Yala National Park in the south-east of Sri Lanka is a testament to the amazing beauty and biodiversity of our planet. This vast forest is not only a sanctuary for various species of flora and fauna but also a playground for adventure enthusiasts and photography enthusiasts. In this article, we embark on a journey through the wonders of Yala Park, from its remarkable wildlife to its history, and biological significance, and provide tips for planning your unforgettable Yala Sri Lanka adventure.
Introduction to Yala National Park
Yala is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka located in the southeastern dry zone of Sri Lanka. Its size is 979 sq km. Located in the middle of both Uva and Southern Provinces, there are 5 zones. Visitors can have the opportunity to visit the first and second zones which cover an area of 141 sq km.
Considering the history of the Yala National Park, the area was used by the British for their hunting activities around 1900. In 1900, the forest was designated as a hunting reserve. It was later changed to become a sanctuary in 1908.
Most of the land in the Yala is fallow. However, the park is filled with diverse ecosystems, such as forests, coastal areas, springs, rivers, and scrub. The park also has three lagoons.
A Glimpse of Yala Sri Lanka Biodiversity
Yala National Park occupies an evergreen forest, where thorny shrubs are common here. The Park is rich in wet monsoon, dry monsoon, semi-deciduous and thorny forests, as well as grasslands, swamps, lagoons, and sandy coastal ecosystems. It is home to 44 species of mammals, including Sri Lankan elephants, Deer, leopards, and sloth bears.
Yala is also one of the largest leopard parks in the world at present. According to reports, about 150 elephants and 40 leopards are seen annually in Zone One alone. Currently, these bears, leopards, elephants, and wild buffaloes are threatened with extinction. It is also said that the elephant population in the park changes from time to time due to migrating herds.
In addition, Yala National Park is home to about 21 species of freshwater fish and 47 species of reptiles, six of which are indigenous to Sri Lanka. Crocodiles can be seen in almost every moat in the park. It is also home to carnivorous birds such as the sea eagle and the lake eagle. There are also considerable species of birds. There are about 130 resident birds and about 30 migratory birds that can be seen around the park. Most bird species live near reservoirs.
The Big Four of Yala Sri Lanka
Yala is renowned for its “Big Four,” which includes the Sri Lankan leopards, Sri Lankan elephants, sloth bear, and saltwater crocodile. Witnessing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is an experience like no other.
Beyond the Big Four, Yala is home to a stunning array of animals, such as sambar and spotted deer, wild boar, and a variety of reptiles and birds. The park’s biodiversity will leave you in awe.
Yala is the place for the elusive leopards and the park earned a reputation as one of the best places on Earth to spot these magnificent big cats.
Explore the gentle giants in Yala as we delve into the lives of its elephant population. Park is the best place to learn about their behaviors, migration patterns, and conservation efforts.
- Sloth Bears
Yala is perfect for exploring the hidden world of sloth bears, known for their elusive nature. You will find out how Yala National Park plays a crucial role in their conservation.
- Birds of Yala
Tourists would uncover the avian wonders that call Yala home. From colorful kingfishers to majestic eagles, the park is a birdwatcher’s dream.
- Reptiles and Amphibians
Dive into the world of reptiles and amphibians, including the famous mugger crocodiles and unique species of frogs.
Leopard Safari in Yala Sri Lanka
Embarking on a leopard safari is the highlight of any Yala visit. With skilled trackers and guides, you’ll have the opportunity to observe leopards in their natural element, complete with their characteristic spots and stealthy movements.
Best Times for Leopard Encounters
For the best chance of spotting leopards, plan your visit between February and July when the water levels are low, forcing these magnificent cats to venture out in search of prey.
Birdwatching Safari in Yala
Bird enthusiasts will find their haven in Yala. The park hosts over 200 species of birds, including the endangered black-necked stork and the vibrant Sri Lankan junglefowl.
Ideal Spots for Bird Watching
The birdwatching hotspots in Yala include Yala Block 1 and the Kumana Bird Sanctuary, where you can capture these feathered wonders in action.
The Serene Beaches of Yala
Yala isn’t just about wildlife; it also boasts pristine beaches. Relax on the untouched shores of Yala and soak in the serenity.
Turtle Nesting Sites
If you visit between April and July, you might witness the mesmerizing sight of sea turtles nesting on Yala’s beaches.
Planning Your Yala National Park Adventure
Yala offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury resorts to eco-friendly lodges. Choose a stay that aligns with your preferences and budget. Whichever you choose, you’ll be surrounded by the natural beauty of the park. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor authentic Sri Lankan cuisine during your stay. Many accommodations offer delicious local dishes that will tantalize your taste buds.
