Located 245 kilometres from Colombo, Bundala National Park is a UNESCO biosphere reserve on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka.
The park was formally a recognized wildlife sanctuary before being redesignated as a national park in 1993. Now, the park is regarded as an important bird area that harbours over 197 species of birds, including the flamingo, which migrates to the area in huge numbers.
The park has a very humid climate, with an average relative humidity of 80% with a tropical climate. The average annual temperature is 27 degrees Celsius, so visitors should come prepared with plenty of water to sustain them during their visit.
The park is also home to five shallow, brackish lagoons, with salt pans in three of them. The Bundala lagoon stretches over 520 hectares, the Embilikala lagoon is 430 hectares, the Malala lagoon is 650 hectares, the Koholankala lagoon, which measures, 390 hectares, and the Mahalewaya lagoon, which is 260 hectares. The Kohloankala and Mahalewaya lagoons are almost entirely developed for salt production.
Bundala National Park: What to Do
Bundala National Park is an absolute haven for birdwatchers. With some of the country’s greatest bird diversity, it is perfect for spotting a variety of different bird species including storks, egrets, and spoonbills. Of course the park is most notorious for its migratory flamingo population.
There are few better places for watching flamingos in the wild than at Bundala National Park. If you are hoping to catch some of the birds, arrive early in the morning as this is when they are the most active.
It isn’t just birds at Bundala though. the park is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including elephants, crocodiles, turtles, civets, mongooses, wild pigs, giant Indian palm squirrels, black-naped hares, and grey langur monkeys. Sri Lanka’s five species of sea turtle, the olive, ridley, green, leatherback, and loggerhead, all lay their eggs on the coast of the park, thus making it a wonderful place to see both fully grown sea turtles as well as adorable baby turtles making their maiden voyage to sea. As if that wasn’t enough, the park also boasts unbelievable plant diversity.
There are a whopping 383 species of plant that have been recorded in the park, which 6 of those species being endemic to the park and a further 7 that are considered nationally threatened. If you are a lover of wildlife, whether it be birds, mammals, or plants, Bundala National Park is the place for you.
There are attractions beyond the impressive wildlife. As you might expect form a coastal destination in a tropical climate, there are beaches that are perfect for those just looking for a relaxing beach day. Visitors can enjoy a variety of watersports or, just play beach games and soak up the sun in the sand.
There is also a jeep hire, which is a very popular way for visitors to see the entirety of the park. Considering it stretches for over 20 kilometres, the jeep is the best way to see as much of the park as possible in a reasonable amount of time. Visitors will enjoy the visitor centre at the main gate, which provides all the necessary information for your visit of the park, as well as the rather intimidating giant skeleton of a huge crocodile.
Bundala National Park: Accommodation
There is no accommodation within the park itself. However, many visitors to the park stay in Tissamaharama. If you are looking for slightly closer accommodation than than, the Lagoon Inn is a comfortable spot and is located between Tissamaharama and Hambantota. The Lagoon Inn is only 2 kilometres from the opening gates of the park and the upstairs rooms overlook marshes that make birdwatching possible without even leaving your room.
The owner of this hotel is a birdwatching enthusiast and there are a variety of birdwatching tours that can be organized through the Inn. Kataragama is also within a reasonable distance of the park and it offers a number of different accommodation options or all different types and prices for visitors.