Amazing Animals You Can See in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan elephants are the largest of the Asian elephants
Sri Lankan elephants are the largest of the Asian elephants | © MehmetO / Alamy Stock Photo

Sri Lanka Hub Writer

Sri Lanka is a wildlife-lover’s paradise. Expect to see elephants, leopards, monkeys, whales… but only if you know where to look. Here are the most amazing animals your can see in Sri Lanka.

Get up close and personal with Sri Lanka’s wildlife by booking an exclusive experience with Culture Trip chronicling the country’s vibrant nature and fascinating historical landmarks.

Sri Lankan elephants

The Sri Lankan elephant is one of three types of Asian elephants – you can see them on an elephant-watching safari or by visiting an elephant orphanage. Elephants can be seen in most of the national parks; you’ll find a big gathering in Minneriya National Park.

Sri Lankan leopards

Leopards are notoriously difficult to spot, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for them

The Sri Lankan leopard is larger than other leopards, sitting pretty at the top of the food chain here. However, they’re solitary creatures and tend to keep out of the spotlight. You’re certainly not guaranteed to see one on every safari you take.


Peacocks are native to India and Sri Lanka and are considered among the most beautiful and sacred animals here. Unfortunately, since the female of the species is not as colourful as the males, they have been hunted for their meat. Some hotels have peacocks and peafowl in their gardens.

Sri Lankan junglefowl

The Sri Lankan junglefowl is the national bird

The Sri Lankan junglefowl, which looks a lot like a rooster, is the national bird of Sri Lanka. It is depicted in postage stamps and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Grey hornbill

The grey hornbill is native to Sri Lanka. It is a member of the hornbill family but the fact that it doesn’t have the top part of the beak sets it apart. The reproduction process of the grey hornbill involves the male trapping the female, and its eggs, inside a hole in a tree. He brings them food through a small opening and both adults open the covering of the hole once the babies are ready to learn to fly.

Sambar deer

Spot sambar deer in the forests of Horton Plains National Park

The Sri Lankan sambar deer is a relatively large deer. They live in herds inside national parks, especially Horton Plains where you can see the sambar deer wandering around. The males have large antlers but the females do not.

Spotted deer

Spotted deer are the most common deer in Sri Lanka. The herds are quite large and populated. You can find spotted deer in all of the national parks, just don’t get too close to take photos.

Water buffalo

Find wild water buffalo in the national parks

In Sri Lanka like most South Asian countries, there are wild water buffalo and domestic water buffalo. The wild water buffalo is more scarce than their domesticated cousins and can be found in the national parks. The domesticated water buffalo are used for working the fields and their milk is used for making curd, a Sri Lankan delicacy.

Toque macaque monkeys

The toque macaque monkeys are the most common monkeys seen in Sri Lanka. They are separated into dry zone, wet zone and highland. The dry zone toque macaques are known as temple monkeys since there are so many of them in the Cultural Triangle.


Look up in the trees to spot langur monkeys

Langurs are the other type of monkeys found in Sri Lanka. These are considered leaf monkeys and live up in the trees. There are grey langurs and purple-faced langurs. The purple-faced langurs are endemic to Sri Lanka.

Dolphins and whales

Dolphins and whales can be seen off the south and southeast shores of Sri Lanka. The art of dolphin watching has become precarious in recent years as boats and tourists crowd the waters and follow the animal. If you really want to see the dolphins and whales off the coast of Sri Lanka, make sure you take a tour that is respectful of the wildlife. The types of whales that can be seen in these waters are blue and humpback whales. Very infrequently you might come across a dugong.

Sea turtles

The olive ridley sea turtle can be seen in the Sri Lankan oceans

In the southern town of Unawatuna, there is a sea turtle hatchery and conservation area for the protection of these delicate animals. They can sometimes be seen in the ocean, usually by surfers, but this has become increasingly uncommon due to pollution of the oceans.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article