Sunrise Elephant Safari in Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

Imagine sitting in a safari Jeep at 5.30 in the morning. When everyone else is asleep and the sunrise slowly appears through the foggy jungle. Sri Lanka is famous for being a country with plenty of activities, and safari is surely one of the most exciting ones. Let me take you with me through our Sri Lanka safari experience, my thoughts and recommendations.

The Town Of Udawalawe

Udawalawe is a town situated 2 hours from Galle in the south and 3 hours from the capital city Colombo. The town itself was not a big hit for us. Even though a lot of tourists and travelers come here to go on safari, the town it self is relatively closed down. It is a remarkably big difference between the cities in the south as for example Mirissa and Hikkaduwa.

The difference is undoubtedly the work of tourism. In the south the locals really work on making their restaurants or cafe or surf club (etc.) as nice as possible to get the attention from tourists and travelers, while in Udawalwe people are attracted to the destination because of one thing – safari! So when visitors plan to go to Udawalawe they book a hotelroom at one of the few luxury resorts and often don’t stay for more than two-three nights. People are attracted to Udawalawe for the animals (especially elephants) and not much more.

Why wasn’t the town a big hit for us? On the afternoon of our arrival, we decided to explore the town and find somewhere to eat. However since the locals weren’t used to tourists wandering around their town they also didn’t have many available places to eat at. And we also became the people everyone was starting at, which I have nothing against but can sometimes feel a bit unwelcoming and weird. We did find a small restaurant though and the food was delicious.

Bumpy Roads and Elephants

As I told you earlier we went out in the safari park at 5.30 in the morning, I’m normally not a morning person but I was so excited to see some elephants that sleep just didn’t matter at all. During the days we spent in Udawalawe the transport we used was either tiny tuck-tucks or the highest safari Jeeps, and with them being high I mean that you sit like 3 meters above the ground with open walls. Actually pretty fun to sit that high up and see everything from such a good view. That’s the type of safari Jeep we went with in the park as well. Since we were out early it was still a bit chilly and the sun appeared so beautifully through the trees along with birds chirping. Really MAGICAL!!

The roads inside the nature reserve are pretty bumpy, even some big holes in some places. It felt like we were about to overturn at times, especially when our driver was determined to go out in like the muddiest swamp ever haha. The wheels were stuck in the mud for at least 10 minutes before we could continue our tour. But you know, bumpy roads, stuck in the mud, and feeling like you going to fall out is a part of the excitement!

The very first elephants we found were a mother and her adorable child. The most important thing when approaching them is to be calm and to drive slowly, you do not want to make an elephant mother angry and it would be disrespectful to disturb them in their home. Even if you’d to see elephants or any other animal in a nature reserve or at a zoo its still their home and you’re the visitor, just a reminder to always treat every creature with the respect they deserve. Just look at the photos below – insanely gorgeous animals!!

After a while we took a break and drove up to a hill with a view over a lake, we took some photos and later went on with what was left of our safari tour. The sun stood high at this point and therefore it wasn’t as easy to find elephants along the roads anymore, so as soon as one of the safari Jeeps spotted an elephant – everyone would race their way there. I do understand that the safari guides want to do their job as well as possible but I just don’t like it when you literally race with other cars to have the best view over the elephants. I don’t know it just didn’t feel good. Except for that, the entire safari was so much fun! I would definitely want to do it again.

Elephant Transit Home

While staying in Udawalawe we also took the chance to visit orphaned baby elephants at the elephant transit home. Measures to protect wildlife and especially elephants has continued to improve in Sri Lanka and a number of facilities have been created to ensure the survival and wellbeing of animals. And one such facility is the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe.

In Sri Lanka, the human-elephant conflict is a big threat to the survival of elephants and with many elephants being orphaned or lost, the transit homes are there to help. Transit homes take care of the elephants without them being chained and they are free to roam around. The elephants are also later being returned back to the wild.

When we visited the transit home we got to see the feeding of the youngest baby elephants, some were skinny and needed more help than others but all of them were fed with a bottle of milk.

They were really fun to watch since their different characters are so noticeable. One elephant was a bit shy and careful and someone else was the life of the party. But everyone of them rushed in with their trunks in the air, eager and happy to get their food.

Sri Lanka is an amazing country with such a big variety of activities and experiences and safari is one you just can’t miss out on! It’s so worth it and I can happily recommend Udawalawe as a great safari park.

Happy Travels,


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7 thoughts on “Sunrise Elephant Safari in Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

  1. This looks like such an incredible experience! I love having the opportunity to see animals out in the wild where they belong as opposed to in captivity. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of some of the work that is done in zoos and other similar situations. They can offer a safe home to animals that wouldn’t survive in the wild otherwise. But there is just something different about seeing them out and living life as they would had we not come along…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so understand what you mean! It warms my heart seeing happy animals living in their natural habitat. It is as you are saying, even though zoos might do an amazing work in preserving species, there’s still a part of me that feels bad for the animals for being in captivity. Thank you so much for reading.


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