Elephant in long grass Sri Lanka

Fancy watching herds of wild elephant roam Sri Lankan plains, with only the sound of your heart beating in your ears, the wind blowing through the trees and the odd bird chirping in the distance?

Or seeing wild buffalo running full-pelt towards watering holes and feeling the thudding of their hooves through the ground?

And, do you want to experience all of that pretty much alone?

With NO jostling of jeeps to get the closest to them.

NO other tourists wielding stupidly large cameras.

And, very little or no interference with wild animals in their own habitat?

We did.

And, we experienced all of that and a whole lot more alone when we discovered Maduru Oya National Park.

Sri Lanka’s lesser known national parks are beautiful and are largely untouched, seeing very few tourists. So, the chances are when you go you may be the only ones there, like we were.

Here’s How

How To Get There

Just a three hour local bus ride from Kandy, we visited Maduru Oya National Park on an overnight DIY excursion.

However if you’re coming down or up the east coast, you could also catch a local bus on your way from Passikudah, Trincomalee or Batticaloa.

From Kandy we took the number 22 (via Mahiyanagana) bus from the main bus station in town. If you want to guarantee a seat, go for one of the number 22s that isn’t going soon, and be prepared to wait at least 20-30 minutes before it departs.

The journey through The Knuckles mountain range is beautiful with lovely scenery to keep you entertained along the way.

Where To Stay

We stayed at Blue Lake Ridge Lodge who we also organised our safari through. When booking you could mention that you’d like to do that and ask them for a quote.

The bus across from Kandy was interesting in itself as it was a full moon and there were quite a few Hindu ceremonies in the mountains along the way. Extreme devotees indulge in self-mutilation such as piercing their skin with hooks – we saw a few men being suspended from a pole on the back of trucks and being driven down the road. It was fascinating.

When we eventually reached the the lodge we instantly relaxed. It is set on a pretty lake and is more of a family home than a hotel, with some large air-conned rooms and comfy beds.

Spending a chilled afternoon walking around the lake and drinking tea at the lodge set the scene nicely for the next morning’s safari. A little wander into nearby Maha Oya for some snacks and supplies was also on the cards.

The Safari

The next morning was another pre-dawn start to go on safari. We arranged this with the owner of the lodge for 5:30am the next morning.

This time in a jeep, rather than a boat, we drove through dawn to the park.

The drive there alone gave us gorgeous wild elephants at the side of the road. We could have turned around then and gone back to bed.

Elephant in long grass Sri Lanka

Instead we had an amazing four hours off-roading around Maduru Oya seeing hundreds of deer, birds, monkeys and water buffalo.

A herd of deer in Maha Oya National Park Sri Lanka
Two buffalo in Maha Oya National Park

And, elephants!!

The elephants in this park are obviously wild and, as they are not used to seeing the multitude of jeeps the other parks receive, they are a little more shy too. For us, this made the experience so much more exciting because each bump we bounced over, we were eagerly searching in the bushes for grey bottoms.

Despite their elusiveness we managed to spot a few that morning and had quite an encounter with a small family of them.

As we trundled around a bend we could see a large grey patch in the bushes, a male elephant. He spotted us, trumpeted and then started to run in our direction. Fern’s heart was in her throat as she thought he was coming for the jeep and she frantically whispered ‘Oh my god, it’s huge – reverse, reverse!’

Elephant at Maduru Oya National Park Sri Lanka

Instead, he rushed over to his baby in the bushes not far ahead of us and shooed him out of our way. It was incredible to see, if a little terrifying!

After an hour or two, we parked up in one area of the park overlooking the vast plains and the lake, and watched the elephants and water buffalo graze in the distance. Climbing out of the jeep and sitting on a pile of rocks, we sat and had a little breakfast picnic that was packed for us.

Fern looking at the view of the plains of Maduru Oya National Park Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan breakfasts are renowned to be great – but this was one of the best!

Maduru Oya National Park was an incredible Sri Lankan safari experience. It felt raw, untouched and so special to experience all of it all on our own.

Did we spot any other jeeps or tourists in the whole four hours?


It was just us and nature at its ultimate best.

Good luck with your adventure to Maduru Oya National Park – let us know how you got on!

If you want to visit another lesser known national park in Sri Lanka but this time on a boat safari – check out How to visit Gal Oya National Park.

Happy travelling!

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