What to See and Do in Kumana National Park Safari

What to See and Do in Kumana National Park Safari
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Kumana National Park is a wildlife paradise in Sri Lanka’s southeast. The park is known for its birds, especially during the migration season, as well as its large populations of elephants, leopards, and other animals. If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, Kumana National Park and Safari should be on your must-see list. In this guide, we will take a closer look at the park and safari and provide all the information you need to make travel arrangements.

History of Kumana National Park

Kumana National Park has a long history. It was initially declared a wildlife refuge in 1938 to protect the local wildlife, especially the sizable flocks of waterbirds bred in the area’s lagoons and marshes. However, the park was poorly administered and there was a lot of poaching and illegal hunting, which led to a decrease in the number of birds.

History of Kumana National Park
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In 1970, the Mahaweli Development Authority took over the park’s administration with the intention of using the park’s resources for irrigation and agriculture. This led to the clearing of the park’s soil for farming and the diversion of its water sources for irrigation.

In 1984, the Sri Lankan government recognized the importance of protecting the country’s biodiversity and designated Kumana National Park as a protected area. As a result, the park’s management improved significantly and illegal activities such as poaching and hunting were reduced. Additionally, due to its diverse bird population, BirdLife International designated the park as an Important Bird Area.

Today, Kumana National Park is a popular tourist destination, especially for birdwatchers who come in droves during the migratory season. Elephants, leopards, and sloth bears are just a few of the park’s native animals that draw tourists from all over the world.

Wildlife in Kumana National Park, Sri Lanka

The wildlife of Kumana National Park is diverse, with its unique habitats of lagoons, mangroves, and forests supporting a wide range of animal species. Here are some of the most notable animals found in the park:

Leopard in Kumana National Park, Sri Lanka
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  • Elephants: There are an estimated 200-300 elephants living in Kumana National Park. These majestic creatures can often be seen grazing in the meadows or drinking from the park’s many watering holes.
  • Leopards: Kumana National Park is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see leopards, although they are notoriously difficult to spot. With a bit of luck, visitors may catch a glimpse of one of these large cats lurking in the park’s lush forests.
  • Sloth bears: Kumana National Park is home to sloth bears, which are native to Sri Lanka. These unusual bears are characterized by their large snouts and shaggy fur.
  • Raptors: In addition to waterbirds, Kumana National Park is also home to a variety of raptors, including eagles, hawks, and kites. These birds of prey can often be seen soaring overhead in search of their next meal.
  • Other birds: In addition to waterbirds and raptors, Kumana National Park is home to many other bird species, including owls, woodpeckers, and parakeets. The park is also home to a variety of reptiles, including crocodiles, turtles, and snakes.

A Birdwatching Safari in Kumana National Park

Kumana National Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with a wide variety of bird species found in its diverse habitats, including lagoons, marshes, and woodlands. Many migrating birds flock to the region during the mating season, drawn by the park’s famous waterbirds.

Here are some of the most popular bird species in Kumana National Park:

Painted stork

Painted stork in Kumana National Park
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These large, pink and white birds can often be seen wading around the park’s lagoons. They are known for their long necks and legs, and their distinctive black and white markings.

Grey heron

Grey heron - Kumana National Park, Sri Lanka
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These large, grey birds can be seen flying over the park’s streams or perched on rocks. They are often seen hunting for fish or frogs.

Spot-billed pelican

Spot-billed pelican, Kumana National Park Bird Watching Safari
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These magnificent birds are frequently spotted flying overhead or sitting on trees near the river. They are known for their large beaks, which they use to scoop up fish.

Indian cormorant

Indian cormorant - Kumana National Park, Sri Lanka
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These small, black birds are common in Kumana National Park. They can often be seen diving for fish in the park’s lagoons.

The best time to go birdwatching in Kumana National Park is during the dry season, from December to April. This is when the park is at its driest and the birds are most active.

How to get to Kumana National Park

How to get to Kumana National Park
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Kumana National Park is located in southeast Sri Lanka, adjacent to Ampara. There are a few ways to get to the park, depending on your starting point and preferred mode of transportation.

By car or taxi: The most convenient way to get to Kumana National Park is by car or taxi. You can drive from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, or any other major city in the country. The journey takes approximately 7 to 8 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. To get to the park, take the Colombo-Batticaloa highway and head towards Ampara.

By bus: Buses are a more affordable option for getting to Kumana National Park. You can take a bus from Colombo or other major cities to Ampara, where you can then take a taxi or tuk-tuk to the park. The bus journey takes longer than driving, but it is still a comfortable and convenient option.

By train: There is no direct train to Kumana National Park. However, you can take a train to Ampara and then transfer to a taxi or tuk-tuk to the park. The train journey is the most scenic option, but it is also the slowest.

Once you arrive at the park, you will need to take a jeep safari to explore the park. Jeep safaris are the only way to see the animals in the park.

Experiencing the Wildlife of Kumana National Park on a Safari

Water buffalos in Kumana National Park
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Kumana National Park in southeast Sri Lanka offers a truly exceptional safari experience, thanks to its diverse habitats, including forests, lagoons, and mangroves. This article will discuss the Kumana National Park safari experience, including the best time to go, the most popular animals to see, and tips for having the best safari possible.

