Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s most popular eco-tourism destination spans a massive area of over 97,000 hectares. As Yala is so vast in size it boasts a variety ecosystems ranging from dry monsoon forests to marine wetlands. Yala also contains a significant number of cultural ruins that stand a testament to earlier civilisations. It is no wonder as to why countless visitors flock to Yala year after year.
The park is located in the south east region of Sri Lanka at a distance of about 285 km from Colombo. This is a long drive but then again you know what they say about good things taking time right? In Sri Lanka, safaris are the way to go when it comes to national parks and Yala is no different. The safari operators have mastered the art of showing you the most of Yala in the shortest time. Keep in mind that the park remains closed for a short period of time from September to October.
Highest leopard concentrations in the world
Yala has put Sri Lanka on the map quite simply because it has one of the highest leopard concentrations in the world. So it is safe to say that you will be able to see this elusive big cat in the flesh. Block 1 of Yala is most frequented by leopards and has become quite popular among tourists. Another Yala highlight would be the Sri Lankan sloth bear but they tend to be very shy.
Yala has its own herd of elephants as well but the population here varies according to the season, but nevertheless seeing some elephants in Yala is pretty much guaranteed. The endangered wild water buffalo is another Yala resident that you will see grazing close to a watering hole.
Eden for birdwatchers
Yala is one of the 70 designated Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Much like every other national park in Sri Lanka, Yala is yet again an Eden for birdwatchers. Look out for the Indian paradise flycatcher. Their long tail feathers will surely catch your eye as they glide from tree to tree. For whatever reason you come to Yala, one thing is for sure. The memory on your camera will be completely full when you leave!