Yala National Park is the most famous and most visited national park in Sri Lanka.
It has the highest density of Leopards in all of the world with more than 1000 leopards with a density of 1 per square mile.
“Panthera Pardus” also Called “Kotiya” by the locals, is the main reason why people all around the world pay a visit to this park.
Its situated in the south east region of Sri Lanka, apart from the Leopard, you can find the elephant and the Sloth Bear which is three animals out of the big four in Sri Lanka.
Yala is popular for its Safaris and camping inside the park which attracts many.
A total area of 1268 sq. meters, this is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka, second to only Wilpattu National Park, in the north west.
For wildlife spotting, Yala is the ideal spot to visit.
How to get here
If you have enough cash in hand you should definitely take air taxi to Hambantota and then book a cab to Yala.
The flight will take only 45 minutes from the Colombo Airport and it will cost approximately LKR 42000.
From the Hambantota airport, Yala National Park is situated 65kms away.
The cab ride will cost you approximately LKR 3500-4000 and it will take about 90 minutes to get there.
The distance from Colombo to the entry point of Palatupana is 305 km.
There are no direct trains to Yala but you can do half of your journey by train.
Take the train to Haputale early morning from the Fort train station.
The trip will cost you Approximately LKR 350. From Haputale, it’s an hour and a half drive to Yala, where you can take a cab or another bus.
Using the bus will be a hassle because first you will be needing to get to Bandarawela from Haputale and then take the bus to Tissamaharama.
If you’re happy to do your trip on the bus, then you can take the bus to Kataragama from Colombo.
The trip will take approximately 8 and a half hours and will cost you LKR 250.
The most recommended way to travel is by car since it’s a long and bumpy ride through one of hottest districts in the island.
Things to do in Yala Sri Lanka
Yala is all about safari.
The only reason people come to Yala is go on Safari inside the Yala National Park. The gateway to Yala National Park is Tissamaharama.
20kms away is Palatupana where the well-designed visitor center provides the information a tracker to all incoming vehicles. The park provides jeeps with open seats.
Best time to take the safari is early morning. The earlier you go, the more chances of more sightings.
It’s pretty hot and humid so make sure you drink a lot of water and apply some sun cream before you leave your hotel.
Yala National Park consists of five blocks and it is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka.
Though Yala spreads over an area of 1260 square kilometers, only one fifth of the area is open to visitors.
Of all the National Parks in Sri Lanka, Yala National Park gives the best opportunity to witness Sri Lanka’s broad variety of wildlife.
The rich variety and density of various mammals and birds is the main reason why Yala National Park is the most popular national park in Sri Lanka.
A total of 32 species of mammals have been identified.
The threatened species include sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), Leopard (Panthera pardus aka kotiya) and elephant (Elephas Maximus), three out of the big four in Sri Lanka.
Many wildlife enthusiasts head on to Yala National park to capture these animals in their natural habitat. Most of them go back satisfied.
Sri Lankan leopards (Panthera Pardus Kotiya) are beloved to be a distinct subspecies from their Indian neighbors.
Best period for enjoying the sights of leopards is during January to July.
Yala National Park’s Block 1, on the western side of the park, has the highest density of Leopards.
Close 200-300 jeeps enter Block 1 during the day.
The leopards are pretty used to the noise of the jeeps, especially the males who will just roam around Undisturbed.
Nearby Lunugamvehera National Park is what separates Yala and Udawalawe National Park. Yala is home to a vast population of elephants but it’s during the dry season of May to August is the best period to see elephants.
Yala National Park has a wide variety of bird life as well. Close to 130 species have been recorded. Serpent eagle, white bellied sea eagle, Flamingo, Pelicon, Spoonbill, painted stork, rare black necked Stork, grey heron, purple heron, night heron, Darter, Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, Hornbills, Flycatchers, including Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Barbets and Orioles are few of them.
During the monsoon the lagoons are crowded by thousands of migrating waterfowl, including Pintail, Garganey, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel and turn stone, which get along with the residents such as whistling duck, Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Red Wattled Lapwig and Great Stone Plover.
The most common sight around water holes are Mugger Crocodiles. The bigger Estuarine Crocodile are found in the main rivers.
Common monitor is also spotted in the water holes. Other reptiles include Cobra and Russel’s Viper.
One side of Yala ends with coast and a variety of Sea Turtle, Olive Ridley and Leatherback does their nesting around this coast.
Many wildlife enthusiasts camp inside the Yala National Park during their visit.
There are campsites run by renowned hotel chains and inside the park there are designated areas where you can camp on your own.
You need to take prior permission from the wildlife department in order to reserve the camping site.
If you’re a fan of wildlife, Yala National Park is a must go during your visit to Sri Lanka.
It’s vibrant natural habitat and the rich wildlife will make your journey worthwhile.
During your stay, make sure you head on down the beach as well, the sunsets are beautiful in that part of the country.
We have a Kind request from all visitors, try not to feed the animals and please don’t pollute the park during your stay.