Located about fifteen kilometers east of Hambantota (a similar distance
west of Tissamaharama
National Park is one of Sri Lanka's foremost destinations for
birdwatchers, protecting an important area of coastal wetland famous for
its abundant aquatic (and other) birdlife. The park is also home to
significant populations of elephants, Marsh & estuarine crocodiles,
turtles & other fauna, including the leopard. Stretching along the coast
east of Hambantota, Bundala National Park is ideal for instant
gratification: in a four hour jeep ride, we can see elephants, 8ft
crocs, giant squirrels & flamingoes. Afternoon safaris in the dry season
(December - May) provide visitors with the best chance of seeing the
A Ramsar site
Bundala's lagoons, beaches, sand dunes & scrubby jungle stretch nearly
20km along a coastal strip starting just east of Hambantota passes along
Bundala's northern boundary. The park is an important wetland sanctuary
that's been declared a Ramsar site. The reserve itself consists of a
series of shallow lagoons which are surrounded by low & dense scrub.
Tracks go through the bush & connect each lagoon. The sanctuary skirts
the sea & it is possible to see the light house on the Great Basses some
40 km away to the east. There are two camp sites in the park.
Salt pans (Salt lewayas)
Much of the park boundary is contiguous with the A2 main road. Before
the park, the Malala lagoon, reached by following the Malala River from
the main road, is a bird-watchers' paradise, where you might also see
crocodiles too. The Karagan, Maha & particularly Bundala lewayas (salt
pans) are also excellent for shore-bird enthusiasts.
The area of open scrub around the coastal lewaya offers great
opportunities for bird-watching with the added bonus of being able to
spot the odd elephant & basking crocodile. The salt pans attract vast
numbers of migratory shore birds, accommodating tens of thousands at any
time, making it the most important wetlands in Sri Lanka outside the
The park stretches along the coast for around 20 km, enclosing five
shallow & brackish lagoons, or lewayas (they sometime dry up completely
during long periods of drought) separated by thick low scrubby forest
running down to coastal dunes.
A total of 197 bird species have been recorded here, made up of 139
resident species & 58 seasonal visitors, the latter arriving during the
northern winter (Sept- March). The lagoons attract an amazing variety of
aquatic birds, including ibis, pelicans, painted storks, egrets &
spoonbills. From September to March, you can see abundant stints, sand
pipers, plovers, terns, gulls & ducks. The migrants Flamingoes join the
resident water birds-pelicans, herons, egrets, cormorants, stilts &
storks-contributing to an extraordinary variety.
The most famous visitors are the huge flocks of flamingos. The Bundala
area is the flamingos' last refuge in the southern Sri Lanka, & you can
see here in variable numbers throughout the year; their exact breeding
habits remain a mystery, though it's thought they migrate from the Rann
of Kutch in northern India. It's a winter home to the greater flamingoes
& up to 2000 have been recorded here. Many other birds journey from
Siberia & Rann of Kutch in India to winter here, arriving between August
& April. About 350 flamingoes have made Bundala their year-round home.
Non-aquatic birds commonly seen here include delicate green bee eaters,
one of the south's prettiest residents, blue-tailed bee eaters along
with spotted doves, common babblers, parakeets & bulbuls.
Perched sententiously amidst the upper branches of the park's
innumerable skeletal palu tees are the peacocks. A memorable site.
In the scrub jungle is home to herds of elephants. There are permanent
resident elephants & larger seasonal migratory herds comprising animals
that roam the Ruhuna Yala
& Uda Walawe
Bundala is also home to species mammals, including leopards, sloth
bears, civets, mongooses & giant squirrels, as well as rabbits (rare in
Sri Lanka, & an incongruous sight as they bounce fluffily around amidst
the arid tropical landscape), though the most commonly seen mammals are
the excitable troupes of grey languor monkeys.
Marsh & estuarine crocodiles
We will view crocs along the sides of the park's lagoons & watercourses.
Depending on how wet it, your tracker might let you get within a couple
of meters of their log-like forms, or even take you to have a peek
inside this burros; a memorable experience, though not one for the
Between October & January four of Sri Lanka's marine turtle (olive
ridley, green, leatherback & loggerhead) lay their eggs on the coast of