Kaudulla National Park, 6,900 hectares in extent, is one of the more recently established National Parks in Sri Lanka. It is situated 197 km from the City of Colombo, in the North Central Province, just 30km away from Polonnaruwa. The wildlife sanctuary was designated a National Park in 2002 and serves as a elephant corridor for migrating Elephants from Minneriya and Wasgamuwa National Parks in the north central and the Somawathiya National Park in the north east regions.
Kaudulla is historically important as it is one of the famed 16 irrigation tanks built by King Mahasen in 1959. The park mainly consists of a mix of dry scrub forest and grasslands. The tank which dominates the background of the Park is an important meeting place for hundreds of species of wildlife which popularly includes hundreds of Elephants who come to water at the reservoir, especially during the dry seasons. Others include 24 species of mammals such as Sambar deer, Axis deer, Monkeys, Wild boar, Chevrotain, Sloth bear and the more elusive Leopard and Grey slender loris. Birdlife International has recognized Kaudula National Park as an important bird area, where 160 of species of birds have been identified; some of them are Spot-billed pelican, Lesser adjutant, Asian spoonbill, Grey-headed fish eagle, Black-headed ibis, Painted and open-billed storks, Peacock and the Giant eagle. However the photographer’s favourite are the thousands of pelicans flocked together enjoying the water at sunset. Also identified here are 26 species of fish which include Oreochromis mossambicus, 25 species of reptiles; Freshwater turtles such as the Indian Flap-shelled turtle and Indian black turtle and an endemic species of amphibian – Fejervaryapulla.
The best time to visit the park is between August and December, particularly during September and October when the largest gathering of Elephants can be witnessed. Visitors also have the opportunity to take a memorable paddle boat ride across the reservoir, an excellent means of observing birds at close range.