Big Five Wildlife in Seven Days

A big five to rival any other

When you hear the term “Big Five animals”, you immediately think of the big five animals that can be found in Africa i.e. African Elephants, African Lions, Cape Buffalo, African Leopards, and Rhinoceroses. Sri Lankan nature lovers have devised a list of big five animals for this island that rivals this list, and even goes beyond it in terms of diversity and size. Sri Lanka has been classified as an oddity in terms of biodiversity, as it is said to have as much as 13 times as biodiversity as it should in an island of its size. It is also theorised that Sri Lanka should not be, due to its size, home for truly large mammals, but the wide variety of mammal species that roam the national parks and oceans quite freely beg to differ. 


Sri Lanka’s suggested big five animals include three terrestrial mammals and two marine mammals, one of which is the largest animal ever to have lived. From smallest to largest they are the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, the Sri Lankan Leopard, the Sri Lankan Elephant, the Sperm Whale, and the Blue Whale. 

What makes Sri Lanka such a great country to view these beautiful animals is the proximity of the wilderness areas to one another. You will be promised bears at Wilpattu, leopards at Yala, and elephants at Udawalawe, but chances are that you might see two or all these animals in any of these national parks. 

The populations vary from one park to another, as one might expect, but the chance is there nonetheless. What’s more, off the southern coast of Mirissa is an area that is considered one of the best whale and dolphin watching locations in the world. 
The team at Rewards Holidays is ready to provide a unique experience where you will get to travel to the wildlife hotspots of the country in the comfort of our luxury vehicles. Once there, you will get the services of some of the best licenced guides and naturalists in the country. 



Sloth Bear

Blue Whale

Tour Highlights

  • See Sri Lankan Sloth Bears at Wilpattu National Park
  • See Blue Whales and Sperm Whales off the coast of Mirissa
  • See Sri Lankan Leopards at Yala National Park
  • See Sri Lankan Elephants at Udawalawe National Park


  • Day 01: Drive from the airport to Wilpattu National Park, where you will take a safari in search of sloth bears. Stay overnight at a safari camp at Wilpattu.
  • Day 02: Drive to Mirissa; you may visit the beach in Mirissa or Unawatuna on this day. Stay overnight at a hotel in Mirissa.
  • Day 03: Go on a whale watching expedition in the morning off the coast of Mirissa. Drive to Yala National Park, where you will stay overnight in a safari camp.
  • Day 04: Take a full day’s game drive at the Yala National Park, where you will be on the lookout for Leopards. Stay overnight at a safari camp at Yala National Park.
  • Day 05: Take a morning leopard safari at the Yala National Park, after which you will drive to Udawalawe National Park, the best national park to see Sri Lankan elephants. Stay overnight at a safari camp at Udawalawe National Park.
  • Day 06: After a morning safari at Udawalawe National Park, drive to Negombo. Stay overnight at a hotel in Negombo.
  • Day 07: Transfer to the airport for departure.

Included in the Tour Price

  • Air-conditioned chauffeur-driven luxury vehicle(s) and guides during the entirety of the tour.
  • All entrance tickets or permits to national parks.
  • Price of whale watching tour in Mirissa.
  • Accommodation in a shared double room at hotels according to your budget on a bed & breakfast basis.
  • All meals provided at Safari Camps throughout the tour.
  • All government taxes and service charges.

Excluded from the Tour Price

  • Expenses of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, and beverages
  • Photo and video permits at sightseeing locations
  • Tips and gratuities to staff or guides.
  • All meals other than those specified above
  • Air Tickets
  • Any expenses for extra activities
  • Travel Insurance

