligent animals and dedicated parents. A warning sign that a crocodile is not happy with other animals' presence - perhaps due to approaching her eggs or young - is given as a long loud hiss. If you ever hear this sound, take it seriously! Indian Pythons can be seen around the reserve and at least 4 species of Sea Turtle nest on the park's shores, again a remarkable diversity on this spectacular site. Finally, if you see a snake flying towards you, you're not hallucinating; this is the small (and totally harmless) endemic Sri-Lankan flying snake, known to exist here.
Bundala receives only a fraction of the visitors that come to Yala National Park, but shares many of the same species. It's a beautiful area and for water birds is among the best in Sri Lanka, especially during the northern winter and spring. Bundala is also open all year and is a relaxed highlight in a lovely area.
Aqua-Firma conducts expert-led tailor made journeys in Sri Lanka which can include Bundala. We can direct your experience according to your special interests, be that wide interest across all flora and fauna and general ecology, to dedicated birdwatching employing one of our expert local birding guides.
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