Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

We hadn't planned to visit Yala National Park until we met a Welsh woman who had seen four leopards on one drive,  apparently that was the incentive we needed to head south! Yala is said to have one of the highest density of leopards in the world, but of course as  our acquaintance  had seen four, it was predictable that we would see none! We enjoyed the trip nonetheless and saw lots of elephants,  birds, monkeys, a variety of deer, wild pig, crocodile and water buffalo.
We arranged the trip through our hotel and after  a dusty drive in our open safari vehicle, the park landscape was lush and green. You wouldn't confuse a safari in Yala with anything in southern Africa. This isn't the vast open savannah where you have the place to yourself. It was much more like the safari drives we took through Ranthambore Tiger Preserve in India - where we went a few years ago. 

We saw several magnificent painted storks, though my picture doesn't do this one justice, These are beautiful birds with such colorful plumage and are gorgeous to see in flight.
Our driver was both driver and guide and given that, he did a good job. However it was busy and there were clusters of private safari vehicles and even large buses on the dirt roads.
Most of the drives take place in the  zone or block closest to the entrance and as I understand it you need to organize drives into other zones in advance. Though you could do this if you were staying for a couple of days. This "wild" pig met our truck at the main gate!
Sightings are completely random. After hearing about someone seeing so many leopards we were disappointed not to see any, that is until we were speaking to some Japanese tourists the next morning - who saw neither leopard nor elephant. We saw so many elephant, in so many different parts of the park and so close to our truck, that it almost seemed inconceivable that they hadn't seen one! 
We also saw the endangered wild water buffalo both in and out of the water. Incidentally, in this area of Sri Lanka they make a wonderful curd from the domesticated water buffalo - which is sold in clay pots along the sides of the road.
We also saw this monitor lizard which was very large and according to the guide dead, though he looked like he was just playing dead to me!
I'd definitely recommend stopping at Yala though I'm not sure I'd be inclined to go for the higher end safari camps which seemed very expensive. 

We were quite happy to stay at a modest place on the coast  and it was very easy to drive there (about 50 minutes to the park gate) for our afternoon safari. In Zambia or Zimbabwe  I'd have wanted to stay for much longer, but here we were quite happy  with a single drive and opted not to get up for an additional early morning safari the next day. Perhaps thats when all the leopard were out!
As you can see from the photos this is a wonderful wetland area with lots of birdlife.

I suppose we did see a leopard, or at least this taxidermy victim in the small museum at the park gate. Hopefully he looked better than this when he was alive!


jon said…
Nice sharing
Unknown said…
Such a lovely sharing welltravelledbrit! I am impressed with your knowledge and found your blog a great piece of information. This blog is very helpful for travelers to get ideas about a beautiful attraction in Sri Lanka and choose their destination. I never have been to Yala National Park but now I wish to visit this after my grand canyon tours from Scottsdale. welltravelledbrit! Let me know about the best nearer resort to stay there.
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Great articale if you coming to srilanka you must ada to travel bucket list yala national park