A nearly three-hour drive from Weligama brings you to Udawalawe, the elephant sanctuary situated on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces.
The Udawalawe National Park was created to house the elephants and other animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River.
Being on the boundary of the wet and dry zones of Sri Lanka and having the Walawe River and a number of its tributaries within the 30,821 hectares it covers, Udawalawe National Park has many benefits for the animals living within the park, that consist of marshlands, grasslands and forests, ideal for the elephants and the large number of aquatic species it’s home to.
At present, Udawalawe is home to a herd of nearly 250 elephants, a large number of migrant and resident birds and a thirty odd species of snakes and reptiles.
Udawalawe elephant safaris are best attempted early in the morning before the heat of the day drives the elephants into the thick forest, where they rest until the evening. A drive around the park around the daybreak is the best way to see as many elephants as possible along with the rare aquatic birds like black-capped kingfisher and locals like the Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Crested Serpent Eagle and White-bellied Sea Eagle roaming the skies before settling down for the day.
Few miles away from the park entrance is the Ath Athuru Sevana, the transit home for orphaned baby elephants found from around the island. The elephant transit center acts as a temporary home for orphaned baby elephants, who would be returned to the jungles of Udawalawe once they have reached an age of self-sustenance.
Visitors are allowed to watch the elephant babies feed and frolic although human contact is kept to a minimum to help them adjust to a jungle life in the future.