Sometimes, the aura and sheer beauty of a place is an inspiration for people to be more adventurous and feel alive. Several visitors to the Yala National Park felt this very same elated feeling of adventure amidst the nobility of nature’s aristocracy. Consisting of five blocks, a total of 130,000 hectares of land, Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest in Sri Lanka.
What to experience…
Located on the southeastern tip of Sri Lanka, the park is home to 44 mammal varieties and 215 bird species and is world renowned for its massive leopard population. You can cruise through the park in an open-air jeep, bumping through the rough tracks while trying to spot the big ones. Amid the landscape, you will see open plains that provide grazing grass for wild elephants and buffalo, muddy waterholes for deer and wild boar, dense forest patches where monkeys reside and the big cats cool off. Crocodiles lazily bask in the late evenings and elephants use their tusks to carve out a pathway just a few feet away from you!
While leopards are the smallest of the big cats, they are the sneakiest and shy ones. Although they may be wandering around the park, all you may end up seeing is a glimpse of their tail. The graceful Sri Lankan leopard is closely related to lions, panthers and tigers and is listed as an endangered species locally and globally. Yala National Park in the south and Wilpattu National Park in the northwest is where the most concentrations of leopards exist.
In Sri Lanka, because of the rare existence of wild predators like lions and hyenas, leopards are at the top of the food chain. In order to restrict cattle farmers in the neighboring vicinity from threatening the leopard population, several naturalist companies undertook a project to save the leopard population. They did so by uplifting the standard of living for cattle farmers.
Tips for planning your visit to Yala National Park
- During the dry season – September to October, the park remains closed. June, July, August are the best times to visit.
- During the rest of the months, holiday seasons attract the most number of visitors and it can get incredibly crowded.
- Several companies offer jeep safaris – half and full day – to stroll through the park.
- Leopard Trails is a luxury camping group that not only offers luxury tents and candle-lit dinners but English speaking guides to help find your way through the park.
- For those who are not comfortable with tents, Jetwing Yala has hotel rooms surrounded by miles of secluded beaches.
- In 2016, a new entrance to the Yala National Park was opened in order to reduce congestion at Block one which was the main entrance of the park. Now visitors can enter from gates located at blocks 3, 4 and 5 as well.