Yala National Park

Yala National Park

The Yala National Park is among the oldest and best known of Sri Lanka's 15 National Parks. It covers approximately 1,300 square kilometres and is home to a range of ecosystems found nowhere else in Sri Lanka. With vegetation including moist and dry monsoon forests, thorn forest, savannah grasslands and fresh and saltwater wetlands, it comes as no surprise that the Yala National Park has the perfect habitats for the large number of endemic plant and animal species unique to the country, thus making it one of the chosen wildlife safari destinations that features on everyone’s tour itineraries. There are 44 species of recorded mammals in this National Park, which include the Sri Lankan Leopard, Sri Lankan Sloth Bear and Sri Lankan Elephant, 215 species of birds, 46 species of reptiles and 21 species of amphibians.

a leopard lying on a tree at yala national park in sri lanka

Leopards at the Yala National Park

Yala national park,often referred to as the Ruhuna National Park, is well recognized as one of the best locations in the world to observe and photograph leopards in the wild. It has been confirmed that the Yala National Park has the highest density of leopards to be found anywhere in the world and is as much as one leopard per square kilometer. Though the prevalence of the Sri Lankan leopard population is high (300-350 leopards in total, of which 30-50 roam around Block I), it still takes a well trained eye to observe these elusive big cats in action, as well as to know when and where to look for one - and that is where the experienced guides at Mahoora come in.

Sri Lankan leopards are a distinct sub-species from their Indian neighbors, and are the largest leopards in Asia. The best times for observing these impressive animals is early in the morning and then again at dusk. This is when the Mahoora Safari Adventures take place, although it is possible for visitors to make a full day safari. With Mahoora tented safari camps, visitors can stay until just after dark inside the park, thus maximizing the chances of a leopard encounter.

The male leopards display a sleek confidence and are often seen walking the tracks during the day. Young male leopards in particular seem to have no fear of the jeeps and this has led to some excellent photographic opportunities. There are similarities between the Yala National Park and the best National Parks in India for photographing tigers, where in both cases the big cats have become used to the jeeps, thus enabling guests an up-close and privileged view of these magnificent creatures. All in all, an encounter with a leopard is a highlight in any Sri Lankan wildlife safari, and one that will not easily be forgotten.

a bird life at yala national park in sri lanka

Bird life at the Yala National Park

Yala National Park birding safari with mahoora Birding in Sri Lanka has long been considered a favourite activity and the Yala National Park will not leave you short of avifauna to observe. The bird life comprises over 215 species, of which six are endemic to Sri Lanka and range from the flamboyant Lesser Flamingos to Paradise Flycatchers, Crested Hawk Eagles and Black Bitterns. Outside the Yala National Park are several other fascinating birding locations, including the ancient hermitage of Sithulpahuwa, Debarawewa wetlands and Palatupana salt pans.

reptitles at yala national park in sri lanka

Reptiles and Amphibians

There are 46 species of reptiles recorded in Yala, five of which are endemic to Sri Lanka. In addition there are two species of crocodile - the Mugger Crocodile and the Saltwater Crocodile that are prevalent inside the Park and can be seen on virtually any wildlife safari. 21 amphibious species call Yala National Park home (two of which are endemic to Sri Lanka) along with 21 species of fish. The coastline forms a major nesting ground for marine turtles too. Add the butterflies to this list, and you have quite an impressive range of wildlife to explore, making your Sri Lanka safari experience complete.

Flora at the Yala National
Park Sri Lanka

The Yala National Park is incredibly diverse when it comes to ecosystems. These include moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, fresh water and marine wetlands and beaches. Block I is mainly under forest cover with some large grassland as well. Other habitat types in Block I are water holes, tanks, lagoons, mangroves and chena lands. Block II is similar in vegetation whereas in Blocks III, IV and V forests are more widespread.

History and Geography

The Yala National Park is divided into five Blocks, with Block I having an average of 1 leopard per square kilometer, thereby making it the most visited Block in the Park. With areas of thorny scrub land, brackish lagoons and scattered rock monoliths, Yala West provides the perfect environment for the wealth of diverse wildlife found here. Areas in the East of the Yala National Park were closed to visitors for some years, so no accurate records are available yet as to the Sri Lankan leopard population in these parts. However special arrangements can be made by the Mahoora team to visit these areas as well as the Kumana National Park.

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Climate at the Yala
National Park Sri Lanka

The Yala National Park is situated in the lowest peneplain of Sri Lanka, which extends from Trincomalee to Hambantota. The elevation is 30 meters close to the coast and rises in the interior to about 100 to 125 meters. It is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rainfall is mainly during the northeast monsoon. The mean annual rainfall ranges between 500–775 millimeters while the mean temperature ranges between 26.4 °C in January to 30 °C in April.

Best times to visit the Yala
National Park Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan leopards and elephants can be seen in Yala all year round. However the Park may be closed for a brief period from September to October. It is best to visit during the dry season which is from May to August.

How to get to the Yala National Park

mahoora elite safari camps Yala Sri Lanka On the coastal road – if you have an itinerary which takes you to the beaches on the southern coast then this route is ideal. Travelling from Colombo passing Bentota, Matara and Tangalle, expect a travel time of six to seven hours from Colombo.

The Inland Route – Travelling from Colombo passing Avissawella, Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Udawalawe, Thanamalwila and Tissamaharama to Yala, expect a travel time of five to six hours from Colombo.

Through the Southern Expressway – exit the expressway in Galle and continue onwards passing Matara and Tangalle and expect a travel time of four to five hours from Colombo.

To find out how to reach Yala National Park from any other destination in Sri Lanka please refer this map. please refer this map.

If you wish to travel by Sea Plane which lands in Tissamaharama, please visit www.flysrilanka.lk for more information.

Travelling by Helicopter will take you right up to the entrance of the Park. For more information please visit www.flysrilanka.lk.

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