If you’re planning to tour Sri Lanka, you should definitely make plans to view the island’s amazing wildlife. In recent times, Sri Lanka has been cited as a premier destination for safari-goers outside of Africa. This is in large part due to the numerous national parks doted around the island, and among these ones clearly stands out – Yala National Park.
Yala is situated in the South-Eastern edge of Sri Lanka, bordered by the waters of the Indian Ocean to the south. The park stretches for over 130,000 hectares and consists of a variety of biomes, from dense scrub forests to lagoons surrounded by fertile grassland. Due to Sri Lanka’s highly developed road network, reaching the park mis relatively easy by car – it’s a 300km drive from Colombo via the Southern Express Highway.
Leopard Watching at Yala
If there’s one thing Yala is known for above all else, it’s for its leopards. In fact, Yala boasts one of the highest concentrations of leopard anywhere in the world! Due to a large number of vehicles that pass through Yala near every day, these big cats have become habituated to safari jeeps and do not shy way from them. As such many safari operators – like Walkers Tours – make a point to seek out these elusive big cats, providing you with some excellent photo opportunities.
The Elephant Herds of Yala
Leopards aren’t the only stars of Yala, as the park is home to several herds of majestic Sri Lankan elephant. There exists a natural corridor that connects Yala to Uda Walwe National Park, and the elephants regularly use it to travel back and forth between the two protected areas. If you’re aching to get a good look at these gentle pachyderms, the dry season which lasts from May to August is the best time to visit.
The Other Denizens
While the big cats and elephants are the park’s main attractions, they are by no means its only residents. Yala is, in fact, a bird lover’s paradise – it is home to over 130 species of birds, including the rare black-necked stork and raptors like the crested serpent eagle. If you visit the banks of the park’s many lagoons and tanks, you’re bound to spot basking mugger crocodiles and the odd monitor lizard. Ungulates like chital and sambar – favourite prey of the leopard – are also a common site.