Elephants on the lawn at the Beautiful Gal Oya National Park
The Beautiful Gal Oya National Park

If you are someone who likes your life filled with adventures, you must visit Sri Lanka at least once in your lifetime. The wilderness of Sri Lanka is just elegant and there is so much to explore in the paradise island. It is fair to call Sri Lanka, the dreamland for a naturalist. The unspoiled nature and the jaw-dropping views will make you fall in love with the beautiful country. A new adventure always awaits you in Sri Lanka and there are lots of places that you could visit in the country. In fact, there are 22 national parks in Sri Lanka scattered throughout the country. Each park is unique and different from one another. Gal Oya national park is one such versatile tourist attraction. This article carries all the facts you need to know before arranging your trip to this wonderful park.

About the Gal Oya National Park

Gal Oya national park is one of the most naturally beautiful landscapes of Sri Lanka. It was established as a national park on 12th February 1954. Its main purpose is to protect the catchment area of the Senanayake Samudra reservoir. The park operates under the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Besides, Gal Oya national park is a landscape with a historical value too. The park is a valley area that consists of three different locations that have provided shelter to ancient kings such as King Tissa, King Buvanekabahu, and King Dore Swamy. There are also ancient ruins and Brahmi inscriptions in this area.

The forest is mostly evergreen and 10% of the park is water bodies. 2% of the land area is used for chena cultivation by the locals. The park receives an annual rainfall of 1766 mm. However, generally, there is hot weather in the park throughout the year.

Besides, Gal Oya park is home to 32 species of terrestrial mammals and 334 species of birds. The vegetation of the park includes forests, savanna, grasslands, and chena. Owing to all these features, Gal Oya national park happens to be a popular tourist destination for its natural elegance.

Where is Gal Oya National Park Located?

Gal Oya national park is located in the Uva and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. It lies in the Badulla district and another part is in the Ampara district. To be specific about its location, it is situated on the Bible-Ampara to Inginiyagala road at the end of the 30 km post.

The nearest major city to the park is Ampara. It is located 376 kilometers away from Colombo. Gal Oya park is a prominent part of the east of the central hills of the island. The park surrounds the famous Senanayake Samudra reservoir but the reservoir is not a part of the park. This evergreen monsoonal forest is a major tourist destination in the southeastern side of Sri Lanka.

Physical Features of the Park

Gal Oya National park spreads through a land area of 25 900 hectares. The altitude of the park ranges from about 30m to over 500m. As the catchment area of the Senanayake Samudra reservoir, the park consists of rocky and forested hills. Danigala, Nilgala, and Ulpotha are such mountainous areas of the park.

Besides, the land area of the Gal Oya park falls within the dry zone of the country. The Digha Vapi Dagoba, built in the 2nd century BC is situated in the Buddhangala sanctuary of the park. It is stated in history that Lord Buddha has visited the place so it attracts many Buddhist pilgrims. The lush evergreen forest is a perfect landscape for dry mixed vegetation and diverse wildlife. The average temperature of the park ranges between 29°C and 35°C.

What to Expect from the Gal Oya National Park

Do you want to know what surprises await you in this absolute gem in Sri Lanka? Here are some reasons why you will love the Gal Oya Park.

A Unique Biodiversity

You will meet a lot of wild companions during your trip to Gal Oya national park. You can find below different species of mammals that you can spot in the park.

  • Langur
  • Toque macaque
  • Leopard
  • Sloth bear
  • Wild bear
  • Water buffalo
  • Deer

Apart from that, the park is also a safe haven for everyone’s favorite, Asian elephants in Sri Lanka. Besides, Gal Oya park is blessed with a wide variety of birdlife. Red-faced malkoha, and Sri Lanka spurfowl, are some endemic birds in Sri Lanka who live in the Gal Oya Park. Large numbers of fish-eating birds and frugivorous birds are the two ecological categories of birds living in the park.

Besides, reptiles like muggers, common monitor, rat snakes, python, and venomous snakes, freshwater turtles also call Gal Oya park their home. Hence, the park is great to watch these undomesticated animals in their natural habitats.

Above all, the park is indeed a natural wonder with the greenery being the highlight. There is a dense closed canopy layer at the Gal Oya park with halmilla, etamba, kalu madiriya, and ebony trees. The western side of the park is mainly savannah. The grasslands of the park’s main sprawl around the water bodies of the park.

Learning about the ecosystem of such uninhabited natural systems like in Gal Oya park is an incredible experience that you can get while traveling in Sri Lanka. In fact, the gorgeous greenery of the park will make you believe that our planet earth is such a wonderful place.

A Splendored Landscape

Even though many tourists visit the Gal Oya park every year, it is not largely developed for tourism. Therefore, Gal Oya park is just untouched forest views with a very quiet environment. This natural setting is ideal to connect with nature and give your mind a well-deserved peaceful break. The magical views will make you love everything about Gal Oya Park. The mountainous landscapes, large freshwater bodies, and bumpy roads are perfect conditions for an amazing exploring experience. To be specific, Gal Oya park invites you to embrace the soothing natural setting where you can see every shade of green, anywhere you look.

