On our two-week trip to Sri Lanka last year, to keep the kids busy we played a game, making a note every time we saw a different animal (we did a similar thing when on safari in South Africa). It was a surprisingly popular activity, right up there with spotting different coloured tuk-tuks (we found over 20 by the way).

How Many Different Animals Can We Spot?

Despite what you may think, finding animals in Sri Lanka was not always easy. Sri Lanka is synonymous with elephants, and there are references to them everywhere. We were halfway through our trip and we had yet to see one, and we started to think we may not see one at all. One way to guarantee to see elephants is on a safari, however, we had decided not to go on one after our amazing experiences in South Africa from two years ago still fresh in our mind. We did not need to worry. On the first night in Sigiriya, when walking into town for a bite to eat we crossed a bridge and saw an elephant metres away bathing in the river. Later on, as we ate our dinner further down the road, we were surprised as it walked past the restaurant, heading back home (and poking its head in a few shops as it passed).

elephant in Sri Lanka

Another animal we expected to see a lot of in Sri Lanka was the monkey. We did not get our monkey experience until even later in the trip when we spent the day touring around the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Here monkeys have made their home, as featured in the Disney movie the Monkey Kingdom. We even lost a pair of socks to a monkey who snatched them and ran up a tree, thinking the plastic bag they were in contained food.

monkey in Sri Lanka

In addition to monkeys, there were many small mammals abound. We had come across many squirrels before, but when we saw a mongoose we had to do a Google search to find out what it was.

squirrel in Sri Lanka

Driving along the southern coast towards Mirissa, we stopped at one of the turtle farms. It may not have been the one that we planned to visit, but it turned out to be a very enjoyable and educational stopover. We got to learn a lot about all the different types of turtles around the world, and see examples of many of them kept in pools. There was also the option of releasing a baby turtle on the beach.

turtle in Sri Lanka

Our experience with fish in Sri Lanka was primarily to eat them. In Mirissa we got to chose one from the selection laid out for us at a beachside restaurant. As is often the case for these restaurants, the fish was too overcooked.

Fish on display at the beach in Mirissa Sri Lanka
Fish on display at the beach in Mirissa Sri Lanka
fish in Sri Lanka

Also while near the beach, saw lots of crabs. Not big enough to eat, but definitely big enough to give us a fright as we walked along the rocks or the sand.

crab in Sri Lanka

We also had a few reptile experiences. As we sat down for a rest on our first day walking around the fort of Galle, a large water monitor ambled past.

water monitor in Sri Lanka

We saw geckos on the ceiling of our bedroom, reminding us of the time we lived in Bali. But we also saw much larger lizards, like the one pictured below at the peak of Little Adams Peak. We also saw a chameleon which was very exciting, and a snake as it darted into the bushes.

lizard in Sri Lanka

It was not surprising that we saw a lot of insects: We were prepared for the mosquitos, though fortunately, we did not see very many of them. Although the mossies in Sri Lanka don’t carry malaria, they can carry other diseases such as dengue fever.

Butterflies at a temple in Sri Lanka
Butterflies at a temple in Sri Lanka

There were lots of other creepy crawlies though, some very familiar: ants, cockroaches, spiders, dragonflies, butterflies, wasps and bees. Somewhere we saw a glow bug. Walking up Lion rock, there was a warning about bees up ahead, which sometimes cause the path up the hill to be blocked.

bees in Sri Lanka
hives in a tree

There were plenty of domesticated and feral dogs and cats.

dogs in Sri Lanka
cat in Sri Lanka

What about the big cats? There are no lions in Sri Lanka, despite one being featured on their flag and also in the name of the premier tourist attraction, Lion Rock (Sigiriya). Also, there are no tigers in Sri Lanka, despite it being the mascot of the Tamil terrorist group.  You have to go on a safari to see Sri Lanka’s elusive big cat, the leopard. So we did not see any of the big cats.

lions in Sri Lanka

It is not always desirable to see a mouse or rat while sitting in your restaurant waiting for food. We were happier to see a dead one. We came across this dead and squashed (or squashed and dead?) rat.

rat in Sri Lanka

And there are lots more animals that we did not get any photos of. For some reason, we did not get a photo of the many birds we saw, including chickens and a peacock. We also saw cows, goats and buffalo, and even a deer.

A couple of birds
A couple of birds

So, there is much more than just elephants in Sri Lanka, you just need to spend the time and keep your eye out.

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