The Localist

Yala National Park


After spending about a year in Kenya, my family caught what I like to call ‘the wildlife bug’, and upon returning to Sri Lanka we spent more and more of our vacation time visiting national parks and wildlife sanctuaries around the country. Although it’s small in size, Sri Lanka is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet, and it has a lot to offer in terms of wildlife. Yala National Park in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka is one place that my family and I came to visit quite often.

Our family excursions to Yala usually involved a couple of other families as well and would be planned for extended weekends. Our accommodation of choice was always a nature lodge located either within the park itself or just outside. These lodges tend to cater for most of your basic needs, and often have a resident cook to prepare the meals. Although not as luxurious as the neighboring five star hotels, they provide a secluded environment and an escape from the hustle and bustle of normal life.

Although it is famous for having one of the densest leopard populations in the world, Yala is also home to many other animal species such as elephants, monkeys and even bears. Excursions into the national park often take place twice a day, early in the morning, around 5am, and then again in the early evening. The main focus is leopard spotting, and whatever else you see on the way is a bonus. On those occasions when a leopard is not spotted, it can be quite disappointing, even if plenty of other animals are spotted.

Being an off-roading enthusiast, I also enjoy the opportunity to drive along the unpaved tracks. However, it is mandatory that a certified animal tracker is in the vehicle at all times, and this tracker does ensure that the driver sticks to the path. If driving in the wilderness is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of safari jeeps available that will take you around the park.

Note: Yala National Park is located about 300 km from Colombo on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. It was affected by the tsunami in December 2004, which claimed the lives of many visitors to the park and destroyed a five star hotel and a few lodges.





Image. Photo by Thilina Weerasekera.

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