After Independence Sri Lanka’s first significant irrigation project is the Gal Oya Valley project. Within it was built the biggest reservoir in the country, the Senanayake Samudra which is considered the key feature of the Gal Oya National Park. In fact the Gal Oya National Park has the distinction of being the only park in the country where boat safaris are also an option.
Catching sight of elephants swimming across the lake being one of the most exciting aspects of the boat safari. That is if you are not already impressed with the picturesque hill-forests, the leopards, water buffaloes, wild boar, crocodiles, and different species of deer that inhabit the park. There are also many little islands on the Senanayake Samudra which are dwelling place of numerous birds species. It is estimated that from 430 bird species on record in Sri Lanka a 150 of them reside at Gal Oya.
It is approx. 4.5 hours drive from Sigiriya and approx.. 7 hours drive to Colombo.
Gal Oya National Park can be reached from Colombo via Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Udawalawe, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Moneragala and then north from Siyambalanduwa to Inginiyagala. The park entrance is 20 km west from Ampara at Inginiyagala. Inginiyagala affords the tourists the opportunity of a boat trip around the great Senanayake Samudra reservoir. Ampara can be reached by domestic flight too.
Additionally, Gal Oya National Park allows the visitors to enjoy its beauty and wild life by Boat safari as well as by Jeep safaris. Boat safari affords the opportunity to land in an island within the reservoir called “Bird Island” swarming with birds.
This National Park Jeep safaris that consist of two tracks of 5km and 13 km are ideal to catch the sights of elephants and leopards.Best time to visit Gal Oya National Park is from March to July. During this period, the boat safaris bring the spectacle of herds of elephants swimming from one island to another island in the great Senanayaka Samaudra reservoir.
Furthermore, Gal Oya National Park is a sanctuary to 32 species of terrestrial mammals. The highest populations are common Langur (Presbytis Entellus), endemic Toque Macaque (Macaca Sinica), Leopard (Pathera Pardus kotiya) sloth bear (Melursus Ursinus), Elephant (Elephas Maximus), Wild Boar (Sus Scrofa), three species of deer and Water Buffalo (Bubalus Bubalis).
About 150 species of birds of 334 species of Sri Lanka are seen at Gal Oya National Park. The Lesser Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican and Red-faced Malkoha are some of the park’s resident birds. The Indian Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Grey Heron, and Lesser Whistling Duck are among the common water birds of the Senanayake reservoir. The White-bellied Sea Eagle, and Grey-headed Fish Eagle are the notable raptors of the area. Gal Oya National Park‘s butterfly species include the endemic Lesser Albatross.
The Gal Oya National Park can be visited throughout the year but the period from March to July is recommended. During this period, the boat safaris bring the spectacle of herds of elephants swimming from one island to another island in the great Senanayaka Samaudra reservoir.
Unique to the island, Gal Oya is the only national park where safaris are conducted by boat, allowing closer than usual wildlife encounters. The highlight of a visit is to spot elephants swimming between the islands dotted around the lake – a memorable and profound experience.
Gal Oya National Park may be visited on a 3-hour jeep safari when staying locally only.