Being one of the biggest national parks in Sri Lanka, a visit to Yala National Park is a must if you are ever on vacation on this charming island. Here are some of the highlights.
Yala National Park
Spanning a total area of 900 sq km, Yala National Park is easily one of the most enormous national parks in Sri Lanka. This exotic sanctuary was once a popular hunting ground for the British but now claims to have the highest leopard density in Asia whilst sheltering a host of other fauna the likes of sloth bears, deer, crocodiles and exotic bird species.
What to see and do
The Yala National Park tops as a hotspot for spotting leopards. Hop on board a 4 x 4 safari ride with binoculars in your hand during dawn or dusk to catch these inimitable animals in action. Whilst catching a glimpse of leopards has become a coveted attraction among travellers, there is a host of other wildlife to be seen amidst these exotic savannahs. During a ride along this wildlife sanctuary, you can easily spot some sloth bears, ample endemic birds emerging out of mangroves and elephants roaming across the land.
Hotspots for Accommodation
From small boutique hotels and eco-friendly villas to opulent hotels and retreats by the jungle, you are spoilt for accommodation choices when holidaying in Yala. Amongst the top-notch accommodation spots in the area, a Yala hotel the likes of Cinnamon Wild Yala is indeed a wise pick for the hotel is kin to camping in the wild except with luxurious amenities brought to your arms.
Best time to go on safari
The dry season from February to June is the idyllic time to go on a safari in this exotic wildlife paradise. With water levels decreasing, there is ample opportunity to witness wild animals emerging out of their habitats in search of water. The park also boasts a serene year-round temperature of 29°C and only experiences heavy showers during the months from September to December.
Yala National Park is renowned the world over for the incredible wildlife which lives within the confines of the park! Catch an exciting safari and witness the wild animals in their natural habitat. Here’s all you need to know before you go!
Best Time to Visit the Park
Whilst the park is open for the most part, it is considered to be “peak season” during the dry season. This runs from February to July, and it is during these months that the animals are drawn out the dense shrub to the watering holes in search of water.
Where is Yala?
This national park is located in the southeast of the island and spills over to provinces – Hambanthota and Monaragala. It’s one of the largest national parks and covers an extent of over 130,000 hectares. The park in itself is quite remote and it’s best to hire a private vehicle to reach it.
Where can I stay?
Despite being in a remote stretch, many hotels have sprung up to meet the demand in Yala. Hotels, resorts, villas, or guesthouses, there are varied accommodation options to suit your budget in the area! A Yala hotel such as the Cinnamon Wild Yala is an excellent choice for those who want to stay in the comforts of a lovely hotel whilst also being close to the park entrance.
What can I see?
What won’t you see in Yala, is a better question! From tuskers and elephants roaming the plains to plenty of Sri, Lankan sloth bears ambling about, you’ll have front row seats to plenty of exciting encounters with some wild critters. The most exciting spotting is always the Sri Lankan Leopard, as it is one of the shyest big cats in the world!
The high density of leopards and popular activities such as safari tours, tented safari camping, fishing, and cultural excursions are some of the key reasons why Yala never fails to impress a vacationist.
Yala National Park
Without a question, Yala National Park is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts! This is because it allows safari tours, enabling people to discover wildlife species roaming freely in their own habitat. Witnessing creatures such as elusive leopards, elephants and even sloth bears can be a delightful experience to make one’s holiday at a Yala hotelworthwhile.
Due to Yala’s diverse ecosystems of dry monsoon forests, semi-deciduous forests, grasslands, and even freshwater wetlands, there are more than thousands of birds that belong to 215 species – both endemic and migratory – that can be spotted in this national park throughout the year.
Dating back to the 2nd century, Sithulpawwa is located on top of a hill that requires a small climb. However, what people love about this rock are the architecture, paintings, and inscriptions that reveal a lot about the country’s past.
Found in the midst of Yala National Park, Kebiliththa is one of Sri Lanka’s most sacred places. Located an hour’s drive away from Cinnamon Wild Yala, it is a Buddhist temple that is surrounded by marshes and ancient trees.
Though Yala is loved for over 44 species of mammals, its leopard population is what attracts many tourists here. Many wildlife enthusiasts – be it foreign or local – don’t forget to go on a safari at this national park while they’re holidaying at aYala hotel.
Yala National Park is the most visited of its kind in Sri Lanka. It’s divided into five blocks but only the first and the last are accessible for visitors. Block One is the most popular as it is home to around 40 leopards.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Yala National Park is the dry season of the country. February and March are considered the ideal months to visit should you wish to spot leopards.
Don’t Evade Personal Space
Choose to go on your safari with responsible and eco-minded drivers and guides. Plan to get the services of reputable companies such as Cinnamon Wild Yala that emphasises the well-being of animals over photo opportunities.
Just like fingerprints of humans, leopard spots are unique for each leopard. Experienced guides might be able to point out leopards by their names and describe their behavioural patterns.
From wildlife safaris to exploring exquisite cultural sites, Yala is an ideal place to spend your summer vacation. You will find many properties in and around this spellbinding city such as Cinnamon Wild Yala.
Yala National Park
No trip to Yala is complete without visiting its amazing national park – one of the most visited of its kind in Sri Lanka. It is home to a beautiful forest that provides lifeblood to many exotic animals. Animal lovers can even expect to spot the elusive leopard here during a safari arranged by their Yala hotel.
Magul Maha Viharaya
Hiding historical value in its ancient constructions, Magul Maha Viharaya is yet another attraction that can be visited during your trip to Yala. According to chronicles, Vijayabahu the Great has used this temple complex during the battle to unite the country.
