Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka.The park is best known for its variety of wild animals, Like Sri Lankan Leopards, Sri Lankan Elephant, Wild Water Buffallo, Wild Boar, Crocodiles.Yala harbours 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest Leopard densities in the world.Sri Lankan Safari is to see the Leopards of Yala .The shining jewel of Sri Lanka's rich and diverse natural heritage. Now regarded as the best park in Asia to see wild leopards and comparable with African countries such as Kenya, Botswana and Zambia for the regularity of sightings.
It was said that towards the end of the 90's, Sri Lankan photographers and wildlife enthusiasts were starting to get very excited about the leopard sightings in Yala. Not only was it becoming more and more common to see this generally shy and nocutural cat during the day; which is rare in itself for Leopards in Asia. Some of the very large male leopards in Yala were showing incredibly bold and dominant behaviour, walking past adoring photographers in broad daylight, as they drove slowly in their jeeps (this was the old days!) and while I visited it was the same, crowded with visitors from all over the world just to have a glimpse of the Lankan Leopard.
Yala is also a place for Bird Lovers.Thousands of waterfowls migrate to the lagoons of Yala during the northeast monsoon.The great stone curlew (great thick-knee) is a waterbird found in the park along with Greater Flamingo,Indian Peafowl,Hornbill,Northern Pintail and Orange Breasted Green Pigeon are some fo them which I saw.
The elephant herd of Yala contains 300-350 individuals. Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, Lankan Leopard, Lankan Elephant, Wild Water Baffalo,Wild Boar,Wild Hare are some species that Yala is harbouring.
The coastal line of the park is visited by the all five globally endangered sea turtles that visit Sri Lanka. The two breeding crocodile species of Sri Lanka, Mugger crocodile and Salt water crocodile inhabit the park. The Indian Cobra and Russells Viper are among the other reptiles.
Below is the stream filled with baby Crocs.
Yala lay in the direct path of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which impacted Sri Lanka 90 minutes after its generation.The Tsunami caused severe damage on the Yala National Park and 250 people died. The number of visitors has been on the rise since 2009 after the security situation in the park improved.The tsunami wave was reported to be 20 feet (6.1 m) high. The tsunami waves reached inland only through the river-mouth gaps in the Coastal dunes Inundation distances from ranged up to 392 to 1,490 metres (429 to 1,629 yd).
Below is the picture of the waves which hit 4 times
Its also said that before Tsunami hit the park,all animals vanished from the park and none of the animals were found dead or hurt by the Tsunami waves .( like the sixth sense).Few months later Animals slowly returned to the park.And the forest guide telling us no one has a clue even today where the animals had vanished.
If you wanna experice monsoon I must say , no better place than Sri Lanka to get dirty and wet.The times I visited Sri lanka it was heavy monsoon, and enjoyed every bit of it. And my stay was at a hut which was loacted deep inside the jungle, 6 kms away from the main gate.No electricty , mushy roads, river facing which had Crocs in them,surrounded with densed evil looking trees, one bucket of water to shower and do everything possible with that bucket water,mosquitos wanting to be with you all throughout the night. My guide told me how the hut was few times attached by Leopards and Elephants at mid night.
The safari was an awsome experince , waking up at 3 in the morning and by 4 leave for the safari and return back at 8.30 again at 3 in the noon leave to spot leopards and come back at 6.30 or 7 in the evening sometimes with heavy rains , pitch dark looking for the roads ,and one day the tyre getting stuck in the muddy water and everyone trying to push the vehicle .Its enjoying every momemt of being in the jungle.Rest of the day apart from safari ,all one can do is be in the hut and lay down lazy or talk to the guys making food for the guest or read some books or walk around the stream and enjoy Nature.
How to reach YALA national park
Yala is located 300KM South East of Colombo. Getting there is a long journey specially as the majority of the trip will be along a roads.The journey from Colombo to Yala can take the most part of a day. For example, if you were to leave Colombo at around 6 AM you would expect to reach Yala around 3PM. This is mainly due to traffic conditions.
There are no direct trains that run from Colombo to Yala National Park. The closest station to the park is Matara, from there you will have to take a bus or hire a private driver.
Yala By Bus
The closest bus station to the park is in Kataragama (get off at Tissa). You can arrange buses from Colombo, it's around a 10 hour journey to the park via Galle.
Things to see in YALA Park
Yala, situated in the south east corner of the island, is home to the greatest variety of Sri Lanka’s wildlife. Its varying habitats, consisting of scrub plains, jungles, rocky outcrops, fresh water lakes, rivers and beaches, provides home to many species of animals including sloth bear, herds of elephants, buffalo, monkeys, sambar, deer, crocodiles and the endangered leopard subspecies, Panthera Pardus Kotiya, which is only found in Sri Lanka.
The magnificent Yala leopard
Yala’s open plains and abundant wildlife
Herds of wild elephants
The untamed beaches of the Yala coastline
Camping inside the park
Where to Stay in Yala
If you want yo enjoy Wilderness please enjoy the stay at some of these lodges
Mahoora Tented Safari Camp Yala
The Lake View Bungalow
Yala Leopard Lodge
( Its worth the money you spend,sheer nature, no mobile connectivity)
If you looking for some Budget hotels please opt for one of these
Lavendish Okrin Hotel
Heina Nature Resort & Yala Safari
Hotel Tamrind Tree
Before you go
There is no shortage of mosquito's around Yala National Park, As Malaria and Dengue fever are prevalent.Make sure to bring plenty of bug spray to protect your skin from being biten.
P.S: There is no such Medical Facility near Yala National Park ,so please carry your required medication as much as you can. The nearest one is a government hospital Debarawewa which does not operate well.So please be safe while at the safari camp inside the jungle.
And On The Way Back Please Visit
Tissa was the capital of the ancient Ruhunu Kingdom in the 2nd century BC. The Tissa Weva (lake), built by King Kavantissa 2,300 years ago, provides a sorawling backdrop. The town is dominated by gigantic ancient Buddhist dagobas (temples). An archeological museum also provides a glimpse into the ancient Ruhunu kingdom.
Please do visit Yala and Beautiful Sri Lanka, you will make up your mind that Sri Lanka would be your retirement place one day.