Yala National Park: Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Gem - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Yala National Park: Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Gem

The Sri Lankan Leopard walks on the jeep track and towards us

It has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. It is one of the 70 important bird areas in Sri Lanka. It harbours 215 bird species including 6 endemic species of Sri Lanka. It is a treasure trove when it comes to an overall wildlife experience. I am talking about Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s second largest national park that borders the Indian Ocean to the south of the country.

All pumped up Indian Pitta

Home to many ancient civilizations, Yala and its surrounding forest has existed for over a million years and this legacy can be seen in its rich flora and fauna. Exotic wildlife such as the land monitor lizard, Sri Lankan elephant. Sri Lankan sloth bear, Golden palm civet, Sri Lankan leopard, Red slender loris, Fishing cat, mugger crocodile, Sri Lankan grey hornbill, Sri Lanka junglefowl, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, Crimson fronted barbet, black-capped bulbul, blue-tailed bee eater, brown-capped babbler, Sri lankan flying snake, Wiegmann’s agama, Bahir’s fan throated lizard, common mormon butterfly and many others can be found here.

Land Monitor lizard hanging on the tree trunk

A wildlife safari in Yala National park gives you a sneak peek into its many diverse riches that could be anything from a dancing peacock, sunbathing crocodile, strutting leopard, social langurs, colorful butterflies, bright birds to its majestic elephant herds. The longer you stay inside this forest, the richer your wildlife experience becomes. And this experience is different and unique at different times of the day. And that’s what makes this place so special.

Sri Lankan Grey Langaur - A mother and her baby

Yala was once part of King Ravana’s kingdom and it was an important location on the sea-faring route of Sri Lanka. Today, it is a safe haven for Sri Lankan wildlife and is a paradise for all kinds of nature and wildlife enthusiasts. I have been to Yala National park on 3 separate trips and have absolutely enjoyed each stay thoroughly. I personally feel that the true colours of Yala can be experienced during the rains when the denizens of the forest are celebrating the abundance in the nature around them.

A serious looking Green Bee Eater

Whatever season you choose to visit Yala in, it is bound to blow your mind with its diversity and depth of animal and bird sightings. If you are going to Sri Lanka on a holiday and if you happen to enjoy wildlife holidays, then Yala National Park has to be an important part of your Sri Lankan holiday itinerary. It is Sri Lanka’s wildlife gem and I absolutely love the place.

A mighty tusker

Things to keep in mind while visiting Yala National Park

1) Days can be usually warm and humid. Do ensure to carry your sun protection hear and water.

2) Do remember to stay quiet to get the best wildlife experience.

3) Do carry mosquito repellents to combat the mosquitoes that might pay you a visit during the evening and night.

4) Do not get outside your safari vehicle unless and until your forest guide tells you to.

5) Carry beach wear when visiting Yala National Park so that you can enjoy its beaches at its southern extremes.

A peacock just finishing its unsuccessful mating dance

Best season to visit:

Yala national park is open all through the year. If rich wildlife sighting is on your mind, the dry summer months from Feb to May would be fabulous. If you like lush nature and rainfall drama, visit during the monsoons. For a relaxed and pleasant time, visit during the winter months.

Malabar Pied Hornbill at Yala National Park

How to reach here:

The closest international airport to Yala National Park is the Mattala Rajapaksa international airport near Hambantota, but due to extremely low number of flights, it has been dubbed as the world’s emptiest international airport. If you find a flight operating to this airport, Yala National Park is just an hour or so away.

A Leopard's glaring look

The other more popular option is to fly into Colombo international airport and do a road trip to Yala National Park. While one route is the coastal route (Colombo –> Galle –> Unawatuna – Tangalle –> Hambantota –> Yala), the other is the mountain highlands route (Colombo –> Kithulgula –> Nuwara Eliya –> Ella –> Buttala –> Yala). Both routes are about 700 kms long and should take you about 12 to 14 hours.

Common Kingfisher at Yala National Park

Where to stay:

If you don’t mind shelling out a bit of moolah, stay at the beautiful beach side properties inside Yala National Park.

For a unique experience, stay inside tree houses in the periphery of Yala National Park.

The famous crocodile of Yala National Park

For budget, yet luxury accommodation, opt to stay in and around Thissamaharama lake.

Changeable Hawk Eagle at Yala National Park

Nearby Tourist Attractions:

1) Thissamaharama Lake, a great destination for birding and relaxation

2) The beautiful beach destination of Arugam Bay

The eyes of Changeable Hawk Eagle at Yala National Park

3) Horton plains National Park for grasslands, mountains and waterfalls

4) The beach destination of Tangalle

5) Rawana Ella waterfalls, one of the tallest waterfalls of Sri Lanka

Land Monitor Lizard enjoying the rains at Yala

6) The mountains and tea estates of Nuwara Eliya

7) Sinharaja rainforest for a rare rainforest nature experience

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