Yala is Sri Lanka’s most famous national park. Forming a total area of 1268 sq km of scrub, light forest, grassy plains and brackish lagoons, it’s very rich in wildlife and you’re virtually certain to encounter elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes and monkeys.
The first entrance point to Yala (Palatupana) is 305KM away from Colombo. A drive of roughly 6 to 7 hours. Our recommendation is breaking the journey with a beach stay where you can experience a bit of Sri Lanka’s south coast before reaching the second largest National Park of Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park is split to 5 blocks and only 2 of the blocks are open to visitors. The rest of the blocks are strict natural reserves only open to approved research teams. Adjoining the eastern border of the Yala National Park is the Kumana National Park.
Yala is well known for its abundance of wildlife. One of the best places to get a glimpse of the rare migrant birds such as Black Necked Stork, Great Stone Plover, Lesser Whistling Duck, Eurasian Curlew and many others. Yala is also best known for its leopard sightings. The endemic Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera Pardus Kotiya) is one of the main reasons Yala attracts flocks of travelers throughout the year. The magnificent cat is generally seen loafing about sun bathing and if lucky, you can catch a glimpse of it hunting.
Yala’s monsoon rains coincide with the migrant bird season, replenishing the lakes and waterholes to sustain life for the next year in the jungle. During the dry season from July through October, chances of animal sightings around waterholes increase and some great drama unfolds; Its also good to note that From September to mid of October each year, the wildlife department of Sri Lanka closes access to Yala National Park for the sustenance of the parks’ animals and birdlife. This when water is replenished (sometimes manually) and space is given for the animals to mate.
The months of November to February bring a flurry of colour and activity to Yala with the onset of the migratory season of winter birds. The park welcomes this diverse array of waders, shorebirds, and land birds with its abundant ecological diversity, which offers visitors a great birding experience. Over two hundred species of birds have been recorded at Yala. Numerous raptors are common to Yala and sightings of Serpent Eagles, Hawk Eagles, Brown Fish Owls, and White Bellied Sea Eagles are frequent sights.
Please ensure to leave a green footprint when visiting Sri Lanka’s National Parks.