Uda Walawe National Park

This 30,821ha (76,159-acre) national park offers an accessible slice of Sri Lankan wilderness, providing a refuge for elephants, toque money, grey langur, spotted deer, wild pig, lepord and sambur, as well as more than 100 bird species, including white-bellied sea eagle, crested serpent eagle, and changeable hawk eagle. The park surrounds a large artificial lake, the Uda Walawe Reservoir, fed by the Walawe Ganga, the river which then flows south to meet the sea at Ambalantota. Created in 1972 from abanded plantations, open grassland and scrub jungle, Uda Walawe is easy to reach- only 100km (64miles) north of Hambantota and about the same distance south of Ratnapura, off the A18 highway. This accessibility creates some problems: illegal settlements and grazing on the edge of the park, occasional poaching, and an ever-increasing number of visitors in their own vehicles. Urban development and the post-tsunami growth of tourism on the south coast may add to these problems.