Seven Days, Five Big Mammals

You will be greeted at the Bandaranaike International Airport by our representative, and you will be driven to the Wilpattu National Park. 
The Wilpattu National Park is situated in the north western region of Sri Lanka, and is the oldest and largest national park in the country. The national park envelopes an area that covers several types of forest, from wetlands to shrubs and grasslands. The Wilpattu National Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including Sri Lankan Leopards, Sri Lankan Elephants, a number of primates, crocodiles and other reptiles, and more than 200 species of birds, but on this trip, the main attraction will be the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus inornatus). 
Sri Lankan Sloth Bears are a subspecies of the Asian Sloth Bear, and are generally smaller than their Asian cousins. These bears were once common throughout the island, but are now limited to some of its national parks. Distant relatives of European brown bears, sloth bears are also known as labiated bears owing to their specially adapted lips, which help it suck out termites and other insects from their hiding places. Often you would know that a bear is having a hearty meal when you hear the vacuum-cleaner-like action being used to clean out termite mounds. The noise is loud and can be heard hundreds of yards away. Sloth bears have a varied diet that includes aforementioned insects and a collection of nuts and berries found in abundance in the national park. They are also very good climbers and have been spotted atop very tall trees looking for fruit or beehives to devour. These bears have thick shaggy coat that deters its insect attackers or victims, and a keen sense of smell that allows them to find food and stay away from danger. Sloth bears are also known to hunt smaller mammals such as deer and wild boar for food. 
Your experience at the Wipattu National Park will be in a 4WD Safari Jeep in the company of an experienced naturalist guide and driver. While spotting a bear requires patience and relative silence, the expanses of the Wilpattu National Park are your best bet in seeing them in the wild. 
You will stay overnight in a safari camp in the vicinity of the Wilpattu National Park.

After breakfast at the camp in Wilpattu, you will be driven south to Mirissa, a small town located between the southern cities of Galle and Matara. Mirissa has the port from which you will take a boat ride the next day to see whales. By the time you reach the town, it will be the afternoon, and since this time is unsuitable for whale watching, you may spend the day relaxing on one of the wonderful beaches in the area, either in Mirissa itself or in Unawatuna, the latter of which has been called one of the best beaches in the country. You will get a chance to relax and take in the atmosphere. It is recommended that you retire for the night early, as you have an early morning ahead of you. 

You will stay overnight at a luxurious hotel in Mirissa. 

In the early morning, you will leave for the port to take a boat ride to see                                                            the two largest animals in the big five. You will leave the port at 7:00am to an area of deep sea where you will see Blue Whales and Sperm Whales in their natural habitat. 

Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are the largest and heaviest animals on earth, and they are thought to be the largest animals to have ever lived on the planet. Blue whales have been known to grow up to 30 metres long, and weigh in excess of 150 tonnes. Seeing one in its natural habitat is a breath taking experience. Sri Lanka’s waters are home to one of the largest pods of blue whales known to be in existence, and these majestic giants have plenty of warm water, krill (their main diet), and plenty of deep ocean in which to roam around. If you are lucky, you may be able to see a blue whale breach the water when they come up to breathe. Blue Whales maybe the largest animals on the planet, but they are incapable of swallowing anything larger than a tennis ball, and have specialised structures in their mouths, called baleens that help it filter out food. 

Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are the largest of the toothed whales in the world, and can grow up to 16 metres in length. Sperm Whales have two rows of large teeth in its lower jaw that fit into sockets in its upper jaw, and each of its teeth may be up to 1 kg. Extensively hunted for a variety of purposes, including the extraction of fats, meat, and teeth, sperm whale numbers are a fraction of what it was before the 18th Century. Like all whale populations (including blue whales), the population of sperm whales is on the rise at a steady rate. Sperm whales are known to devour giant squid and other large fish. 

Your boat ride to see these two species of whales may provide you with more than you bargained for, as these waters are well known to be home to some other species of whale, such as the fin whale, and several species of dolphin as well. Each ride takes three to five hours depending on sightings and guest requirements, and all safety equipment will be provided. You will also be granted the services of one of the best whale watching tour operators.

After a hectic morning out at sea and memories of whales, you will head to Yala. You will stay overnight at Yala in a campsite in the vicinity of the Yala National Park.

Wake up in the early morning amidst the wilderness at Yala National Park, and get ready for an entire day filled with a safari adventure like no other. 

