Wilpattu means “land of natural lakes” and these are mostly fresh water “saucer fashioned” lakes which are commonly referred to as Villus. The Wilpattu National Park is both the largest and the oldest National Park in Sri Lanka. First, declared a Sanctuary in 1905 and then in 1938 it was declared a park whilst gaining popularity due to the high prevalence of Sri Lankan Leopards. In 1947, the Wilpattu North Sanctuary was declared. It is also well known for its unique ecological and archeological heritage. The 1,085 sq km dry zone jungle is one of the best places to go to spot the leopard and sloth bear. After Yala National Park, this is probably the second best eco system to spot the leopard in its natural habitat. It is home to a diverse range of wildlife which includes the highly threatened Sri Lankan Sloth Bear and wild buffalo. There are 41 species of recorded mammals including 4 endemic species of monkeys well distributed across the ecosystem.
A topographical feature is the abundance of villus, or natural lake-like basins which stand out prominently in this landscape of the Wilpattu National Park. Except for two, all the villus contain rainwater and this attracts both resident and migratory water-birds. It contains unique ecological features which cover wetlands, riverine forests and coastal ecosystems.
Archeological evidences from Wilpattu…..
The history of the park is extremely fascination with ancient ruins having been discovered in Wilpattu. Queen Kuweni (considered to be the mother of the sinhala race) married to the first king of Sri Lanka is said to have lived in the place known as Kalli Villu. Chronological evidence points to the fact that Prince Saliya son of King Dutugemunu lived in Wilpattu over 2,000 years ago. Some unbelievable Urns from ancient times have been excavated in the Pomparippu area which is near the southern boundary of the park. Another interesting fact is that between the villages of Palangaturai and Kollankanatte there are remnants of an old harbor. The precise location is the Uruvela Village and Port. If one was to analyze and review the historical chronology of wilpattu, there is evidence of the Mesolithic Culture to early historic period which is the Anuradhapura Period. The Galge rock inscription and Ochchappukallu inscription belongs to the mid early historic period. In the colonial period, 1500 to 1948, the Pallekandal Church is the best known landmark. These are places not on the popular road network of Wikpattu but can be visited. A word of caution is that sometimes during the rainy season you will require 4×4 support travelling in pairs.
The Wonderful Experience….
A safari trip in Wilpattu is somewhat different from the other major national parks. Visitor numbers remain low and a handful of tourist jeeps can be spotted in the park at any one time. This gives Wilpattu a wonderful wilderness
Birders get attracted and will love Wilpattu with its abundance of dry forest, water and even coastal birds. Migrant birds from Western Asia and India arrive from November to April to avoid the low temperature winter seasons. A total of 150 species of birds from over 50 families have been recorded in the park
along with 4 endemic species such as Gray Hornbill, Brown capped Babbler, Crimson fronted Barbet and our well known Sri Lanka jungle fowl.
In our last issue, covering Mannar basin, we gave some coverage to the Mannar Boabab Tree. We need to inform you that Wilpattu National Park has one largest Boabab tree in the Island. As a regular visitor to Gangewadiya, across the southern boundary of Wilpattu National Park where the Kala Oya flows into the Dutch Bay, we have often seen its magnificent mangroves – the building blocks that give life to eco systems.
Situated on the western boundary of Wilpattu, it takes a combination of trekking and a 30-minute boat ride from Gange Wadiya to reach this massive tree. The Baobab (also referred to as Baob or upside-down tree) is native to Africa. It is also reported that there are a few species of Baobab in Madagascar and Australia. The existence of Baobab trees in Sri Lanka is little known and to visit the tree in Wilpattu is a wonderful expedition.