Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Calendar

This is a Guide to how conditions on our island – rainfall, the drought, food and water; affects what wildlife you might see and when. Global weather patterns do affect these conditions, but it’s a wildlife rich island, with great safari experiences all year.

Calendar

To see the best time of year to spot wildlife in Sri Lanka, choose a month from our Wildlife Calendar

January

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Anaiwilundawa, Kalpitiya, Giant’s Tank Mannar, Sigiriya, Peak Wilderness, Wasgamuwa, Sinharaja, Uda Walawe, Palatupana Saltern, Yala, Bundala and Mirissa. Weather made for traveling – not too hot in the dry zones and not too cold during the day in the Central Highlands and Horton Plains. Tail-end of the North-East Monsoon. Great seas off the Southern Coast and better than the seas off the East coast. Most parks will be in lush foliage. Asian Elephants and their young may be witnessed in small herds at Kaudulla or the adjacent Eco Park and in the mornings until almost mid day and in the late afternoons in Yala and Uda Walawe. Leopard and Bear in Yala and in Wilpattu where it maybe wet until mid-January. Midway through the peak birding season; especially the unique spectacle of ‘The Mixed-species Feeding Flock of Sinharaja’ where hundreds migrate and just two take the lead of the flock. Whales off Mirissa. Good time to spot butterflies and dragonflies and especially the island’s 33 endemic birds and the winter migrants that escape the harsh Northern Winters and flock to the recommended safari destinations.

February

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Anaiwilundawa, Kalpitiya, Giant’s Tank Mannar, Trincomalee, Sigiriya, Peak Wilderness, Wasgamuwa, Horton Plains, Sinharaja, Uda Walawe, Palatupana Saltern, Yala, Bundala and Mirissa. A little warmer than January and quite cold nights in the Central Highlands and towards evenings in the dry zone National Parks. All parks may be crowded on the 4 February, the island’s Independence Day. Beautiful calm seas in the South and West and not too calm in the East coast. Big Game and birding highlights would be the same as in January. In addition, Whales may begin their migration towards the Eastern Seas off Trincomalee which, however could experience wet conditions. Clear days in the Central Highlands makes for great trekking in the Horton Plains.

March

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Anaiwilundawa, Kalpitiya, Giant’s Tank Mannar, Sigiriya, Peak Wilderness, Wasgamuwa, Sinharaja, Uda Walawe, Palatupana Saltern, Yala, Bundala and Mirissa. Warm days and nights and the absence of rain, could make for some discomfort on safaris but the flowering and fruiting trees makes for great photography. Big Game highlights would be the same as in previous two months. Probably the last chance to spot the migrant winter birds in all recommended safari destinations, the Mixed species Feeding Flocks of Sinharaja and the Whale migration in Mirissa and Kalpitiya.

April

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Trincomalee, Kaudulla or Eco Park, Horton Plains, Peak Wilderness, Wasgamuwa, Sinharaja, Uda Walawe,Yala and Kumana. The month for fruits and flowers. Temperatures will be most pleasant in the hills and Central Highlands where the flowering trees will be especially beautiful. All parks could get a bit crowded as School holidays, the Sri Lankan New Year and Easter coincide. It is the warmest month of the year and important to keep yourself hydrated whilst on safari. Seas off the Southern coast can still be somewhat calm just until the onset of the South-West monsoons in mid-April, when, the eastern seas become calmer. Big Game Highlights will continue as in previous three months minus the birding highlights. Best month and the only place in the world to spot Blue Whales from ashore, at the Swami Rock in Trincomalee. Kumana comes into its own with aquatic birds starting on their nests.

May

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Trincomalee, Kaudulla or Eco Park, Horton Plains, Maduru Oya, Wasgamuwa Gal Oya, Uda Walawe,Yala and Kumana. The Eastern seas become bluer and calmer and a wonderful alternative to the turbulent Southern seas. Blue and Sperm Whales continue their migration into the seas of Trincomalee. Asian Elephants and their young may be witnessed in Maduru Oya, in small herds at Kaudulla or the adjacent Eco Park and in the mornings until almost mid day and in late afternoons in Yala and Uda Walawe. Leopard and Bear in Yala and Wilpattu. A highlight would be the increased sightings of the Sloth Bear that loves – to the point of inebriation, the ‘Palu’ fruit that comes into season in Yala. Explore the submerged jungles on the vast Gal Oya Reservoir, the picturesque islands inhabited by Elephants and riots of birds, or immerse in the beauty of its surrounding majestic rugged mountain ranges. Keen birders should shift their focus to Kumana – a nesting month and the start of a two month season for Birds, and to the Southern and North-Eastern coasts for possible flocks of migratory Flamingos. Although recommended the parks in the Southern Coast and in the hills can experience rains from the South West monsoons.

