“In the heart of Sri Lanka is a rarely visited national park teeming¬†with elephants, leopards and birds” – Gal Oya National Park!

~ says Richard Holledge from UK’s news channel – The Standard.

Situated 314 km southeast of Colombo, Gal Oya National Park lies in the district of Ampara within Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. Established in 1954, it serves as the primary catchment area for the Senanayake Samudra, Sri Lanka’s largest reservoir, created by damming the Galoya River at Inginiyagala, as part of the Galoya Development Program.

Covering an area of 25,900 hectares, the park is renowned for its elephant population, visible year-round. Visitors can witness herds of elephants swimming between islands to graze on lush vegetation while enjoying a boat ride. This captivating sight is common from March to July.

elephant swimming at gal oya national park

Boat Safari at Gal Oya National Park

The predominant feature of Gal Oya is its vast surface of water, offering a unique opportunity for both boat safaris and traditional jeep safaris. The boat safaris, conducted by the Sri Lanka Navy on simple eight-seater open boats, typically operate in the early mornings, offering scenic views of the landscape.

flock of birds at gal oya national park

Bird Island

Additionally, the boat excursion offers close encounters with numerous bird species nesting on Bird Island. The park is home to almost 150 species of bird species, both migratory and endemic.

bird island at gal oya national park

Amongst the endemic species at Gal Oya National Park are the Lesser adjutant, Spot billed pelican and Red faced malkoha. Some of the water birds that frequent the tank includes the Lesser whistling duck, the Indian cormorant, Orient darter and the Grey heron and a diversity of butterflies, amphibians and raptors.

bird island at gal oya national park

The abundance of bird species and the opportunity to witness their group dynamics up close from a serene boat ride; catching sight of a couple of magnificent Lesser Adjutant Storks; and marveling at the sheer beauty of the aquascape, all contribute to the unforgettable experience.

Other Wildlife at Gal Oya National Park

The park’s vegetation primarily consists of shrubs, grasslands, and forests, renowned for their abundance of valuable medicinal herbs utilized in Ayurvedic medicine. The park hosts a variety of mammals, totaling 32 species, including elephants, leopards, langurs, endemic toque macaques, sloth bears, wild boars, Sri Lankan sambar deer, axis deer, and water buffalo. Visitors may also encounter reptiles such as mugger crocodiles and star tortoises.

crocodile sighting at gal oya national park
wild boar sighting at gal oya national park
peacock sighting at gal oya national park

Accommodation in Gal Oya

Accommodation in the area is limited, but yet offers a variety of high, medium and low budget options. If you are in for a pampered holiday, choose from Gal Oya Lodge, Wild Glamping Gal Oya or Gal Oya Lake Club. These properties are eco-friendly, catering 100% to the conscious and sustainable group of travelers visiting Sri Lanka. In fact, the Conde Nast Traveller has listed Gal Oya Lodge as one of the best places in Sri Lanka for remote adventurers.

luxury tents at wild glamping gal oya

Final Thoughts

Situated in the eastern part of Sri Lanka, Gal Oya National Park is one of the few major national parks that are undiscovered. While the park itself is fantastic, it is quite off route from all popular destinations in Sri Lanka. The closest place of tourist interest is Arugam Bay – popularly known as the surfer’s paradise. Gal Oya National Park also offers jeep safari experiences. Due to the park being a lesser known one, you have the opportunity to enjoy a safari in the complete absence of any other jeeps. So if you prefer having the wildlife and scenic landscapes all to yourself instead of sharing it with flocks of other visitors, Gal Oya is the ideal destination! Get in touch with our team at Travel Treasures to plan a completely off-the-beaten track holiday itinerary in Sri Lanka!