Wilpattu National Park – විල්පත්තු ජාතික වනෝද්‍යානය

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Sandy Roads of Wilpattu National Park

Sandy Roads of Wilpattu National Park

Wilpattu National Park

licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Danushka Senadheera

Size131,693 hectares
Main attractionsLeopards, Elephants, spotted Deer, Sambur, Wild Bow, Crocodiles, Water Buffalo, Peacocks and many migratory birds.

Situated 180 km from Colombo, and about 40 km from Anuradhapura Wilpattu National park is the largest wild life sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Declared as a sanctuary in 1938, and subsequently a national park, Wilpattu reserve, is a popular attraction for both tourists and wildlife enthusiasts.

Wilpattu National Park

licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Migara.Migz

This park is packed with over 50 ‘Villus’ or lakes and sandy tracks. Vila is defined as a natural depression generally circular with gently sloping banks of sand – a natural pool. Ancient man made reservoirs mostly now in ruined state supplement the natural pools to create a unique ecosystem found nowhere in the island.

Flora of Wilpattu National Park

Some 605 flowing plant species belonging to 108 plant families have been recorded inside the Wilpattu National Park. 33 of these plants are endemic to Sri Lanka.

Habitat Diversity of of Wilpattu National Park

Although tropical dry mixed evergreen forests dominates the landscape of Wilpattu, many other diverse sub systems can be found within its boundaries.

A Sambar in a Tropical Dry Mixed Evergreen Forest of Wilpattu National Park

A Sambar in a Tropical Dry Mixed Evergreen Forest of Wilpattu National Park
photo by Honey Badgerr licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    1. Forest Echo Systems
      1. Tropical Dry Mixed Evergreen Forests – This is the dominant echo system in the park. A heaven for valuable timber and shows 4 distinct vegetation layers. 20-30 meter high tree canopy, a 15 meter high sub canopy tree layers, shrubss up to 5 meters and herbaceous plants up to 1 meter.
      2. Tropical Thorn Forests – Areas of thick, thorny, impenetrable plants growing up to 4-6 meters. With tall large Burutha, Palu and other similar trees scattered randomly. These forests have 2 layers with thorny bushes growing up to 4-6 meters and herbaceous plants up to .5 meters.
      3. Riverine Forests – Found along the banks of many water streams and banks of rivers which flow through the Wilpattu National Park. These range from few meters in length up to 10 meters depending on the size of the water flow. Due to abundance of water throughout the year, these show characteristics of evergreen rain forests. An almost covered tree canopy which up to about 15-25m, a sub canopy at about 10m and a shrub layer which reach .3-.5 meters are the characteristics of these forests. Towing gigantic Kumbuk trees are the most prominent tree in this eco systems.
      4. Dry Grasslands – Dry grasslands are common on the western parts of Wilpattu National Park. These are patches of land void of forest cover and due to human habitation in the ancient past. This is evident by the archaeological remains going back to the Anuradhapura era found on such grasslands. A grass cover of .1-1 meter in height, isolated scattered trees growing up to 20meters and scrubs up to 3 meters are the dominant features of this vegetation.
Villu based ecosystem in Wilpattu Naional Park

Villu based ecosystem in Wilpattu Naional Park
photo by Danushka Senadheera licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  1. Wetland Eco Systems
      1. Floodplains – These border the Kala Oya river and created by the annual flooding of excess water Kala Oya. Floodwater slit deposited on the gound is the main source of nutrient for plants. The vegetation is similar to Riverine ecosystems except large patches of grass interspersed in the floodplains.
      2. Swamps – Unlike floodplains, swamps are waterlogged land favorable for water loving plants.
      3. Ancient Tanks and ponds – Ruins of ancient human habitation. Stagnant shallow tanks with small outlets with belt of vegetation. Marshland border most of these tanks which probably has been paddy fields in the past. Uru Wee, a wild rice has been found growing in these areas.
    Wilpattu National Park

