GAL OYA NATIONAL PARK - situated in Sri Lanka's South Eastern Province, this Park was established in 1954 by the Gal Oya Development Board, primarily to protect the catchment area of the vast 'Senanayake Samudra' Reservoir, and then handed over to the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1965. This Reservoir is the lake which holds the largest amount of water in Sri Lanka.
Considered as a major eco tourism venue, the Gal Oya National Park is rich in both flora and fauna. About 45% of the Park is covered by evergreen forest and a further 33% is taken up by savanna areas. The 25,900 hectare Park has about 32 species of mammals including the common langur, the endemic toque macaque, leopards, sloth bears, elephants, wild boar, water buffalo and 3 species of deer.
History and the Description of the Gal Oya National Park:
Encompassing four protected areas, Gal Oya is Sri Lanka's only National Park where it is possible to experience a Boat Safari. The vast Senanayake Samudra Reservoir is dotted with many small islands which are home to an incredible diversity of bird species, including Sri Lanka's largest bird, the Lesser Adjutant and the Red Faced Malkoha, resident of the Park.
For Bird enthhusiasts, Gal Oya is a delight as there are 150 of Sri Lanka's 430 recorded bird species, residing in the Park. When visitors step onto "Kurulu Dupatha" or Bird Island, they find that the island is home to a uncountable number of birds nesting in the forest and in the rock outcrops on higher ground.
The large elephant population of Gal Oya National Park have made many of these islands their own, and can often be seen swimming from one island to another. Leopards, sloth bears, mugger crocodiles and the Lesser Albatross Butterfly can be witnessed in Gal Oya. Jeep safari adventures are the alternative to exploring the Park by boat.
The Park has just three distinct flora types - forest, shrub and grasslands. There is a substantial area of both low lying savanna grasslands, called Thalawa, and mountainous grasslands called Pathana. Three rare types of Ayurvedic plants can be found growing in Gal Oya. The Park has 3 mountains within it's boundaries, Danigala, Nilgala and Ulpotha, the highest peak reaching 900 metres.
The Buddhangala Sanctuary, one of the four protected areas which make up Gal Oya National Park, has ruins of a Stupa and other buildings dating back to the 2nd Century BC. It is believed that Lord Buddha visited here during his last time in Sri Lanka. In the hilly country to the West of the Park was one of the last strongholds of Sri Lanka's indigenous tribes, the Veddhas.
With it's enormous lake, wild and beautiful islands, hills and valleys and diverse range of wildlife, it is often stated that Gal Oya National Park is the most stunning and picturesque location in Sri Lanka.