Just south of Dondra, the most southerly point of Sri Lanka, you can join a boat to see pygmy blue whales and blue and sperm whales. Bryde, Fin and False Killer whales are often spotted - if you are lucky, you may see the stunning Killer Whales in December and April, due to seasonal migration between the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. Dolphins are at their most profuse in the calm seas between January and April.
Situated 35 minutes north of Tangalle, Mulgirigalla is a monastic site on an isolated 210m-high rock which rises almost vertically out of the surrounding forest. The rock was the site of an important discovery - the ola-leaf scripts discovered in the 19th century. These scripts offered a key to the translation of Sri Lanka's most informative ancient text, the "Mahavamsa". At the base of the rock temple are the monk's living quarters and a fairly steep path leads to the temple. The stepped path is separated by platforms where cave temples featuring murals and Buddha images can be explored.
Just 30 minutes east of Tangalle, Rekawa is renowned for its long, undisturbed beaches and mangrove skirted lagoons. The beach near Rekawa is one of Sri Lanka's most important marine turtle nesting sites where five of the world's seven species of marine turtle come ashore to nest throughout the year. All five species of turtles that nest in Sri Lanka are either endangered or critically endangered. Amongst them is the Leatherback turtle, the largest of all the sea turtles, which can grow up to 3 meters in length and weighs up to 600 kg. It is at Rekawa beach that the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) has established an "in situ" nest protection and research programme, allowing the protection of nests where they are laid by the female turtle and for the hatchlings to scramble down to the ocean immediately after emergence from the nest. The project at Rekawa is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. Turtles are most likely to come ashore under the cover of darkness. Join the people at the Turtle Conservation Project during their night watch in anticipation of that magical moment when a turtle comes ashore and lays her eggs.
Located 75 minutes east of Tangalle, this area of open scrub around the coast offers great opportunities for bird-watching (with around 150 reported species) and the occasional sighting of elephants and crocodiles. The salt pans attract a vast number of migratory shore birds, making this 6,216 hectare park one of the most important wetlands in Sri Lanka. The best time to visit Bundala is between November and March when the winter migratory birds arrive. Numerous grey langur monkeys populate the larger trees and in the scrub jungle you may also come across jackals, hares and spotted deer.
Situated 90 minutes northeast of Tangalle, this is one of the island's most popular national parks totalling 30,800 hectares in size and bordering a reservoir. It is best known for its elephants (estimated to number around 400, including six tuskers) and bird-watching opportunities. It is primarily open parkland traversed by a main river and numerous streams which makes elephant sightings particularly accessible. Often the pachyderms can be seen in herds of up to 100 or more. Other animals which may be sighted here include spotted deer, langur monkeys, jackal, wild boar and water buffalo.
Some two hours east of Tangalle, Yala National Park is world renowned as one of the best parks to observe and photograph leopards. Although it has one of the world's densest leopard populations, it still requires good luck to see one of the elusive creatures in its natural habitat.
Covering an area in excess of 126,000 ha, the park is divided into 5 blocks, of which only Block One is open to the general public. The area consists of scrub jungle and brackish lagoons with stunning rock monoliths scattered throughout the park. The many different habitats provide a unique experience to anyone visiting the park and support a great variety of animals. The often low-density vegetation provides ideal conditions for safaris as it allows a clear and unobstructed view of the wildlife.
Yala National Park has a substantial elephant population along with many other species like spotted deer, sambur, wild buffalo, sloth bear, mongoose and crocodiles to name a few. Also more than one hundred and thirty different species of birds can be seen, ranging from the lesser flamingos to Paradise Flycatchers, Crested Hawk Eagles and the rare Black necked Stork.
"In our children's words - utterly wonderful - big waves to keep them occupied and comfortable chilled out areas to read. We have been beautifully cared for by the lovely, gentle Roshan and the dogs have made it feel like home. Thank you for such a wonderful break by the Indian Ocean. Happy memories."