Wilpattu national park borders the northwest coast of Sri Lanka and spans the borders between the North Western Province and North Central Province, approximately 25 kms north of the town of Puttalam and 30 kms west of Anuradhapura.
The park is the largest in the country and covers an area of approximately 131,690 hectares, roughly 1300 square kilometres. Wilpattu derives its name from an extensive complex of about sixty wetlands known as ‘Villu’ which is a feature not seen elsewhere in any of the other national parks in Sri Lanka. Villu’s are shallow natural lakes that fill with rainwater during the wet season and sustain wildlife during the dry months.
The rainy season in Wilpattu starts about September each year and continues till December with the onset of the northeast monsoon. The dry season predominates from the months of May through September.
- The Wilpattu national park, located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1905 during the British administration of the island nation. Close upon thirty years later, Wilpattu achieved national park status.
- The ideal time to visit Wilpattu and to get a feel for the flora and fauna is generally between the months of February and October when the temperature hovers around 27 degrees celsius. The park is open throughout the year for visitors.
- Wilpattu National Park’s attraction for visitors are the leopards (Panthera Pardus Kotiya) and the sloth bear (Melursus Ursinus). At least thirty three different species are on record as being resident within the park premises including the Asian Elephant, Water Buffalo, Wild Boar, Jackals, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer, Mugger Crocodiles and Indian Python.
- The parks varying landscape of natural lakes, open grassland, coastal belt, dense forest (in excess of seventy five percent of the national park), and scrublands etc. greatly aids the survival of these unique creatures.
The Wilpattu national park was closed to visitors for nearly sixteen years from 1988 through 2003 due to the security concerns prevalent at the time with skirmishes following from time to time until May 2009.
With the end of the war in 2009 and cessation of all hostilities, tourist arrivals at the Wilpattu national park has been gradually increasing. Safari’s within the park premises are conveniently arranged and accommodation for visitors is also not too far away.
In addition to being Sri Lanka’s largest national park, Wilpattu has a unique history that stretches back as far as the arrival of Prince Vijaya to Sri Lanka from India in 543 B.C. It is believed that the point at which the Prince landed is the modern day Kudiramalai.
There is evidence in the eastern part of Wilpattu of disused and breached reservoirs that would have formed a part of a network of highly developed agricultural system in ancient Sri Lanka.