When – and where – to go in Sri Lanka’s fascinating and diverse Southeast
Exploring Sri Lanka's Fascinating Southeast
Our team at Khiri Sri Lanka just returned to Colombo after exploring around the South East region of the island. We have to admit that it was tough to balance safaris, trying out experiences and checking our emails at the same time but we managed somehow. With that, we thought this is the ideal time to educate our readers about the best time of the year to visit the area.
While the South-East is mostly famous for its wildlife as it is home for a number of national parks, we haven’t forgotten to add our Khiri flavor to it with a couple of signature experiences for those who would like to explore beyond safaris.
The weather in the South-East region is actually quite good for travel throughout the year due its location where the rainfall usually doesn’t go overboard any time of the year. The best part is that the area is blessed to be nourished by both North-East monsoon rains (mostly) and South-West monsoon rains (to a certain extent) but at the same time it ensures that the rains are not as heavy and continuous as the South or North provinces. It also makes it easier for the fauna and flora to adapt and sustain themselves.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is probably one of the lesser-known parks but it’s one of our favorites simply due to its unique location where the land, sea and wetlands meet. However, it is well known amongst bird watching enthusiasts since it happens to be a RAMSAR wetland site where migratory birds visit to avoid the European winters. In addition to birds, the park is also home to elephants as well as a range of wildlife including crocodiles and other reptiles.
The best time to visit Bundala is during the winter season from December to April. For bird watchers we recommend early morning safaris where the birdlife is more active and the lighting is also better for photography. Since we are so much in love with it’s location and landscapes, we have designed a Khiri Picnic served at a scenic location within the park where some local sweets and snacks will be served along with a cup of tea.
Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park is renowned mostly for sightings of elephants which is almost guaranteed on every safari. During the winter season, Udawalawe also plays host to a range of migratory birds. In addition to birds and elephants, flocks of Deer, Wild Buffaloes, Jackals, Crocodiles, water monitor lizards and sometimes even the elusive sloth bears and Leopards have also been spotted at times here.
For elephant sightings, the best time is from June to September and we recommend afternoon safaris. On the other hand, for bird watching, the best time would be December to April where early morning safaris are better.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is undoubtedly the most famous national park in Sri Lanka, the main reason being the higher density of Leopards. Although the park spreads across 5 blocks, it’s block 1 that is mostly visited due to the frequency of leopard sightings. But if we are to be brutally honest, we are not the most enthusiastic about the over development and overcrowding especially focused around the Palatupana entrance of Yala Block 1. Instead we prefer to conduct safaris with campsite providers based around the Katagamuwa entrance of block 1 which is less crowded and the overall wilderness experience is guaranteed. While a leopard sighting is a bonus, we believe Yala is much more than leopards and there’s plenty of other species such as elephants, sloth bears, buffalos, reptiles and not forgetting the birds.
Our recommendation for the best time to visit Yala for wildlife sightings would be the drier period from May to August. In September, usually the block 1 is closed for visitors since the dry weather is quite harsh for the animals and we need to minimize disturbance to them. During this time, block 5 comes into limelight as afternoon safaris there are quite scenic just for its landscapes.
On the other hand, for bird watchers as usual the best time period is from December to April where early morning safaris are more rewarding.
Beyond Safaris: Treats of Tissa - Tracing the Story of Curd
For the explorers who like to look beyond safaris in this region, we have crafted a super authentic signature experience where we trace the story of Curd – the King of Sri Lankan desserts. Curd is almost like yoghurt but made from Buffalo’s milk. Here we look at the entire process starting from milking the cow, boiling and stirring the milk followed by pouring it to clay pots and letting it set. We also visit the village potter where the clay pots are made.
Since the milking of buffalos takes place early in the morning, you have to wake up early and skip the hotel breakfast. However, at the end of the experience you will be rewarded with a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast served at a local house which will be more rewarding than the hotel breakfast you ditched. Last but not the least, you will get to try the star of the day – Curd, with its partner in crime, glossy Kithul Treacle. One would come out of the experience realizing that this was not just another village tour but more of a tribute to this legendary dessert and the villager’s efforts that goes into preparing it.