Located in South Eastern region of Sri Lanka, the Yala National Park is the most visited wildlife sanctuary in the country. It is a kaleidoscope of natural wonder, as it boasts of wide ranging ecosystems that have turned the park into a glorious habitat for an array of flora and fauna. A safari through Yala is something you should definitely add to your itinerary!
The Yala National Park is a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land, divided into five blocks. Only two blocks are open to the public, with the rest functioning strictly as a nature reserve. Be enthralled by the 215 bird species living in the park, of which the Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Brown- capped Babbler, Ceylon Woodshrike and Ceylon Swallow are endemic. Maybe even catch a glimpse of their nests up in Palu, Satinwood, Weera, Maila, Mustard and Woodapple trees.
From tropical rainforests to mangrove swamps, the abodes of the other 44 mammal species, 47 species of reptiles, 18 amphibian species, along with various other invertebrate species, are wide and varied. The most famous residents of the park are elephants, sloth bears, sambar, jackals, spotted deer, peacocks, crocodiles and the elusive leopard.
If you have been travelling around Sri Lanka by car, you will need to hire a safari jeep to enter the park. These jeeps, along with their drivers, are available at the park gate. Although your entrance ticket to Yala includes the services of an experienced tracker, there is a great chance you may not be assigned one as they are in short supply. Therefore, it is best to book your safari jeep and tickets in advance. Speak to your tour operator or to the hotel concierge, and they will be happy to help you in this regard.
Although the park is open from 6am to 6pm, the best times of day to visit the park are at dawn and dusk. The best time of year to visit is between May and August, when low water levels bring the animals out into the open. The infrastructure within the park is dilapidated and basic facilities may not be at desired levels. Consider the place a true jungle and be prepared for primitive toilet conditions. There are no restaurants or cafes in the premises, so take your own water and a snack if you feel you should need it. Please be mindful of littering, and do not feed the animals even though you may feel tempted to.
As it is located in one of the dry regions of the country, take note that the climate in and around the park is usually very hot. Temperature ranges from 27°C to about 37°C.
Safari experiences in the Yala National Park are always varied, as the countless trails, coupled with seasonal changes and the patterns of animal migrations, provide ever-changing vistas and experiences throughout the year.