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Written by Deepika on May 22, 2021 Share on

Yala National Park: Your Guide to Visiting Sri Lankan Leopards

A gem in the Indian ocean, Sri Lanka is a beautiful country filled with forests, grasslands and lots of wildlife. The country is one of the world’s top five wildlife hotspots. There are 3-4 large national parks of which Yala National park in Sri Lanka is the most visited. Spread across a sprawling 978 sq. km area it is home to the world’s most diverse flora and fauna. Lush green forests, sandy beaches, muddy roads, verdant grasslands and plenty of water bodies make the landscape a treat to the eyes.

The Manik river flows through the park. At the safari you are allowed to get off the vehicle, have breakfast at the riverside and stretch yourself. Various species of butterflies catch your sight as you laze around. Yala was declared a national park as early as March 1, 1938. Since then Yala has been captivating wildlife enthusiasts and nature admirers. A must visit place in every Sri Lanka itinerary, Yala national park is a gratifying experience. A lily pond covered with colourful lilies is a welcome distraction while spotting animals.


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Location of Yala National Park

Yala is located in the south eastern part of Sri Lanka in the borders of the southern and uva provinces. It is 300 kms away from the colombo city. The nearest city is Kataragama which is about 25 km away from the Yala national park and would take around 30 mins. Kataragama can be reached by train, bus or cab from Colombo. Galge entrance of the national park is the nearest from Kataragama.

Yala National park safari
Pic credit : Unsplash

Also read: Sri Lanka bucket list

Best time to visit Yala National Park

June to September is the right time to visit Yala national park when the weather is very pleasant and the chances of spotting a wild leopards is high. The National park is open from morning 6 am to evening 6pm.

Pic credit: Unsplash

The 5 hour safari ride in the govt authorised vehicle takes you through entire park on muddy rustic roads. Armed with a good binocular set out on the trail to greet the rarest and most dangerous animals in their habitat. The forests here are not very thick making animal spotting a relatively easy task.


Sri Lanka Package Starting @ ₹14,562

Small and big water bodies dot the entire terrain attracting lot of wildlife. You can find elephants enjoying a cool bath in the pond making it muddy. Aquatic birds like egrets hitch ride on buffaloes while they fish in the waters. A kingfisher waits on the branches of the tree nearby to catch it’s victim. Wild buffaloes laze in the sun after muddy bath.Spotted deer move in herds watching us suspiciously. Wild boars moving in groups intimidate you. Jojo rabbits hop around looking for food.

Wildlife - Yala National Park
Pic credit : Unsplash

You can try your luck waiting at any of the water bodies to spot a leopard. The wait may not be fruitless. You may instead spot cranes, hornbills and mynas. Crocodiles are in deep slumber after a heavy meal. Antelopes may stare back at you from under the shade of the trees. Be sure to spot a mongoose before she scuttles away under the bushes. Since it is the time of monsoon, peacocks flaunt their plumage taking away your breath. Pro photographers shouldn’t miss to capture this.

Crocodile - Yala national park
Pic credit: Unsplash

A sloth bear may cross your path giving you a chance to watch up close. An elephant calf may entertain you as it moves through the herd. Watching them in their elements is the an exhilarating experience. The monitor lizard though immobile can be quite intimidating.

Also read : Top 5 luxury properties in Sri Lanka

Bird Watching

Yala national park has about 90 species of aquatic birds most of which are migrants. If you go during the season you may spot them around the water bodies. Given the extensive variety of birds it is quite a challenge to identify each one of them. There is a flock of barn swallows on a dried up tree in the pond. Pelicans preen their feathers as they rest along the banks of the manik river. Pheasants, whistling teals fish lazily in the waters. Weaver birds busy giving finishing touches to his nest flit across. His female peers around from the nest. Stork bask in the sun. Spotted owl , button queens all wait for you to spot them. Keep the binoculars handy and don’t forget to take a guide with you for a better experience They may know the sweet spots where you can find these flying beauties.

Birds - Yala national park
Pic credit : Unsplash

You are in for a pleasant surprise???? This enthralling national park ends in a golden sandy beach. Frolic to your heart’s content in the cool waters of the Indian ocean. There is a two hour lunch break here.

Pic credit : Unsplash

Where to stay?

Ready to stay right in the wild? There are numerous bungalows built by wildlife enthusiasts to stay amongst these lovable animals. You also have camps where you can spend the night. A stay along the beach can be said luxurious just for the view it provides to say the least. Night stays here are an exciting experience. From the hustle and bustle of the city people will find this an out of the world experience.

Pic credit : Unsplash

Solo travellers, adventure junkies, nature enthusiasts, wildlife photographers……there is something in store for everyone at Sri Lanka’s second largest national park the YNP. Pack your bags and get going. This would be one of the most unforgettable experiences in your life. Pickyourtrail takes pride in curating awesome Sri Lanka vacation packages that has a bit of everything for everyone. Let’s unwrap the world together.


Sri Lanka Package Starting @ ₹14,562

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