Our Kumana National Park safari was one of the best experiences in our whole Sri Lanka trip and probably of any of our travels anywhere. We did it a little differently and planned a DIY experience on a scooter rather than through a tour. This was amazing!
Exploring on a scooter is one of our favourite ways to travel, and pairing that with the adventure of seeing wild animals up close and personal was incredible. With Arugam Bay only 50 minutes away from Kumana National Park, it is the perfect launching place to explore the region and the nearby park.
Check out our full blog on Arugam Bay:
We had already done a jeep safari at Yala National Park, which was really cool, but it didn’t quite satisfy our need to see more wildlife, nor could it compare with this unique experience. The amazing thing about doing a DIY Kumana National Park safari is that you have so much more freedom to explore. You don’t need a guide, you can stay for as long as you want searching for animals, and you aren’t competing with tons of jeeps for a quick glimpse. Unlike participating in a tour, you really get a sense of adrenaline and excitement that comes from a once in a lifetime experience like this – ripping around on scooters and encountering these incredible, wild animals in their natural habitat.
Renting a Scooter
It is easy to rent a scooter around Arugam Bay. We rented our scooter from our hostel, Surf and Sleep, for two days and it cost us 900LKR ($5.09 USD) per day. Keep in mind, that to rent scooters here you are supposed to have an international drivers license, although most places won’t actually check to see if you have one. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a scooter you can also pay for a tuk tuk to take you along the same route.
Where to Go
Once you have your scooter sorted, head south of Arugam Bay towards Kumana National Park. Although you are unable to tour inside the national park on your scooter, the 10 kilometres leading up to the park entrance may as well be a part the park.
The drive down to the national park takes approximately 1 hour, but almost as soon as you leave Arugam Bay, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for elephants. They are everywhere in this region. Especially once you reach the turn off for Elephant Rock, they were more common. We saw our first elephant of the day just after this turn off in an open field.
The real experience however, starts once you pass through Panama and get onto the dirt roads and a bit further away from civilisation. These little roads wind through the fields and wetlands just outside Kumana National Park and they are teeming with wildlife. Keep your eyes out for elephants, crocodiles, water buffalo and so much more.
Although we opted not to go into Kumana National Park and do an official tour, we did drive up all the way up to the park entrance. It is worth making a pit stop here as there is a little museum to check out with good information on the types of animals present in the area.
Best Time to Visit
We got to see 11 elephants the second time we went down here. That’s right, it was so good we did it twice. The first time we went during the day and saw 3 elephants but our hostel owner told us to go back in the late afternoon and that is when we got to see tonnes of elephants. We also spotted 3 crocodiles lurking in the water. The elephants are much more active in the late afternoon so that is why it is the best time to go.
We even managed to come face to face with a huge elephant as we were driving home. It was actually quite an unnerving experience and he charged at us when we got a bit too close. Scary, but absolutely amazing to see it so close and an experience we will never forget. That being said, don’t be stupid. Keep in mind that these are wild, unpredictable animals and you should try and keep your distance.
Where to Stay in Arugam Bay
We stayed on the edge of town at Surf and Sleep. This really chilled out place was just metres from the beach and right across the street from the amazing dinners at the Beach Hut. During the low season it was just 1200LKR ($6.79 USD) for a double room with a fan, although during the high season we believe it is almost quadruple the price.
Find other great places to stay in Arugam Bay here.
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We loved our safari at Yala National Park but this was on a whole other level. It’s amazing to be able to drive yourself, have the thrill of experiencing these animals in their natural habitat, and not be queued behind 20 other jeeps while looking for wildlife. Forget about surfing, going on a Kumana National Park safari with a scooter is hands down thee must-do experience when you are in Arugam Bay.
*Please note, prices are a reflection of our experiences while traveling Sri Lanka in March 2019 and are subject to change. Prices quoted in LKR were the exact prices we paid and USD conversions are listed for your convenience.