Wasgamuwa National Park in Sri Lanka was created in 1984 as a refuge for wild animals displaced by the Mahaweli Development Project which was a government scheme for generating hydroelectric power, controlling floods, making irrigation facilities for dry zone cultivation and developing physical and social infrastructure for human habitation using the waters of the Mahaweli River. The park is situated in the north-central province of Sri Lanka and consists of riverine evergreen forests and grasslands. It has more than 150 floral species and is home to 23 species of mammals including herds of Marsh Elephants (Elephas maximus vil-aliya), 143 bird species including 8 endemics, 8 amphibians, 17 reptiles and 50 species of butterflies of which 8 are endemic.
Remnants of Malagamuwa, Wilmitiya, Dasthota irrigation tanks and Kalinga Yoda Ela canal which were built by king Parākramabāhu I in the 12 century AD are in the national park. Yudangana Pitiya in the Park has been identified as one of the battlegrounds of the war between King Ellalan (Elara) and King Dutthugamunu in the first century BC.
In March 2019 I visited Wasgamuwa National Park. This was my second visit and I stayed at Wasgamuwa Safari Hotel on both occasions. The hotel now has more chalets than before but remains rustic and rather basic. Lavendish Wild Safari next door is newer and more upmarket. Both hotels are just 10 mts (4.5 km) from the Park entrance.Tthe 236 km journey from Colombo to Wasgamuwa via Kurunegala and Dambulla takes about 5 hours.
We left the hotel at crack of dawn in three open safari jeeps. After the usual elaborate and time consuming paperwork at the park office, we drove into the jungle with a courteous and knowledgeable ranger/guide.
Wasgamuwa is famous for its large herds of big made Marsh Elephants. It was not long before we were surrounded by them.
There were over thirty elephants in the herd including many babies. As they fed, they moved closer and closer to us and soon were on the road and surrounding our jeeps. There was no real threat but it was time for us to move on.
There were herds of buffalo, spotted deer and the odd macaque.
Birds spotted included the two species of hornbill found in Sri Lanka – endemic Ceylon Grey Hornbill and Malabar Pied Hornbill, all three species of bee-eaters – Green, Blue Tail and Chestnut headed, Pied Cuckoos, Egrets, Pond Herons, Open-bill Storks, Black-headed Ibis, Painted Storks, Cormorants, Purple Swamp Hens, Purple Herons, Indian Darters, Button Quail, Imperial Green Pigeons, Jungle Fowl which is the National Bird of Sri Lanka and Peacocks.
Even though I did not see my target birds which were Crested Cuckoo, Red-faced Malkoha and Spurfowl and the two target mammals – Sri Lanka Sloth Bear and Leopard, there were enough interesting birds and many elephants to please any nature lover. There is no doubt that Wasgamuwa National Park is well worth visiting.
Wasgamuwa National Park Rating 4/5
The Wasgamuwa National Park Safari was arranged and led by Padmini Hussein of Flamingo Tours.
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