An overview of the Gal Oya National Park
Located in southeast Sri Lanka within Moneragala district, the Gal Oya National Park is yet another one of the island nation’s greatest wildlife treasures. Established in 1954 by the Gal Oya Development Board to protect the catchment area of the neighbouring reservoir, the “Senanayake Samudra”, the region has blossomed over the years as a beautiful biodiversity hotspot. One of the biggest pull factors of the Park is that it is considered a major eco-tourism venue, given its abundance of flora and fauna. Almost half of the park is engulfed by evergreen forest, while a third of the Park is encompassed by a savannah landscape.
Home to around 32 species of mammals, the Park boasts the presence of a large number of popular animals, which includes the famous sloth bears, wild boar, langur, leopards, elephants, and the endemic toque macaque. A unique attribute of the site is that the elephant herd that resides within the Park can be seen throughout the year, which is unique because elephants in other parks typically migrate back and forth. This means that visitors to the Park have a great likelihood of being able to witness a few elephants, if not an entire herd, in their natural habitat! The avian life in the Park is also tremendous and if you happen to be a bird enthusiast, the Gal Oya National park is home to over 150 of Sri Lanka’s 430 species of birds – so, get your binoculars ready!
A must-do experience when at the Gal Oya National Park is to participate in one of the boat safaris – this will always be nothing short of an exhilarating experience and do not be surprised if you feel the urge to go on another once you have had your first. This exhilarating boat safari will take you deep into the forest via the many small waterways that give you access to the plethora of the Park’s small islands. Shrouded in forest and greenery, many of these parts of the Park are not accessible by trail, only by boat, which makes this an even more unique experience. On your tour, you will likely witness elephants happily grazing within the deep and undisturbed portions of the Park and, if you are lucky, you may get to witness a few of them swimming between the various islands in search of greener pastures.
In addition to seeing some of the world’s largest mammals grazing and swimming, the boat safari will also take you to the famous “Kurulu Dupatha”, which directly translates into “Bird Island”. As its name suggests, the island is home to around 150 species of birds, which makes it a birder’s paradise.
Keep in mind to always listen to your guide’s instructions for your safety and the safety of the animals within the Park – any overt disruptions could be harmful to the natural balance of the Park. In addition to the boat safari, the Park also has regular Jeep Safari’s with two tracks – one that runs to a campsite 5km away and another one that runs up to around 13km. Once again – always stick to the guidelines set forth by your guide or ranger when within the premises.
There is so much to check out in Sri Lanka! If you plan on visiting the Gal Oya National Park, or the Moneragala region in general, expect to be amazed by beautiful surroundings, endemic species, and an overall great time! If you would like more information about the region, please feel free to get in touch with us or check out the other sections below!