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Sri Lanka boasts a rich biodiversity of wildlife, birds, and even flora. With so many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the country, being confused about where to visit and what to explore becomes a common concern. Gal Oya National Park in Sri Lanka is one of the few national parks in Sri Lanka that’s untouched and where you can take a boat safari as well. With a major population of elephants in the national park, unique experiences are waiting for you there. While exploring the country’s biodiversity, visiting this National Park has to be a must on your travel itinerary.

Where Is Gal Oya National Park Located?

Location of Gal Oya National Park

Image Credit: G.Kiruthikan for Wikimedia Commons
Gal Oya National Park in Sri Lanka is located in Henebadda, which is in the southeastern part of Sri Lanka. Its proximity to the Senanayake Samudraya, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka, makes it a unique destination where land and water ecosystems converge. This also explains why it is the only national park in the country where boating is available.

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Essential Facts

Picturesque Gal Oya National Park

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While making your plan to visit the National Park, knowing some essential details in advance will be a good call.
Address: 6FHC+CP4, Henebadda, Sri Lanka
Timings: 06:00 AM to 06:00 PM
Entry Fees: LKR 2000 per person for adults and LKR 1000 per child. Full-day Jeep safari costs LKR 11,000 for the entire Jeep ride.

Best Time To Visit The Park

Perfect time to visit Gal Oya National Park

Image Credit: G.Kiruthikan for Wikimedia Commons
May to September is the peak time visiting the Gal Oya National Park. Beyond being dry season, the national park also boasts favorable weather conditions and wildlife spotting during these months is a lot easier due to the warm and sunny weather. Since the water reserves deplete significantly, the wildlife usually gathers around the water sources, making it easier for you to spot the animals while you are on a jeep safari. October to January are best to avoid since monsoons can dampen the safari experience.

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Things to enjoy at Gal Oya National Park- admiring wildlife

Image Credit: Sudharsun Jayaraj for Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to exploring Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka, there are various unique activities that you can indulge in. Beyond wildlife spotting and jeep safaris, a few experiences are exclusively available in this national park. They include:

Boat Safari
It is the only national park in Sri Lanka where this activity is present. Once you board the boat, it takes you in between the islands, where you can get a rare opportunity to witness elephants swimming and even crocodiles chilling on the shores.

Jeep Safari
Jeep safaris are your next best option for the standard exploration of the national park on land. This offers land-based wildlife viewing where the guides drive you through the hot spots where wildlife spotting is more visible. What’s fascinating about jeep safaris is that they cover the park’s diverse landscapes like forests, grasslands and wetlands too.

If you want to go on camping expeditions, ensure that you pre-book your spot inside the national park. There are dedicated camping sites available by the Senanayake Samudraya, where you can camp under the night sky and take a dip in the river beside.

Bird Watching
There are 150+ species of birds inside the national park, making it a great spot for bird enthusiasts to witness these unique bird species in action. Most of the birds are located far away on the top of the trees, so you’d need a pair of binoculars to spot them.

Hiking & Trekking
Gal Oya National Park is surrounded by multiple nature trails and hiking and trekking trails that you can explore either by yourself or with a guide. If you aren’t a seasoned trekker, it’s always best you hire a local guide to accompany you on these expeditions. Sometimes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Places To Visit Near Gal Oya National Park

Beyond the experiences inside the National Park, there are a lot more places worth exploring outside. Most of them are located nearby, so you shouldn’t worry about travelling long distances.

1. Senanayake Samudraya

Aerial view of Senanayake Samudraya near the Park

Image Credit: G.Kiruthikan for Wikimedia Commons
One of the most prominent attractions near Gal Oya National Park is Senanayake Samudraya, the largest reservoir in the country. It was created by damming the Gal Oya River and is spread across an area of 7680 hectares. The reservoir is named after Sri Lanka’s first prime minister, D.S. Senanayake. Beyond its role in irrigation for the surrounding farmlands, the reservoir also attracts tourists with its charming backdrop. You can enjoy boat safaris on the reservoir and witness the aquatic birds in their natural habitat.

Distance from Gal Oya National Park: 7.9 Km
Timings: 24 Hours

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2. Dambana

Dambana near Gal Oya National Park

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Cultural tours are one of the best ways to explore the true essence of a place. Once you are done exploring Gal Oya National Park, go to the Dambana Village, a Vedda village nearby. Visiting the village and interacting with the locals provide a glimpse into the indigenous groups in Sri Lanka and also give an idea about their way of life. From indulging in traditional and sustainable hunting practices to their gathering rituals, there’s a lot you get to unveil when you visit this village. Also, you get a closer look into how the locals use the medicinal herbs and plants in the village.

Distance from Gal Oya National Park: 47.3 Km
Timings: 24 Hours

3. Bibile

Town of Bibile that you can visit

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A little far out from the National Park, Bibile is a town worth visiting on your next visit. The town stands out for its agricultural significance and is known for producing high-quality fruits, including bananas and oranges too. But, beyond that, what draws most tourists to the town is its stunning landscapes and the rural Sri Lankan life. You can explore the local markets, indulge in scenic walks through the fruit orchards or even interact with the friendly locals while visiting the town.

Distance from Gal Oya National Park: 28.6 Km
Timings: 24 Hours

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How To Reach

You can take a taxi from Colombo to reach the park

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Your base for reaching this National Park is Ampara, accessible from all the major cities like Colombo. Usually, you can take a flight from Colombo to Batticaloa and then hire a taxi or take a public bus to reach Ampara and the national park. If travelling via road, hire a taxi from Colombo to the national park. The journey takes 7-8 hours, depending on the car’s pace. There are a few public buses that run between Colombo and Ampara as well. There are no direct options via train. You’d have to reach Batticaloa or Badulla and then hire a taxi from there to reach the national park.

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Gal Oya National Park in Sri Lanka is a blend of wildlife, natural wonders, and cultural heritage. The next time you visit Sri Lanka and want a combination of land and water-based wildlife experiences, this national park offers some of the best experiences. The authorities and locals are also dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism, so as you plan your trip to Sri Lanka, visiting this national park is an absolute must.

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Cover Image Source: AntanO for Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions About Gal Oya National Park

What unique experiences does Gal Oya National Park offer?

The park offers unique boat safaris on the Senanayake Samudraya reservoir, where visitors can see elephants swimming and a variety of aquatic birds.

What are the Gal Oya National Park timings?

The park opens at 06:00 AM and closes at 06:00 PM. Camping overnight is allowed with permits.

Are there any cultural sites near this National Park?

Yes, the Vedda village of Dambana offers a unique cultural experience, allowing visitors to learn about the indigenous Vedda community.

Is camping allowed in Gal Oya National Park?

One of the most popular Gal Oya National Park activities is overnight camping. There are limited camping sites, so pre-booking your spot is a must.

Are guided tours available in Gal Oya National Park?

There are guided tours available in the national park, especially if you want to explore the hiking and trekking trails.

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