While early morning and late afternoon are the perfect times to start game drives in Yala, you may have the option of taking a full day’s game drive, where you get to see what this amazing national park has to offer in great depth. The Yala National Park is made up of several types of wilderness, from open grasslands to shrubs to large bodies of water. It also has a beach with coarse sand. The most attractive feature in Yala, though, is the wildlife. While home to Sri Lankan elephants and sloth bears, one creature in the list, more than anything else, brings hundreds of visitors to the national park on a daily basis: the Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya). A distinct subspecies of the Asiatic leopard, the Sri Lankan leopard has a few characteristics that are not found in other leopard species. For example, they have been known to capture prey of all types and devour them at ground level rather than atop a tree, as most species are known to do. Leopards at Yala have grown accustomed to the sound of Safari Jeeps, and attacks (whether leopards attack humans or vice versa) are extremely rare. Male leopards, especially elder ones, are not as shy as leopards in other national parks, and will venture on to the roads while safari jeeps are present. Leopardesses, especially ones bringing up their cubs, will stay away from all perceived threats for the sake of the cubs, and are therefore harder to spot in the wild.

Several areas in the Yala National Park are known to have the highest density of wild leopards in the world, making it the prime leopard-watching destination globally. Photographing a wild leopard is a thrill of its own, and be prepared to take a few here, as sightings might be rare and far apart.

After a long day of safari adventures, you will retire for the day, have dinner, and stay overnight at a Safari Camp adjacent to the Yala National Park.

You will get another chance to see leopards at Yala National Park in the morning before breakfast, and catch up on things or areas you may have missed the day before. The jungle does not follow a set schedule, and there may be so many things you are yet to experience. After coming back from the early morning game drive, you will have breakfast at the campsite and then be taken to yet another national park in Sri Lanka. 

The Udawalawe National Park is home to a large number of elephants, and is the only national park in the country where one can guarantee an elephant sighting, even in the off season. The Udawalawe National Park is an extent of land that covers both wet and dry zone forests, mountainous features, rocky outcrops, and the Udawalawe reservoir, from which it gets its name. The Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) is the largest of the three subspecies of Asian elephants. They are characterised by their darker skin colour and more prominent depigmentation of their ears and forehead. Sri Lankan elephants have had an important role in the culture and heritage of Sri Lanka, and to this day are used as working animals. They are also used in Buddhist cultural events such as the Kandy Esala Perahera and other such processions. 

There is a saying in Sri Lanka that goes “One can never get tired of watching elephants”. From the safety and comfort of your 4WD Safari Jeep, you will begin to understand the truth in the local saying. You will be taken very close to where the herds of elephants are, and you will get to see them near the reservoir drinking, bathing, or wallowing in mud as a way of cooling down. The most interesting of the herd will always be the baby elephants. These bundles of energy will entertain you to no end, as they learn the intricacies of their own trunks and play with other cubs. Elephant herds are made up of a matriarch and several adult females, plus juvenile or baby elephants of both sexes. Male elephants tend to live a solitary life and will interact with females only for mating purposes. 

After the elephant safari ends in the evening, you will have dinner and stay overnight at a camp site in the vicinity of the Udawalawe National Park.

If one experience of watching elephants is not enough (we guarantee you it won’t be), you have another chance to see these gentle giants in the wild once more. Morning safaris are a great way to see what elephants get up to in the early morning hours. The Udawalawe National Park’s other residents – several primate species, reptiles, and hundreds of bird species – are also more active during this time. 

After the morning safari experience, you will leave the camp to go to the west coast town of Negombo, which you will reach in the evening. Negombo is best known for its amazing seafood, which local fishermen source from both the ocean and the vast lagoon. The variety of crabs, prawns, lobster, crayfish, and the various types of fish will be a seafood-lover’s dream. Food aside, the town is also known for its active nightlife every night of the week, and is home to several shops and boutiques that are open till late. 

You will stay overnight in a luxurious hotel in Negombo for your last night of the tour.

After breakfast, you will transfer to the airport, from which you will depart the island with memories of Sri Lanka’s big five.


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