Sithulpawwa Raja Maha Viharaya
A temple complex that’s believed to be built by King Kawanthissa during the 2nd century B. C., Sithulpawwa Raja Maha Viharaya can easily be accessed from many Yala hotels. The main stupa can be found overlooking a large pond from a large mountainous area.
Yala Leopard Centre
Couldn’t spot a leopard during your safari? Fret not – you can visit this incredibly informative centre that offers marvellous insights into the lives of leopards.
It is said that the name ‘Sithulpawwa’ has been derived from the word ‘Chiththala Pabbatha,’ meaning ‘the hill of the quiet mind,’ which accurately describes its ambience. Located close to many a Yala hotelthe likes of Cinnamon Wild Yala, this temple complex is believed to have been built by King Kawanthissa during the 2nd century B. C.
If you’re travelling from Tissamaharama, you can visit the Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya via Kirinda – Sithulpawwa Road in less than an hour. Upon arrival, you may be approached by several wild boars who frequent the area, who are completely harmless if you aren’t trying to interact with them. The premises also carries notices asking visitors to refrain from feeding these animals.
Overlooking a large pond is a mountainous area, over which you need to ascend to approach the main stupa area. If you go to the left just before entering the main stupa, you will be greeted by the breathtaking bird’s eye vistas of the entire region. The main stupa has been built by flattening the top of this rocky mountain.
You may need to wear light-coloured clothing that should cover from your shoulders up to your ankles when entering this sacred place in Sri Lanka.
Apart from this main stupa, you can also hike towards the Small Sithulpawwa at this place. You will pass the scenic South Tissa Lake on your way to this place, which contains attractions such as stone umbrella, twin ponds, Buddha statues, and another stupa upon its windy summit.
When it comes to viewing wildlife, few places in the world can match the thrills on offer at Yala National Park. The stronghold of the famous Sri Lankan leopard is the perfect stage for a daily myriad of action and drama that could rival any soap-opera!
How to Get There
You’ll have to make a choice on whether to travel through Kandy or Galle. Sri Lanka’s extensive, well-kept road systems will ensure that you’ll have a nice and relaxing drive regardless of your choice. You could also take the train from Peradeniya – which is just beyond Kandy.
Places to Stay
While there is an abundance of Yala hotels to choose from, picking the right accommodation can go a long way in making a good experience truly great. Properties such as Cinnamon Wild Yala are not only located close to the park but organise safaris too which adds to the convenience of enjoying thrilling escapades in the untamed bush.
The Adventures that Await
Experience a full day’s safari at Yala – marvel in the gentle majesty of great elephant herds, revel in the playful antics of a troop of langurs and if you’re lucky, hold your breath as a leopard patiently stalks its prey. You can also check out the ancient rock monastery of Sithulpawwa, a must-see if you’re visiting the park.
When to Visit
June to September remains the ideal time to visit as the temperature hovers around a comfortable 26.4°C. This not only makes embarking on a safari quite a pleasant endeavour, but it also greatly increases the chances of leopard sightings – after all, it’s comfortable for them too!
Did you know the Yala National Park in Sri Lanka has the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world? What this means is that you have a great chance of spotting these majestic creatures on a safari here!
Introducing Panthera Pardus Kotiya
The endemic Sri Lankan Leopard or “Panthera pardus kotiya” has a rusty yellow coloured coat with characteristic dark spots. Generally a solitary hunter, it is the island’s apex predator and has been listed as endangered.
Planning Your Excursion
Leopard spotting is best done early in the morning or later in the afternoon. It’s best to stay at a Yala hotel right near the park itself. Such hotels generally provide their own guided safaris which add to the convenience.
For a truly unique experience look to undertake a safari at night! One such experience you can try is the Infrared Night Drive offered at Cinnamon Wild Yala that features night vision goggles to spot leopards and other creatures of the night without disturbing them.
Best Times to Visit
Leopards may be spotted at Yala all year round, though the park is generally closed in September. May to August is usually the rainy season and you have a better chance of seeing leopards early morning. December to March marks the dry season and an afternoon leopard safari is ideal. Of course, the king of Sri Lanka’s jungle doesn’t follow a particular schedule so you never know when you may spot it!
The Bundala National Park is located in the Southeast of Sri Lanka. Of course the more frequented, Yala National Park is located in close proximity to it. But it is important to know the distinctness of the National Park in Bundala. It lives up to its status as a popular birding ground and attracts the quiet wanderer and the keen bird watcher. The National Park is said to be the home and temporary home of 197 species of bird. And you will not be disappointed because on merely one visit you are certain to spot over 50 species of bird. Cinnamon Wild Yala is amongst the Yala hotels, in the region that provide easy access to such national parks. If you are keen to spot more and more birds, you simply need to be an early riser.
Arrive at the park at 5.30 am, this is when these flighty beings relax in the watery areas of the park. Hop onto a rickety jeep at the entrance and make sure you request the assistance of a ‘bird tracker’. The fact that your tracker is immersed in his surroundings, gives him the ability to spot the birds of the area with far greater skill than you would imagine.
You will be surprised to find that the birds are quite accustomed to the noise of your rickety jeep. In fact, they crave some attention. Colourful Painted Stork, Asian Openbills, Spot-billed Pelicans , Black-headed Ibises and flocks of Greater Flamingos are a few birds that you will be able to spot in the park. You will be thrilled at the variety of birds and the great skill of your tracker in spotting these beautiful beings.
It is impossible to keep count of the birds you will spot and there are countless amounts at the Bundala National Park.
Roland Lefevre is a travel writer who specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe. Google+