Dominated by extensive plains interspersed with occasional hills and rocky outcrops, Udawalawe National Park is among the most popular in Sri Lanka. Created in the early 1970s as a sanctuary for animals displaced by a new reservoir on the Walawe River, its savannah-like grasslands have an almost African appearance while slender riverside marshlands are the ideal habitat for many birds.
The largely open terrain is riddled with streams and, at least for elephants (whose surprisingly dense resident population has been estimated at up to 600), makes for excellent game-viewing. Other species include various wild cats and leopard, several deer including sambar, jackals, civets and boar. Birders are amply rewarded with nearly 200 recorded species, most around or close to several water tanks.