June

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Trincomalee, Minneriya, Maduru Oya, Gal Oya, Uda Walawe,Yala and Kumana. Big Game highlights are similar to May but likely to witness large herds of Elephants in Lahugala enroute to the calmer seas of the East coast. Blue and Sperm Whales continue to be spotted in Trincomalee. Earliest signs of ‘The Gathering’ of Elephants billed as the world’s sixth greatest animal spectacle, in Minneriya. Rough seas in the Southern and Western coasts. Great photography in the Kumana bird Sanctuary and possibly Flamingos in the North. The ‘Palu’ fruiting season in Wilpattu makes it easier to spot the Sloth Bear almost intoxicated on the fruit. Dry Zone Parks will experience a harsh, dry ‘kachan’ winds making safaris quite a dusty affair.

July

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Trincomalee, Minneriya, Maduru Oya, Gal Oya, Uda Walawe,Yala and Kumana. Big Game highlights are similar to June, the highlight being the world’s sixth greatest animal spectacle, ‘The Gathering’ – the world’s largest gathering of Asian Elephants, in Minneriya. A dry month where Elephants migrate across interconnected corridors of jungles across parks in search of scarce water. Large herds may also be seen in Lahugala. Kumana continues to be a birders paradise. One of the best months to visit Wilpattu where it is believed that this dry period makes it easier for Leopards to hunt for food as animals frequent open spaces and water holes, and hence may be the season when cubs are born.

August

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Trincomalee, Minneriya, Maduru Oya, Gal Oya, Uda Walawe,Yala and Kumana. Beautiful seas in the East coast. The tail end of the season for Whales in Trincomalee but beautifully coloured schools of Reef Fish could be spotted through a few hours of snorkeling. Dry weather across the island with scattered showers and rough seas in the South and West. Best photo opportunities during ‘The Gathering’ which continues in Minneriya, frequented by local visitors during this month of school holidays. Excellent wildlife viewing in Wilpattu with great sightings of Leopard mothers and sub adult cubs, Elephant and Sloth Bear that feeds on the ‘Dunng’ fruit.

September

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Trincomalee, Minneriya, Maduru Oya, Gal Oya, Uda Walawe,Yala and Kumana. A fairly dry month across the island, which results in excellent photographic opportunities near water holes, especially in Wilpattu for Leopard and in Minneriya where the large herds of Asian Elephants still continue to search for food and water. Boat safaris in Gal Oya can yield stunning photography of Elephants that may swim between islands in search of better grazing. It is believed that Deer give birth during late September in Wilpattu due to the abundance of grass that grow with the scattered showers. The drought is at its peak in Yala where in some years, the park may be closed to give animals a well earned respite and freedom to search for water.

October

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Kaudulla or Eco Park, Peak Wilderness,Uda Walawe,Yala, Bundala and Kumana. The advent of the North-East monsoon with eastern seas becoming turbulent. The southern and Western seas, calmer. Quite cool in the Central Highlands. In Bundala, endangered Marine Turtle lay their eggs – despite possible wet conditions.

November

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Kalpitiya, Sigiriya, Sinharaja, Uda Walawe, Palatupana Saltern, Yala, Bundala and Mirissa. Constant rains may be experienced across the island with low temperatures especially in the hills. Whales begin their migration towards Kalpitiya and Mirissa and seen alongside Spinner Dolphins. The annual migration of birds begins, albeit as a trickle, as they start escaping the harsh Northern Winters.

December

Recommend safaris in Wilpattu, Anaiwilundawa, Kalpitiya, Giant’s Tank, Sigiriya, Peak Wilderness, Sinharaja, Uda Walawe, Palatupana Saltern, Yala, Bundala and Mirissa. Rains pour down in the East coast bringing turbulent seas, while the seas of the South and West are idyllic. Cool temperatures, especially in the hills. The start of the Annual pilgrim’s trek to Adams Peak. Yala begins to come alive after the rains: vegetation lush, water holes brimming, attracting Elephants and a myriad of animals. Pockets of herds may also be seen in Kaudulla or Eco Park in proximity to Minneriya and in Uda Walawe. The winter migration brings in colour and life to the birding hotspots from the North to the South. Good time to spot butterflies and dragonflies.

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