Ruhuna National park or more affectionately known as Yala, has been the most celebrated wildlife park in Sri Lanka for over a century, along with its first self appointed Boer prisoner of war game warden H.E.Engelbrecht, quiet a story in itself. “Yalagama” as it was known at the turn of the century, was in effect the “Resident sportsman’s” shooting reserve! A wild country reserved for the “Sporting pleasure” of the British residents in Sri Lanka. It is located in a tract of land covering approximately 1260 km2, between Kumbukkan River & Menik River, and shares its borders with Yala strict nature reserve, Kumana, Kataragama, Katagamuwa and Nimalawa sanctuaries. The climate is semi-arid and dry with scrub jungle unique to this area along with rocky outcrops like kotigala, Jamburagala & Patalungala (Pattangala) strewn about the park, while several fresh and brackish water lagoons dot the park.
Yala block I
Today, of about 140 km2 in extent, is open for public viewing from 05:30 am to 06:30 pm after which you have to vacate the park, unless you have opted to stay in one of the camp sites or bungalows inside the park. The ideal time to explore this vast nature reserve would be during the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. Click here to book a Yala Safari Game drive.....
Yala block II
Is for the more adventurous as it involves several river crossings and a four wheel drive vehicle with all terrain driving capabilities to venture deep inside the wilderness, but you’ll also need backup vehicle to venture into Yala Block II, where you’ll encounter less disturbed wildlife but are very shy of noises and will beat a hasty retreat into the shades.
Animals in Yala
Yala is an ideal place to spot the “big four” of Sri Lankan wildlife, the elephants, the sloth bear, the illusive leopard and the wild buffalo, the unsung denizen of the park, if nothing else dangerous to the extreme. The roaming elephant herds can be easily seen during dry spells at the small scale reservoirs like Butuwe (derived from the word “Wana Butewa”) and Mahaseelawa while Uraniya is best known for its aquatic avifauna, wild buffalo, mugger or mash crocodile & salt water crocodiles. The black sloth bear is more difficult to spot as it’s more of a solitary animal of nocturnal habits and sightings tend to be a seasonal occurrence.
The Leopards of Yala
According to recent studies Yala is said to have the highest concentration (as high as 01 km2) of the elusive Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), “The Prince of Dusk”, the apex predator in Sri Lankan national parks and arguably the most versatile of all felines in adaptability on earth perhaps the most famous inhabitant of Yala. The Sri Lankan leopard is also known to be the biggest of the eight known species of leopards’ world over, with the possible exception of Amur leopards. The leopards are more elusive and primarily nocturnal in other countries, but are easier to spot in Sri Lanka than any other place in the world due to the lack of any other predators’ presence, to challenge its domain. Should you witness a kill on a leopard safari, quite often the prey is larger than the leopard, which really gives insight into how powerful these animals really are.
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Useful Tips to spot Leopards in Yala National Park
If you are an avid lover of Leopards and big cats Yala National park is the best place to spot Leopards in Sri Lanka. Yala national park has the most concentrated Leopard density compare to any other National Park in Sri Lanka.Yala National park is nestled in the south eastern corner of Sri Lanka and it’s a principal national park in Sri Lanka. Yala national park has a great diversity of animals and birdlife compacted in it. Yala national park has wide range of biodiversity in it ranging from freshwater lakes to beaches. The habitats found in the park are wide-ranging, from freshwater lakes to beaches, rocky outcrops to green plains and jungle. This creates an area of immense biodiversity and is one of the world’s most popular destinations to spot the elusive leopard, who love to lounge on the huge granite boulders that dot the parkland.
Below mentioned are some useful tips about Leopard spotting in Yala National Park
1. Visit in the Dry Season
If you want to spot Leopards while you are on a safari ride in Yala National Park more than once you should probably choose the dry season. Most of the Leopards prefer the dry weather this means from June to September where park has its dry weather you must visit the park. Leopards are more active in this months and this allows the probability of spotting leopards. In rainy season from November to January Leopards tend to snuggle in their caves this reduces the chance of seeing Leopards on your safari.
2. Don’t book safari rides just outside the park
If you intend to get more out of your safari ride in Yala National Park and want to spot leopards and many other wild animals you shouldn’t book a safari jeep just outside the gates of Yala national park. You get a cheap safari ride but don’t forget they don’t have the correct experience to show you most out of your safari ride because safari jeep operators don’t need professional accreditation to bring visitors to the park. It’s better to book your safari ride with a reputed Safari company like Yala Safari Holidays that have more than 10-12 years’ experience in arranging unforgettable safari rides in Yala Nationa Park.
3. Book more than one game drive
If you are very serious about spotting a Leopard while your visit to Yala National Park we recommend you book more than one game drive. There are three safari slots when it comes to Safari rides in Yala National Park.
Yala Morning safari ride – Starts from 6AM and ends at 10 AM
Yala Evening safari ride – Starts from 3pm and ends at 6 pm
Yala Full Day safari ride – Stars from 6AM and ends at 6PM
Booking more than once allows you to spot more wild animals including Leopards.
4. Stay a night near the Yala National Park
Most of the Safari goers in Yala National Park choose to stay at a nearby hotel and visit Yala National Park early in the morning. This is one of easiest way to visit the park but it’s much cooler if you could stay in a nearby safari camp.Staying in a Safari camp allows you to to meet good guides with plethora of experiences and who really care about nature.
5. Always be Quite
It’s always good to be quiet while you go Leopard spotting in Yala National Park. If you need to get up close and personal with a wild animal, saying this if you make sounds Leopards gets easily startled. Don’t use your cameras flash or make nay distracting movements.
6. Upgrade your Camera Equipment
It’s a good decision to upgrade your camera equipment’s now and then because camera plays a major role in Animal Photography sometimes a good camera can capture a perfect leopard or wildlife moment than a naked eye. Make sure you get waterproof covers to your camera equipment because it sometime suddenly could rain inside the Yala National Park is you are visiting in rainy season.
7. Be assertive
While you enjoy your Leopard spotting in Yala National Park if you find a good spot in the park or you find a wild animal that makes you attracted you must clearly say to the safari drivers and the tracker that you have to stop to get a closer look at it or take a good photography.
8. Pack waterproof
It’s very good to pack some waterproof products in order to enjoy your safari ride without interruption. Below listed are some items that you should pack in while
- Lightweight, breathable cotton clothing
- Jumper/cardigan for morning game drives
- Camera, plus required equipment
- Extra memory cards
- Battery chargers (for camera/phone)
- Sun hat or cap
- Sunglasses and sun cream
- Scarf/sarong for dust protection
- Insect repellent
- Head torch
- Small day bag
8. Share the prime seating
Depending on the season sometimes you will have to share your safari jeep with another party. If you have the prime seating and if you are going to enjoy a more than one game drive swap your seat with someone else so they also can take a good photography.
9. Prepare your mind not to see Leopards
There is no guarantee that one could always come across a Leopard during their Safari drive. Some see a leopard in their first safari ride and won’t see another in their second ride. Some see more than one leopard in the both of the safaris. Try not to pressure your safari driver to show you a Leopard in one way or another and don’t compare your safari experience with others safari experiences.