Bundala National Park in Sri Lanka – is it worth it?

When it comes to wildfire safaris in Sri Lanka, Bundala National Park is not as famous as Udawalawe or Yala, but it can be a rewarding experience to those who decide to give it a go despite not being a popular choice. Keep on reading to find out if this park would be a good option for you.

Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka_4

About the park

Bundala National Park is home of 197 species of migratory water birds in Sri Lanka and was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2005. The highlight of migrants is the greater flamingo, which can be seen in flocks of thousands between September to March.

Why we chose to visit Bundala National Park

We had visited Udawalawe National Park on our previous Sri Lanka trip 5 years ago so this time around the choices were either Yala or Bundala. After doing some research, we learned that Yala National Park gets quite crowded and read stories of people saying they had to wait for hours in a queue to get a glimpse of an elephant. The idea of being stuck among jeeps fighting to get the best view put us off from going to Yala (although to be fair, there were also raving reviews from other people who had an amazing experience, seems to be a hit or miss!).

Right about that time our host mentioned Bundala National Park and it seemed like a good alternative for us given the fact that it was closer to our base, Tangalle (85km) and also because it is generally less crowded (and we tend to love going for off the beaten path options).

How to get there

I would highly recommend hiring a private car as the park is not easily accessible by bus or train. It took 1h 15min each way from Tangalle town.

How much is it?

We paid 5000 rupees ($25 USD) for the safari tour (jeep + guide) for two people. Additionally, we paid an entrance fee of $10 USD each so it cost us a total of $45 USD to get in.

Top tip | Make sure you negotiate the rate of the safari tour (jeep + guide) before you commit as the prices are not officially fixed by the park – you have to deal with the drivers and guides directly. If more people join the same jeep, I assume you will have more bargaining power.

Our safari experience

We set off at around 10am and right from the beginning we saw lots of different birds indigenous to Sri Lanka, as well as monkeys, deer, buffalos and wild boars. We are far from bird-watching enthusiasts but it was still very interesting to see birds of such variety – the colours and shapes were strikingly beautiful. The tour guide had a book with images and descriptions of the different types of birds in case we weren’t able to see them at a distance or wanted to learn more about a particular bird, which we found quite helpful.

While we loved seeing birds, I have to admit that the most exciting thing for us was to spot crocodiles (well, only part of them as they remained inside the water) and elephants…! We were told that there are only 30 elephants inside the park so it is not as easy to stumble upon them, however we couldn’t believe our luck to spot not one but two elephants during our visit. We saw the second one just as we were heading towards the exit – he was standing just in front us as if he was posing for photo for us. Such an pinch me moment!

The best thing was that we were the only jeep inside the park so we enjoyed unobstructed views in a quiet environment. That in itself made it a special experience.

Top Tip | Bring your own binoculars for better up-close views of the birds!

Elephants at Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka_16Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka_9Deer at Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka_12Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka_7Buffalos Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka_8

So, is it worth going to Bundala National Park?

To be honest, it really depends on your circumstances and expectations.

I would totally recommend visiting if:

  • You’ve already been to Udawalawe or Yala before and want to see something different.
  • You are interested in bird watching and spotting elephants or leopards is not your top priority.
  • You want to avoid crowds, go at your own pace and get unobstructed views.
  • You are visiting Sri Lanka between September and March, in time to catch the migratory flamingoes which is supposed to be a wonderful sight (We visited in July so missed them unfortunately)

I would not recommend visiting if:

  • You haven’t been to Udawalawe or Yala yet – I would see those first!
  • You are determined to see elephants and leopards and would shed a tear if you don’t.
  • You are travelling with small children – they might not get interested in birds and find it a bit boring.  

Beach at Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka_13

Bundala National Park Safari Sri Lanka_15

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Heading to Sri Lanka? Check out my other articles full of information and practical tips!

Things to do in and around Galle – Sri Lanka
Top 5 things to do in Mirissa – Sri Lanka
A guide to Tangalle, home to Sri Lanka’s most beautiful beaches
Tangalle (Sri Lanka) as a digital nomad destination

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