Yala national park

Yala National Park (also known as Ruhunu National Park) is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. Actually it consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public; and also adjoining parks. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometers (378 sq. mi) and is located about 300 kilometers (190 mi) from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu it was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan Elephants and aquatic birds.

The western part of Yala is named as the area with the highest leopard concentration in the world. Do realize that with only 35 leopards in the entire park the chances of actually seeing a single leopard are still relatively slim.

“Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Yala harbors 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.”

The best times to visit the park are early morning (5.30 am) and afternoon (2.30pm) to dusk. Dawn and dusk are the best times for spotting leopard and sloth bear. Get your park permit from the park office (Palatupana) for each entry prior to going into the park. You will be provided with a tracker by the office. Cost per local is Rs. 100/-. Foreign passport holder is Rs. 3500/-. Each jeep will be Rs. 7500/-. To all this, all relevant statutory taxes will be added. At the end of each trip, it is customary to tip the tracker and driver.

The area around Yala has hosted several ancient civilizations. Two important pilgrim sites, Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara, are situated within the park. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused severe damage on the Yala National Park and 250 people died in its vicinity. The number of visitors has been on the rise since 2009 after the security situation in the park improved.