White Greater flamingos in a swamp by a lawn at Bundala National Park, the Wonderful Land of Birds in Sri Lanka!
White Greater Flamingos at Bundala National Park, Sri Lanka

Of course, it is true that Sri Lanka is a tiny island nestled among the mighty blue waves of the Indian Ocean. Still, the natural splendours it holds, coupled with the grandeur of its wonderful history, rich traditions and culture, and the wonderful hearts of Sri Lankans, simply make it a paradise second to none. And yes, owing to these reasons, this tiny island ranks top in the lists of significant tourist attractions in global tourism. However, among all these diverse aspects that allure tourists to this splendid island, the awe of the Sri Lankan wildlife, especially the amazing birdlife, backed by the enlivening lush greenery is indeed a highlight. And yes, you guessed it right! Bundala National Park, about which we share with you today is simply a fascinating land of birds, that proves its delight.

So, ready to begin the wonderful journey of exploring the beauty out of there? Get your seat belts on. Here we go!

Significance of Bundala National Park

Bundala National Park, initially known as a wildlife sanctuary, covered 6,216 hectares of an area originally. However, it later reduced its size to 3,698 hectares as per a gazette in 2004. Still, its significance is never any less. In fact, Bundala National Park was declared as the first Ramsar Wetland in Sri Lanka on the 15th of June 1990 under reference number 487. Also, UNESCO designated this National Park as a biosphere reserve in 2005.

This park provides shelter to a diverse array of animal species. Yet, the Bundala National Park is popular as a wildlife sanctuary and an internationally important wintering ground in Sri Lanka for many migratory birds. To be specific, this land is home to more than 200 bird species. Further, 150 of them are endemic while others are migratory.

Most of the birds escaping their homes in northern cold climates make this park their winter home owing to the geographical position of Sri Lanka. In fact, being a tropical island with a favourable temperate climate, Sri Lanka is an ideal destination for migratory birds. Usually, these overseas birds choose the same destination every year. Thus, November to April is the season in which the overseas bird community can be commonly seen in Bundala.

Besides, the topography of Bundala National Park is a combination of fantastic waterways, lagoons, and dunes. The lagoons attract most of the birds in the park and their activities are visible around these lagoons mostly.

Location of Bundala National Park

Bundala National Park is located in the southern province of the island of Sri Lanka. In fact, it is around 245 kilometres away from Colombo. Besides, the park stretches for about 20 kilometres along the coastal stripe of Sri Lanka between Kirinda and Hambantota. The entrance to the park is from west of the 251km post and the nearest city to the park is Hambantota.

How to Reach it?

Bundala National Park is accessible from most of the tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. From Colombo, the route lies upon Galle, Matara and Hambantota through the A2 main motor road while from Kandy, the route is via Badulla.

Moreover, safaris to Bundala National Park can be arranged from the city Tissamaharama and Hambantota. Even though Hambantota is closer to the park, Tissamaharama is the most preferred starting point to Bundala National Park safaris. It takes about 30 minutes to reach Bundala from Tissamaharama.

However, if you are using public transportation, the best option to reach Bundala is by bus. If not, a taxi would be the best option for you, since there is no railway facility in this part of the island. Alternatively, the facility of Air Taxi is available in Sri Lanka. Thus, getting an air taxi from Colombo by the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) to Hambantota, and then reaching the park on road is also possible.

The Landscape of Bundala National Park

Bundala National Park rests in Sri Lanka’s low country dry zone climate area and it makes a tropical monsoonal climate condition over the area. Thus, the climate out there is generally hot and dry, while that dry period runs from May to September. Moreover, the annual average temperature is 27 °C (81 °F) and annual rainfall ranges from 900 to 1300 mm. The area of the Bundala National Park has an average relative humidity of 80%. Besides, the elevation of the park ranges from 10 meters to sea level.

The land of the park area is generally flat with sand dunes and they make a coastal border. In addition, dry thorny scrubs in the land provides a natural barrier to the winds to minimize the desertification of the countryside. Besides, the Bundala National Park is a combination of five shallow, brackish lagoons. Those lagoons by their names are as follows.

  • Bundala lagoon – 520 hectares
  • Embilikala lagoon – 430 hectares
  • Malala lagoon -650 hectares
  • Koholankala lagoon – 390 hectares
  • Mahalewaya lagoon -260 hectares

Further, Koholankala and Mahalewaya lagoons are completely developed as salt pans. And yes, they are used for salt production in Sri Lanka.

Birdlife at Bundala

Out of all the bird species in Bundala park, there are water birds as well as migratory birds. Amongst them, the main highlights are as follows.

  • Greater Flamingo
  • Indian Whistling Ducks
  • Garganey
  • Little Cormorant
  • Indian Cormorant
  • Grey Heron
  • Black-headed Ibis
  • Eurasian Spoonbill
  • Asian Openbill
  • Painted Stork
  • Black-necked Stork

Besides, the following briefs about a few of the wonderful bird species out there will help you identify them from your first sight!

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus Roseus)

This is the largest of the Flamingo family. They are about 110 -150 cm in height. Further, their weight ranges between 2-4 kg. The plumage of Greater Flamingos is pinkish white and the primary and secondary flight feathers are black. The beak is pink with a black tip and the legs are totally pink in colour. They prefer to reside in mudflats and coastal lagoons of saltwater. Thus, Bundala park becomes an ideal land for them to reside in the winter period.

