Dos and Don’ts When Visiting a National Park in Sri Lanka
There will be nothing more fascinating for a nature lover than visiting a national park. Undoubtedly, nature is a perfect cure for the monotonous lifestyle we spend. Nonetheless, it is the best getaway for anybody who wishes to spend some quality time away from all the daily chores and especially to get rid of the concrete jungle. Hence, the national parks in Sri Lanka with their wildlife, flora, fauna, and its tranquil beauty never fail to capture the eyes and minds of all domestic and foreign visitors.
Sri Lanka is gifted with some sensational national parks. To name a few, Yala, Kumana, and Udawalawe are some of the most popular parks around the island. As visitors, however, it is our duty and responsibility to protect what we have been naturally gifted. Generally, when we visit a national park, there are rules and regulations to which we must adhere to. It is important to mention that all the national parks have compiled such conditions mainly for the protection of you – the visitor – and for the protection of the animals and nature. Therefore, now let us see how we can be responsible visitors and how we can be a perfect example for the next generations by following some simple dos and don’ts when visiting a national park.
Read and learn about the park before visiting it.
One of the first things you must do before visiting any national park in Sri Lanka is to have a piece of thorough knowledge about that particular place. Generally, the authorities-in-charge update their relevant websites with facts and information a visitor needs to know. Hence, thorough research on the national park websites can help you to find out essential information such as the opening and closing dates and times, ticket prices, rules and regulations, emergency procedures, and also about the activities available at the parks.
Plan ahead and have a flexible itinerary
You will never know the amount of time that will take for you to travel to the park and also the time it will take to complete the whole adventure in the park. Nonetheless, the unpredictability of weather might also hinder your plans to visit the park. Therefore, be smart to be flexible when planning this day of the visit to the park as time and weather are crucial for safari rides. If possible leave a whole day for this adventure. This way, you will be able to enjoy the time in the park leisurely.
Book your tickets on a prior date.
Booking your tickets beforehand will surely save a lot of time that is spent in vain in front of the ticket counters at a park. It is impossible to predict whether a park will be crowded or not on the day of your visit. Thus, if the park requires visitors to buy tickets, it is always best to book your tickets online or by simply contacting the relevant personnel of the park.
Interact with your guide
Visiting a national park is not only about sightseeing and spending some quality time with nature. It is also about gaining some extra knowledge about nature, the animals, and their natural habitat. Most commonly, the park provides you with the facility of escorting a guide with you for guidance, protection, and also to explain the significance of whatever you see inside the park. Usually, the guides provide you with a brief explanation; however, you always have the choice of asking questions that you have about the park and its inhabitants. Nonetheless, the guides can always entertain you with interesting stories that they know about the park.
Always listen to your guide
One of the most important things to keep in mind when visiting a national park is that you should always listen to the guide/park ranger. The guides/park rangers always try to give the best experience to the visitors. Thus, sometimes they will make you experience some of the extraordinary things in the park. For instance, they will stop the vehicle in front of an elephant for the visitors to witness its moves and behaviour. Most possibly, the guide will instruct you not to make noises or movements. Thus, adhering to his commands will not only benefit you with this unique experience but will also protect you from a possible elephant attack.
Obey the posted signboards and barriers.
In Sri Lanka, some parks permit visitors to ride in their vehicles and some do not. Regardless of this choice, the park authorities take the necessary precautions to inform the visitors about their rules and regulations by displaying those using signboards and barriers. Prohibition signs and speed limit signs are some of the many signboards visible in these parks. Therefore, as a responsible visitor, it is your prime duty to obey these signs. The one thing you should keep in mind is that these signs and barriers are displayed mainly for your safety. Disobeying these signs will necessarily have grave repercussions.
Silence is a must
One of the main instructions given by the guides/park rangers is to be silent when watching an animal in its natural habitat. It is possible to mention that when it concerns nature and wildlife, silence is of massive importance. However, this does not mean that you have to be silent throughout the whole adventure, but at least when you spot an animal, being silent will benefit you in experiencing a memorable sight.
Listen to the sounds in the jungle.
Another good reason to be silent during this ride is to listen to the sounds of the jungle. Undoubtedly, the sounds of the jungle are hardly similar to the hustle-bustle that you hear in towns and cities. The park is teemed with wildlife, and the humming, thrumming, chirping, and buzzing sounds in the jungle together will surely sound like music to your ears.
Pay much attention to the surroundings.
Mainly, the uniqueness in any safari adventure lies in the hands of the visitors. Meaning, in order to get the most memorable experience in the park, you have to have patience and dedication. When visiting a national park, one thing that should not be forgotten is the fact that you are entering into the world of wildlife and not into the zoo. Thus, you have got to spot the animals in their natural habitat. It will obviously be difficult to spot any animal if you do not pay attention to the surroundings. Sometimes, being unobservant will shatter some rare opportunity to witness a unique behaviour of a particular animal. Hence, being impatient and clumsy during these rides will never give you the best experience at the park.
Avoid crowded places.
If you are taking a safari ride in your vehicle, one thing that you should keep in mind is to avoid crowded places. The animals will never appear at places where there is a lot of noise and movement. On the other hand, too many vehicles will also ruin your opportunity to spot any animal in the wild.
Never forget to capture some interesting moments.
A ride or a walk in a jungle will undoubtedly leave you with a lot of interesting and unique memories. Thus, capturing some of those rare moments in the camera will make it more memorable for a lifetime. Moreover, witnessing extraordinary glimpses of wildlife is not something that everyone can experience easily. Only the most fortunate will. Thus, capturing those unique moments will not only benefit you but the other locals and foreigners as well. However, it is important to capture the photographs without causing any disturbance to the animals. Therefore, switching off the flashers and sounds of the camera is very important during an adventure.
