The total area of the Udawalawe National Park is almost 31.000 hectares which makes it one of the most expansive parks of the island. It was officially designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1972.
Udawalawe is the National Park to visit when you want to see elephants. For as far as we can predict, you have a 100% change of seeing them. And not just from far away. They get close, really close! You can, if you are really really really lucky, spot the Sri Lankan Leopard but changes to spot these are small.
As we could not arrange train tickets for the trainride from Ella to Kandy for a big group of 7, we decided to take a different trainride from Ella to Haputale. Which was easy to get. Although the train was full and we did not have a place to sit, it was still a nice 1 hour trip to Haputale. At Haputale trainstation we got picked up with a minivan and from there to Udawalawe took us in total around 4 hours, you can do this faster, but our driver did not take the fast route, but the scenic route. You will be driving through tea plantations and rice paddies and if you are lucky (like us) you can already spot some elephants during this trip
Traveling with our family, the Nil Diya Mankada Safari Resort was a great place to stay. We had two rooms next to each other with a connecting door in between. The park is green, they have a really nice pool and the food they serve is pretty good. The one think we did not really like was that you are obligated to eat from the buffet in the evening, there is no a la carte after 5 pm and the buffet starts at 7 pm which is quite late when traveling with small kids.
** You can find them on booking.com
There is probably only one reason why people go to Udawalawe, to visit the National Park. At least, that was the reason why we were here. Since the two of us already visited the Yala National Park, we thought we knew a little bit what to expect. Well, Udawalawe is totally different. It is so much easier to spot the elephants here and it is really easy to drive around.
When we just started driving, we saw a lot of peacocks and other colorful birds. And it did not take long before we saw the first elephants crossing our path. And you get to see them upclose, really close! There is one that has a collar and is really cheeky. The drivers all have a stick to give him a little tap because he sticks his trunk in the jeep and probably tries to steal whatever he can eat.
There are so many elephants, that after a while you’re not even impressed by seeing them anymore. The round we drove wasn’t that big and you constantly see other jeeps. The big difference with the Yala National Park is that Udawalawe is much smaller and has less variety in animals. It is however much cheaper as well and perfect for a short safari in the morning or evening. We paid 4.000 Rupees for the car, the entrance fee for adults is 1.960 Rupees, kids are free up to around 6 and half price up to another certain age.