​Indian Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna Javanica)

They can be seen in flocks around lakes and wetlands during the day time. They are brown, long-necked ducks that have broad wings. Also, while they fly, they produce a wheezy sound with their wings.

Garganey (Spatula Querquedula)

They fly to their refuge lands as the entire population in migratory periods. They are small dabbling ducks with a grey colour plumage with loose grey scapular feathers. Their heads are brown and their faces look reddish-brown. Further, Garganeys have a grey colour beak and over their eyes, there is a broad white crescent which is clearly noticeable.

Little Cormorant (Microcarbo Niger

This is a bird species that belong to the Cormorant family of seabirds. They forage singly or sometimes in small groups. Its entire body is black and lacks a peaked head while having a shorter beak. The plumage is slightly brownish and a white colour patch is visible in the throat area.

Indian Cormorants (Phalacrocorax Fuscicollis)

They are distinguished from other little cormorants by their blue colour eyes, small head with a sloping forehead and a long narrow beak ending with a hooked tip.

In addition to the above, there is a huge list of birds that enhance the beauty of Bundala National Park. A visit to this park will simply prove us right!

The Fascination of Bird Watching at Bundala

As you might already know, among both local and foreign visitors, Bundala National Park is very much popular due to its wide diversity of wildlife and wonderful ecosystem. And yes, the glamour the vibrant bird species add to this park, along with their chirps, simply make it one of the best national parks for bird watching in Sri Lanka. Thus, bird watching safaris out there happen to be a major attraction for any who visits the park.

The best way to arrange a bird watching safari is by directly contacting the travel guides. They possess with them accurate knowledge about the exact time and locations to spot most of the bird activities.

Besides, the bird watching packages in Bundala vary depending on the duration of the safari, and the time (whether it is morning, day or afternoon ride). However, mostly it takes about 3 hours to complete a safari tour in Bundala, and its cost approximately varies within the range of LKR 5000 to LKR 10,000 per adult.

Also, the safari guides have introduced packages with some features of instant booking, free cancellation within 24 hours, pickups from the hotels, electronic payments, and many more facilities. Most of the time, the entrance fee is included in these safari packages as well.

What is the Best Time to Visit Bunadal National Park?

The Best is to visit the Bundala National Park during the morning hours. It would be the time where you can observe most of the wonderful bird activities out there.

What are the Opening Hours of Bundala National Park?

Opening hours of the park are from 6.00 am to 7.00 pm daily. Moreover, the last ride from the entrance starts at 4.30 pm. The entrance fee to the park at the time of bringing this information to you is $10. Yet, please note this amount might have changed at the time you plan the visit.

Conservation of Birds in the Park

Conservation projects in Bundala are mostly done upon invasive plants and freshwater mixing up with the lagoon water. In fact, invasive plants such as  Prosopis juliflora and Opuntia dilleniiare are all over the park and they now act as a major threat to the wading birds’ habitat and the wildlife of the park. However, the removal of the invasive plants manually is indeed difficult. That is because the area where they have spread over time is vast. Even if the plants are cut down, the left-over pieces of the plant can re-sprout. Considering these threats, several conservation projects have been launched. They mainly aim at the eradication of the above mentioned two plants by re-demarcation of the park’s boundaries and widening it to include the northern scrubland. Moreover, they also focus on resettling the families who are inhabiting the park.

Apart from that, to prevent the problem of freshwater mixing with the lagoon water, a proper irrigation structure needs to be created. These conservation projects are done under the CEA conservation management plan and IUCV’s biodiversity assessment report.

Besides, several other projects are also undergoing to conserve wildlife and the ecosystem of the park premises. The Department of Wildlife Conservation has the authority over the Bundala National Park and National Bird ringing Program (NBRP) in Bundala has been launched in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka.

Other Animal Species in Bundala National Park

The beauty of Bundala National Park, not only lies upon the delightful bird species residing in it but also upon the extensive range of wildlife. Yes, this park is a safe home for various species of animals.  In fact, mammals, amphibians and reptiles are ever-present in this park area.

Grey Langurs and Toque Macaques are the most common mammals in the Bundala National Park. Moreover, there are other mammal species such as follows.

  • Civets
  • Grey and Ruddy mongoose
  • Spotted deer
  • Wild buffalo
  • Squirrels

In total, there are 32 species of mammals in the park. However, elephants in the park are very few. To be specific, there are only about 25 to 60 elephants in total in Bundala National Park.

Various reptile species are present in the park as well. Some of them are as follows.

  • Estuarine crocodile
  • Mugger crocodiles
  • Loggerhead turtles
  • Hawk’s bill turtle
  • Olive ridley
  • Green turtle

Besides, in total there are about 15 species of amphibians and 48 species of reptiles in this area.

Also, there are other animal species such as fish and butterflies which add vibrant colours to the Bundala National Park.

The Bottom Line

Bundala National Park is the home for more than 200 species of birds and it is an excellent winter home for the migrating birds escaping the cold climates. Enriched with enough space and food, this land provides shelter for birds and other animals within the park. Among many national parks, Bundala outstands for its huge diversity of birds and acts as a treasure trove for bird enthusiasts. Thus, without a doubt, this wonderful land of birds is surely a must-visit on this splendid island. So, if you ever arriving in Sri Lanka, never miss the chance of witnessing the charming delight of the Bundala National Park. Yes, we repeat it! Bundala National Park is a must-visit. Happy and Safe Travelling!