    A Villu in Wilpattu National Park

    1. Villus – This is the most prominent feature of Wilpattu National Park. Shallow pools of all sizes with a sandy rim are spread all over the park. Moving inwards you find dry grassland, marshi habitats and then aquatic habitats. There are about 50 villus with varying diameter of 300m to 2km.
  2. Coastal Ecosystems
    1. Mangrove forests – The largest and the most diverse mangrove habitat in Sri Lanka is associated with the Kala Oya which boarders Wilpattu National Park. The mangroves lies in the area the Kala Oya reaches the sea and the woody trees in the mangroves are adapted for salty water.
    2. Salt Marshes – Salt marshes lie along the Wilpattu coastline seasonally get submerged during high tides and high in salt content. Only few plants can survive these extreme conditions but plays a vital role as feeding and nesting grounds to many resident and migratory birds.
    3. Beaches and Sand dunes – The beach along the Wilpattu consist of mangroves, steep cliffs and sand dunes. Most well known sand dunes are at Kudiramalai Point where the winds are very strong due to the high elevation.
    4. Sea Cliffs – In Kudiramalai Point is an uplifted limestone rock cliff rising up to 20 meters above the sea level. This cliff stretches almost 2 km from the Kudiramalai Point. This massive limestone rock with scattered caves is full of fossils of branching corals, limestone layer and red layer of earth.

The Wilpattu National Park was closed in 1985 after LTTE Tiger Terrorists brutally murdered 23 of it employees. The park once again opened to the public in March 2003 after 18 years. During these 18 years the jungle was a heaven for the terrorists, poachers and illegal timber traders.

During this period, the  leopard population population dwindled  with poachers having free pass to the jungles. There has been no leopard population count done in the recent past. But in 1978 when we visited Wilpattu we saw no less than 7 leopards in 2 days. 2 visits after the reopening in 2003 no leopards were spotted. Even the deer population have thinned due to poaching.  Another reason for this is the animals in this park are not used to vehicles and run into the jungle at the first sound of a jeep. But the leopard and the other wildlife populations are now gradually increasing. But with time passing spotting leopards and bears have been more frequent.

If you want to hire a jeep you need to get one from turn off point along the Puttlam-Anuradhapura Road. You will find all sorts of jeeps parked here. The cost of a jeep is approx Rs 4000-5000 for 1/2 day and approx Rs 8000-9000 for a full day.

This National park is open to visitors from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. All the bungalows inside the park were been destroyed or burned down during the terrorist period. Currently PanikkawilaManawilaThalawila, Kokmote, Lunuwila, Manikkapolauththu, Weewewa and Maradamaduwa Dormitory bungalows are operating within the wildlife park. These can accommodate 10 adults and costs approx Rs. 6150/- (all charges and taxes included) per night. These bungalows have to be booked prior through the Department of Wildlife Conservation  There are some good eco type bungalows around the park but for some luxury,  closest is  Anuradhapura which is about 50 Km away from Wilpattu.

Current Crisis at Wippatu National Park

Houses of one of the alleged illegal settlements in the Wilpattu region

Houses of one of the alleged illegal settlements in the Wilpattu region
Source : nation.lk

During 2010-2015  over 3000 hectares has been cleared and its valuable timber felled on the western side of the Wilpattu National Park has been cleared to make way for illegal Muslim settlements in the North and the East provinces breaching the country’s laws under the Forest Conservation Act.

Number of conservation groups have been pressuring the Government to take action against this rape of Wilpattu Forest but yet  no decisive action has been forthcoming from the government as at today.

see

  1. Environmentalists to file legal action on ‘illegal’ Wilpattu settlements
  2. Illegal settlements around Wilpattu National Park
  3. ‘Settlements in Wilpattu are recent ones’

See the map or the list of markers below for the water bodies inside the Wilpattu National Park. Primary source of this information is from the incredible Google Earth KMZ map of Wilpattu shared at Lakdasun here

Also See

Map of Wilpattu National Park and Other Places of Interest

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites.

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.


Travel Directions to Wilpattu National Park

The park can be reached through Puttlam and is approximately 180 km from Colombo and Approximately 50 km from the ancient city of Anuradhapura. From Puttlam turn left to the Anuradhapura Road. The turnoff to the Wilpattu Entrance is close to the 43rd km post on this road. From this turn you need to travel about 10 km’s on this road to reach entrance to the park.

If you are coming from Anuradhapura you need travel almost 40 km on the Anuradhapura – Puttlam road to the turn off.

Route from Colombo to Wilpattu National Park Entrance

Route from Anuradhapura to Wilpattu National Park Entrance

Though : Negambo – Puttlam
Distance : 190 km
Travel time : 3.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Distance :40 km
Travel time : 45 minutes.
Driving directions : see on google map

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