Carry a pair of binoculars if possible.
Anyone who visits a park wishes to have his/her best experience there. Obviously, animals are hard to spot in their natural habitat. The animals or birds are sparsely visible at a closer distance. Moreover, the fact that you are prohibited from getting closer to the animals can sometimes worsen your adventure. Therefore, one of the tips that can be suggested for you is to carry a pair of binoculars if possible. This way, you would not be missing out on the slightest details of the park.
1. Do not carry food.
One of the main things that you should keep in mind is not to carry cooked or uncooked food into the park. Do not forget that you are entering into the home of the animals and the smell of food will definitely attract them towards you. This can be really dangerous. There have been instances where elephants have attacked safari vehicles in search of food. Some parks will acknowledge you about this, but some will not. Therefore, it is our responsibility to keep away from carrying food of any kind and to be safe during the whole adventure.
2. Do not feed the animals.
Trying to feed the animals is another mistake mostly committed by the visitors. Although this rule seems obvious, most visitors tend to carry food and feed the animals inside the park. On the one hand, feeding the animals will clearly put your life at risk. On the other hand, if the animals are fed food, there is a tendency for the animals to get accustomed to a dependency cycle and thus, put their lives in danger and cause conflicts among humans and animals.
3. Do not get too close to the animals.
There is no doubt about anybody’s need to take a safari ride more adventurous and memorable. But, we should always be responsible for our safety. Hence, we must abstain from getting too close to the animals or encouraging the guide/park ranger to get you closer to the animals. As a matter of fact, we must understand that animals too have their own spaces like humans do, and invading their space will be dangerous.
4. Do not leave garbage.
One of the most important national park etiquettes is to abstain from leaving garbage inside the park. Make sure to hold on to everything that you bring inside the park. As responsible humans, we should keep in mind to keep the park pristine for the next visitors. Nonetheless, leaving trash inside the park will possibly be harmful to nature and its inhabitants too. Sometimes, leaving trash outside the national park will also attract the wild animals closer to the main roadways. Hence, recycling rules of all types of garbage is one of the main rules the visitors must abide by.
5. Do not carry anything from the park.
As mentioned earlier, leaving garbage in parks is wrong. Likewise, carrying anything from the park is equally wrong. Most of us tend to fill our pockets with souvenirs taken from a place we visit. Carrying something like a pebble or a leaf may sound innocent but there are ambitious people who go to the extent of taking wildlife out of their natural habitat. No matter what it may be, it is illegal to carry anything out from a national park. We must keep in mind that the ecosystems are very fragile and that it is best to leave even the slightest thing as it is.
6. Do not carry infants and pets.
Even if you travel to the national park as a family, it is highly recommended to abstain from carrying infants into the park. Obviously, it is difficult to discipline the infants. Thus, you will not be able to have a good experience at the park. Moreover, taking pets with you will obviously be dangerous to the visitors because the unnecessary noises and movements of the pets will have a tendency to attract the wild animals towards you. This will undoubtedly be very dangerous to everyone.
7. Do not make sudden movements.
Making sudden movements once you spot an animal or when an animal is in front of you will definitely shatter your safari experience. Although hundreds of vehicles pass across the animals’ territory now and then, it is not possible to say that the animals are familiar with it. The slightest movement will either scare them or compel them to go wild and attack whatever is around them. Therefore, being patient during such rides is of crucial importance.
8. Do not wear uncomfortable clothes.
As you plan ahead this adventure, never forget to select super comfy clothes for this day. Keep in mind to wear something that gives you enough space to walk, jump, climb or run easily. Usually, the vehicles used for safari rides are trucks and nonetheless, the roads inside the park are not comfortable at all. Perhaps, mostly in bird parks, you will be permitted to walk around the area. Thus, wearing comfy clothes will benefit you in having a comfortable experience at any park.
9. Do not drive fast and stray away from the designated road.
Going off-trail will be the least expected mistake to be made by the visitors. It may be really tempting to go off-trail if you are traveling in an off-road vehicle. However, this can be really dangerous and life-threatening. It can not only bring you risk of injury but it can also cause damage to the protected area. On the other hand, driving fast can scare the animals unnecessarily and leave you with no wildlife to witness. Thus, ensure to drive slowly along the designated paths. Furthermore, you always have the freedom to request your guide/park ranger to drive slowly if they are crossing the speed limits.
10. Do not use mobile phones.
The main purpose of visiting any national park is to enjoy nature in its purest form, to get rid of the monotonous lifestyle, and to fully appreciate nature. Thus, using your mobile phones during this journey will hinder the possibility of experiencing the slightest details of the park. Perhaps, you will miss out on some extraordinary moments there. Therefore, ensure to use this precious time to connect with nature and the wildlife to make the journey more memorable.
11. Do not smoke or consume alcohol.
One golden rule to abide by is to be disciplined from the time you step onto a national park. As we all know, in Sri Lanka, smoking and drinking alcohol are prohibited in public places. It is a must to be respectful and disciplined in public places mainly for the sake of the other visitors. Nonetheless, never forget that you are entering into a fragile place where dry leaves and plants are present. Therefore, it is obvious to mention that incorrect disposal of a single cigarette bud can have the tendency of causing huge destruction of wildlife and nature.
12. Do not vandalize the property
Last but not least, one thing that you should not be doing is to vandalize the park’s property. It is unethical to deliberately destroy something that you do not own. As mentioned earlier, the ecosystems of the national parks are complex and delicate. The slightest harm can cause massive damage to the whole ecosystem. Nonetheless, a national park is a place where you can find rare species of insects, plants, and trees, and vandalizing those will possibly cause their ultimate extinction. Hence, it is your duty to leave those precious national parks as it is for the next generation to experience.