Much Loved Jeep Safari Trips

Safari is a must-have experience when in a wildlife park or a natural reserve. It is also the easiest way to get close to the natural treasures of the park and the undomesticated animals.

When you visit the Gal Oya National Park, you can easily arrange a jeep safari from a service provider. They will take you inside the park, especially near the freshwater streams. With the guidance of your tour guide, you will be able to take a refreshing dip in the bubbling waters. But the safari’s claim to fame is watching the wildlife. You will be able to spot many Asian elephants, other mammals, and different kinds of birds gracing the skies of Gal Oya. You can have the best picnic of your life immersed in the local elegance.

A jeep safari in the Gal Oya park usually takes around six hours. You can go on the safari either in the early morning or in the afternoon. The safari is not uncomfortable and it is also kid-friendly, so you can have the safari experience as a family. You will be provided with refreshments during the tour. The skilled drivers and your tour guide will make you feel like you are going on a luxury journey amidst the secluded forests. Furthermore, you can pay a visit to the nearby Vedda village to have a look at the lifestyle of the indigenous community in Sri Lanka, along with your Gal Oya park safari.

Boat Safari in Gal Oya National Park

If you have loved going on jeep safaris, the next thing you should try is boat safaris! Boat safaris are a unique activity to do in the Gal Oya national park and it will make you explore the wild from a different perspective. The wildlife department operates these boat safaris. Further, these safaris will take you around the small islands in the Senanayake Samudra reservoir which are rich in biodiversity. This will be a brand new adventure for you to have a closer look at the wildlife, especially aquatic animals.

You can arrange the boat safari in the morning or the evening or else you can book a full day safari trip. You can even customize the safari trip according to your needs. For instance, if you are into photography, you can let the tour guides know so that they can take you to the ideal locations.

Sri Lanka is famous for its mighty giants of the land, Asian elephants. But did you know that these giants are actually good swimmers? Well, if you are lucky enough, you will be able to see it for yourself during your boat safari in Gal Oya Park. It will be the highlight of your boat safari. Many tourists prefer the boat safaris over the jeep safaris just to see how elephants swim in the Senanayake Samudra reservoir. So, if you get the chance to see them, make sure to capture the precious moment because it will be a highlight of your travel memories too.

Best Time to Visit the Park

The time period from March to July is the best time to visit the Gal Oya national park. Exploring the park in pleasant weather is such an exciting experience. Particularly, you can watch how elephants swim from island to island across the reservoir during this time. But if your plan is to watch the vibrant birdlife of the park, then the time period between December to April would be more suitable. When going on your safari in the Gal Oya park, it’s better to go either early in the morning or in the evening, so that you can avoid traveling under the scorching sun. In addition, chasing the sunrise or the sunset will add more delight to your experience in serene nature.

How to Get to Gal Oya National Park?

There’s an approximately 5-hour drive to the Gal Oya park from Colombo and 3.5 hours drive from Kandy. You can use various transportation methods from Colombo such as public buses, trains, taxis, etc.

You can even take a domestic flight from Colombo to Batticaloa and then take a taxi for the remaining distance to the park. Yet, flights are not that available, and they cost a lot. Hence, the most practical way is to use public or public transportation, taking the routes from Colombo via Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Uda Walawe, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Monaragala, and then north from Siyambalanduwa to Inginiyagala.

What is the Entrance Fee to the Gal Oya Park?

The entrance fee to Gal Oya National Park differs for locals and foreigners.

  • Entry fees for Sri Lankans – LKR 40 + LKR 300 Group fee + 15% VAT
  • Entry fees for foreign nationals – USD 10 + USD 8 Group fee + 15% VAT

But, when you arrange your trip from a hotel or a service provider, usually the entrance fee is inclusive of their whole fee. In that case, prices can vary according to the type of package you obtain. 

Things to Remember When Planning your Trip to Gal Oya National Park

Especially, if you are a foreigner, there are certain things that you need to know when planning your trip to Gal Oya National Park. They are as follows.

  • There aren’t any accommodation facilities inside the park but there are hotels outside the park in areas like Ampara and Inginiyagala.
  • It is better to wear light-colored clothing and not to make loud noises inside the park as it could disturb the wildlife. Therefore, wear appropriate clothes for a safari and take necessary measures to ensure the safety of you and your group members.
  • Keep yourself hydrated to avoid any inconvenience due to the heat.
  • Don’t get into the waters or to the forest without the permission of your tour guide.
  • Enjoy your trip to the fullest but make sure that your trip is always eco-friendly to conserve the beautiful environment.

The Bottom Line

The extensive network of the Sri Lankan national parks has so much to offer for a tourist. Specifically, the Gal Oya national park is a rather hidden gem that is yet to be fully explored. However, a visit to this national park will also give you an opportunity to re-wild yourself. This biodiversity hotspot can connect you with nature and have an adventure like no other. This is one of the most memorable experiences that you can have in Sri Lanka. Gal Oya national park will be tangled up in your travel memories for sure. So, visit Gal Oya national park to take a much-needed vacation. Happy and Safe Travelling!