Entry fees

The entry fee to Kumana National Park is LKR 40 for Sri Lankan citizens and LKR 1500 for foreign nationals. You can also book a jeep safari, which costs around LKR 5000 for a group of four people.

How to book a jeep safari

You can book a jeep safari through several local hotels and travel operators. It is advisable to book in advance, especially during the peak season. The price of the safari will vary depending on the operator, the length of the safari, and the number of people in the group.

What to expect on a jeep safari

Experiencing the Wildlife of Kumana National Park on a Safari
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A jeep safari in Kumana National Park typically lasts between two and four hours. The safari is led by an experienced driver and tracker who knows the park well. The safari starts early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the animals are most active.

Jeep safaris use open-sided, specially designed jeeps that allow passengers a clear view of the wildlife and surroundings. The jeeps are also equipped with comfortable seating and safety features to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Animals to see

Kumana National Park is home to a variety of animals, including elephants, leopards, sloth bears, water buffalo, crocodiles, and many bird species. The best time to see animals is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when they are most active.

The Best Time to Visit Kumana National Park

The Best Time to Visit Kumana National Park
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The best time to visit Kumana National Park depends on the activities you want to do and the species you want to see. The park can be visited all year round, but there are certain times of year that are better for certain activities.

  • The best time to see migratory birds is between April and July. During this time, hundreds of birds, such as pelicans, herons, egrets, and storks, migrate to the park’s lagoons and wetlands. However, the park is a great place to see resident bird species all year round.
  • The best time for safari experiences is between May and September. During this time, the park’s water supplies dry up, forcing animals to gather at the remaining waterholes. This makes it easier to see animals, as they are more concentrated in certain areas. However, the park’s different ecosystems support a variety of animal species, including elephants, leopards, sloth bears, and water buffalo, which can be seen all year round.
  • The dry season, which runs from May to September, is the best time to visit Kumana National Park for outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. The weather is typically dryer and more pleasant during this time, and the park’s trails are easier to access. However, the park is open all year round for these activities, and the wet season has its own charm and beauty.

Here is a table summarizing the best time to visit Kumana National Park for different activities:

ActivityBest time of year
Bird watchingApril to July
SafariMay to September
Hiking and campingMay to September

Related reading: Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka: A Guide to Planning Your Trip

Places to Stay in the Kumana National Park Area

There are a few options for accommodation near Kumana National Park, depending on your budget and preferences.

Places to Stay in the Kumana National Park Area
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Luxury hotels: There are a few luxury hotels located within a short drive of the park, such as the The Water Edge Resort in Arugam Bay and the Arugam Bay Beach Hotel. These hotels offer a variety of amenities, including swimming pools, restaurants, and bars.

Mid-range hotels: There are also a number of mid-range hotels located near the park, such as the Lucky Bay in Arugam Bay and the Agra Arugambay. These hotels offer a more basic level of accommodation, but they are still comfortable and affordable.

Government owned lodges: The two government-owned lodges in Kumana National Park, are ideal for budget-minded travelers. They offer basic facilities such as mattresses, fans, and shared toilets.

Private eco-lodges: There are also a number of budget accommodations options near the park, such as guesthouses and homestays. These options are a good choice if you are looking for a more authentic Sri Lankan experience.

FAQs

What is a Kumana National Park Safari?

A Kumana National Park Safari is a guided tour of the park by jeep. The safaris typically last for 3-4 hours and take you through the park’s different ecosystems, such as the mangroves, grasslands, and forests. You will have the opportunity to see a variety of animals, including elephants, leopards, sloth bears, and water buffalo.

When is the best time to go on a Kumana National Park Safari?

The best time to go on a safari is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. During this time, the animals are more concentrated around the waterholes, making them easier to see.

What should I bring on a Kumana National Park Safari?

You should bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, a camera, and a water bottle. You should also wear comfortable clothing and shoes that you can walk in.

How much does a Kumana National Park Safari cost?

The cost of a safari varies depending on the operator and the length of the tour. However, you can expect to pay around (USD 50-90) per person for a 3-4 hour safari.

Where can I book a Kumana National Park Safari?

You can book a safari through your hotel or a local tour operator. There are also a number of safari operators that you can find online.

What are the rules of a Kumana National Park Safari?

There are a few rules that you need to follow on a safari, such as: stay in the jeep at all times, do not feed or touch the animals and be respectful of the environment.

What are the chances of seeing a leopard on a Kumana National Park Safari?

The chances of seeing a leopard on a safari are relatively low. However, the park is home to a healthy population of leopards, so it is possible to see them.

What other animals can I see on a Kumana National Park Safari?

In addition to leopards, you can also see a variety of other animals on a safari, such as: Elephants, Sloth bears, Water buffalo, Spotted deer, Wild boar, Monkeys, Crocodiles and Birds.

Is it safe to go on a Kumana National Park Safari?

Kumana National Park is a safe place to go on a safari. However, it is important to be aware of the risks and to take precautions, such as staying in the jeep at all times and not feeding or touching the animals.

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