Jeep Safaris: An Unforgettable Ride
The best way to explore Yala’s vast landscapes and spot its incredible wildlife is through a jeep safari. Expert guides will take you deep into the heart of the park, where you can witness the magic of nature up close.
Yala Jeep Safari Options And Cost
FULL DAY SAFARI | 6 am – 3 pm, Around 70 euros (27,000 – 28,000 LKR)
HALF DAY SAFARI
MORNING | 6 am – 10 am, around 45 euros (16,000 – 17,000 LKR)
AFTERNOON | 2 pm – 6 pm, around 45 euros (16,000-17,000 LKR)
Essential Items Need For Safari
Hat and sunglasses
Camera with the zoom lens
Comfortable clothing and shoes
Snacks and Water
Safety in Yala National Park
- Listen to Your Guide
Your safari guide knows the park inside and out. Listen to their instructions for a safe and enriching experience. Stay safe during your encounters with wild animals by following essential safety guidelines provided by experienced guides.
- First Aid and Emergency Contacts
Know where to turn in case of emergencies and familiarize yourself with the nearest medical facilities
Best Times to Visit Yala Sri Lanka
If you’re hoping to witness the park’s wildlife in all its glory, plan your visit during the dry season from February to June. During this time, animals gather around water sources, increasing your chances of spotting them. The park is usually closed during the monsoon season from September to January due to heavy rains. Visiting during this period is not recommended, as the park can be inaccessible and wildlife sightings are scarce.
Exploring Nearby Attractions
- Bundala National Park
Don’t miss the chance to visit Bundala National Park, known for its diverse birdlife and pristine wetlands.
- Kirinda Temple
Explore the historic Kirinda Temple, perched on a rocky outcrop with panoramic views of the ocean and Yala’s landscapes.
- Katharagama Devalaya
The nearby Kataragama Temple is a significant pilgrimage site. It is a very popular place among local pilgrims to worship and pray for the God of Katharagama. This is one of the best places to see the diversity of Sri Lankan culture.
- Sithulpawwa Temple
Situlpava Temple is a very famous place of pilgrimage for the Buddhist community. During the Kataragama Perahera festival, this temple is filled with devotees and you can see wild animals roaming freely in the temple grounds. When you climb the stupa here, you can see a 360-degree view of Yala Park as well as an endless romantic view of the Indian Ocean.
Things to do
- Take photos and videos
- Enjoy the fresh air and environment
- Sit quietly in the jeep to see what wildlife you can spot
- Take all your waste with you.
Do Not Do In Yala
- Do not use any non-corrosive liquid on the polythene
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs
- Do not harm the environment and animals
- Avoid adding your waste to water and the environment
- Do not give food or other things to animals
- Do not use fire
Things not to be carried
- Polythene and plastic
- Smoking, alcohol, and drugs
- Ignition Equipment
- Sound pipes and musical instruments
How to get to Yala National Park
- By Bus
If you wish to come by bus, you should come to Thissamaharamaya city and then you can hire a safari jeep or you can take another bus to Kirinda from Thissamaharamaya town. On the way, you should get out on Yala junction before Kirinda. And you can find Jeeps there and can hire one.
- By Vehicle
If you come by vehicle, you can go to the Yala entrance and park your vehicle there and can find a jeep from outside the entrance. You are not allowed to drive your vehicle in the national park.
A Yala National Park safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you awestruck by the beauty of nature. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a photographer, or simply an adventurer, this park has something incredible to offer.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
- How far is Yala from Colombo?
Yala is approximately 305 kilometers (about 190 miles) away from Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital when traveling by road. The journey typically takes around 6 to 7 hours by car.
- What animals are in Yala Sri Lanka?
Yala Sri Lanka is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including iconic species such as leopards, elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, and numerous bird species. It also houses various reptiles, amphibians, and smaller mammals within its unique ecosystems.
- Is Yala Park worth visiting?
Yes, Yala Park is definitely worth visiting for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. Its unique wildlife, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural elements make it a captivating destination for those seeking an authentic wilderness experience.
- Where is the best entrance to Yala National Park?
The most commonly used entrance is the Palatupana entrance, which provides access to Block 1, the most popular section for wildlife sightings. However, there are other entrances like Katagamuwa and Yala East, each offering its own unique experiences and ecosystems. The choice of entrance depends on your interests and the wildlife you wish to encounter.
- Is Yala or Udawalawe better?
Yala National Park is better for those seeking leopard sightings and a diverse range of wildlife, while Udawalawe National Park is ideal for observing elephants up close. The choice between the two depends on your specific wildlife preferences.