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Friday, December 7, 2007

Bundala National Park

BUNDALA NATIONAL PARK, covering an area of 6216 hectares of eco tourism appeal, is located about 250km southeast of Colombo in the Hambantota district. The park falls within the southeastern arid zone of Sri Lanka, with a general climate that can be classified as hot and dry. The terrain is generally flat with sand dunes bordering the coastline, and vegetation consists mainly of dry thorny scrublands and lagoons.

The bio diversity of this park is immense: A total of 383 plant species have been recorded from the park, including 6 endemics and 7 species that are considered nationally threatened.

It is also home to 32 different species of mammal, 5 of which are classified as threatened. The bird life is also diverse. For keen bird-watchers, the complex wetland system harbours a rich bird life (approximately 197 species), including several species of migratory waterfowl. This has led to the declaration of the park as Sri Lanka 's first ‘Ramsar' wetland – one of great international importance especially for migratory waterfowl.

History and the Description of the Bundala National Parks:
Bundala in the South East of Sri Lanka is a wonderful introduction to the country's National Parks. It is famous for its diversity and profusion of aquatic bird life which feed on the rich harvest provided by the numerous lagoons throughout the park.

It forms the most important wetland sanctuary, outside of the Northern Province, for migratory shore-birds including the Greater Flamingo. The park covers approximately 6000 hectares of brackish lagoons, salt pans, inter-tidal mudflats and thorny scrub jungle.

There is a small population of elephants which are fairly easy to spot in the open habitat; it is not unheard of to find one walking along the beach in perfect isolation. Leopards can also be found in the park preying on the numerous Spotted deer, Sambar and Barking deer.

Sightings are very rare but it is worth exploring several rocky outcrops where previous sightings have occurred. As well as leopards there are Sloth bears, Jackals, Giant squirrels, Indian pangolin and Civet cats. Marsh and estuarine crocodiles are both found in Bundala in addition to Monitor lizards and a variety of other reptiles.

Of the 150 bird species listed in the park, every species of water bird found in the country is said to visit here. The rare Black-necked stork and Great Thick-knee are particular birding highlights. It is easy to spot Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Spoonbill, Red Shank, Green Shank, Spot-billed Pelican, Blue-faced Malkoha, Brahminy Kite, Crested Hawk eagle and Brown Shrike, to name but a few. Migrants and vagrants make the journey from as far as Siberia ; over 10,000 shore birds might be feeding at any one time between October and March.

Along the coastal road leading from nearby Hambantota, where you will be based, to Bundala is another haven for wildlife with several more bird species to be seen.

This coastal area also attracts four out of Sri Lanka 's five sea turtle species, which come ashore to lay their eggs. This park is much less visited than Yala, so largely avoids the weekend crowds.

A couple of days spent here is ideal before heading off to the nearby Udawalawe and Yala National Parks , or in conjunction with a beach stay at Tangalle or Mirissa.

The park is approximately five hours drive from Colombo along the coast. The average annual rainfall is relatively low and the 'dry season' falls between May and September.

How to get there

Bundala is at a short distance from Yala National Park on the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka.

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