Uda Walawe is pronounced UDA WAL-A-WHA. if you love elephants then Uda Walawe National Park is where you should book your 4x4 safari tour. There are more elephant family groups in this park than any other in Sri Lanka.
Uda Walawe National Park Elephant 4x4 Safari
If you only have time to go to one National Park during your vacation then I would suggest that you go to Yala National Park as there is more landscape diversity and variety of animals. Uda Walawe National Park surrounds the large Uda Walawe reservoir.
This is why this park is so elephant friendly is because of the abundant supply of water. It also means that the open rough scrub landscape is very similar throughout the park. If you go with children they might get bored after they have seen their 20th elephant.
Uda Walawe National Park new born baby Elephant with mother
The park was set up in 1972 to safe guard the water catchment area from pollution as well as provide a safe sanctuary for the animals. Being on the middle line of the country, equal distance from the west and east coast, the park is affected by two wet season monsoons. The rain normally falls between October and January as part of the east coast Northeast monsoon season and between March to May as part of the West coast wet season monsoon.
The nearest town is Embilipitya and there are some reasonable tourist hotels by the lake. In my experience it is best to arrange a 4x4 safari vehicle and driver via your hotel front desk. If you try to do this yourself in town you do not have the protection the hotel can give you. The hotel only recommend trusted drivers they have used in the past. If there has been problems in the past with other guests their name is removed from the hotel's contact list. I have found the prices do not differ very much from what you can haggle the drivers in town down to. The rental fee will not include the cost of the entrance tickets. Yes they are more expensive for tourists.
You have to get over this standard practice of different charging in Sri Lanka. It may seem unfair and appear that you are being ripped off but all the money goes towards the upkeep of the National Park. They could not raise the necessary money from Sri Lankan visitors. They do not earn enough. You will have to have a National Park Guide in your vehicle. That is part of the conditions of entry. They have fantastic eyes and can spot animals that are invisible to the untrained. Do not expect them to have a deep knowledge about the animals. They will be able to find them for you and name them but that is normally the limit.
Uda Walawe National Park Elephant eating grass