Itinerary | Asia | Sri Lanka
The best of South Coast Sri Lanka
Stretched out along a vast sweeping arc of sun-drenched coastline, much of Sri Lanka’s south coast feels authentically rural and remains a mainstay of Sinhalese tradition. The chilled out pace of life in the region is focussed mainly around coconut farming, rice cultivation and fishing which is still practised in some areas by the distinctively Sri Lankan stilt-fishing method.
Sri Lanka’s south coast has much to offer visitors; from coconut fringed pristine beaches where you catch some of the best surf on the island and witness baby sea turtles hatching in the sand to wildlife based activities such as whale watching and leopard safaris, the area will not disappoint.
We recommend a stay of around four to five nights and the Tangalle / Rekawa area is ideally located for exploring the beaches and is an equal distance (around 90 minutes) to both Yala and Udawalawe National Parks. You can reach this part of the south coast in around an hour of two’s drive along the coast road from Galle. Leaving Galle at around 2pm will allow you time to visit the sea turtle hatchery near Koggala beach and see the stilt-fishermen in the area around Weligama before sunset. A good itinerary for this part of your Sri Lanka trip would be to spending a couple of days relaxing on the beach / at the resort and two days sightseeing, you could choose to do either a safari at both national parks (on separate days) or one safari plus a day trip visiting local villages and beaches.
There are several upmarket hotels around Tangalle, which offer superb accommodation at reasonable prices. We stayed four nights at Buckingham Place Hotel and found both the service and quality of the accommodation exceptional. With a stunning infinity pool, swim up bar and unique views over the Indian Ocean, it really doesn’t get much better. The food on offer in the restaurant at Buckingham Place was also the best we experienced anywhere in Sri Lanka (in particular the traditional Kotthu Roti and Egg Hoppers).
Framed by the Sri Lankan highlands to the north, Udawalawe is an important habitat for Sri Lankan elephants and is one of the best places in world to see these animals in the wild. Many elephants are attracted to the park because of the Udawalawe reservoir and they remain the park’s key attraction, with a population of around 600 in herds of up to 50. Mainly comprised of grasslands and bush forest, it's also one of the best national parks in Sri Lanka for bird and game spotting. Safaris should be organised by your hotel or driver, alternatively book directly with a reputable operator (such as Udawalawa Safari).
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka, bordering the Indian Ocean to the south. The park consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public. Including Sri Lankan elephant, 44 species of mammals are resident in Yala National Park, and it has the highest leopard density of any national park in the world. It is estimated that 35-40 individual leopards roam in block 1 and around 15 in block 5 of the park. The elephant herd of Yala contains 300–350 individuals. The sloth bear, leopard, elephant, and wild water buffalo are all threatened species that Yala is harbouring. Toque macaque, golden palm civet, red slender loris, fishing cat, various species of deer, crocodiles and mongoose are among the other animals that can be seen in Yala.
We took a full-day tour of Yala with Daya Safari and although it was a very hot day the visit was thoroughly enjoyable. We met Chanake our expert driver and guide outside Tissamaharama at around 5.30am and arrived at the entrance to Block 5 in time to be one of the first through the gates, this also meant we were able to have an official guide from the park join us on our tour. We had a great day and saw more wildlife than we expected including lots of deer, crocodiles, water buffalo, mongoose, elephants, jackals, many species of birds including a beautiful painted stalk and the elusive leopard which crossed one of the jeep tracks right in front of us.