Yala National Park
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.
The following wildlife documentaries were produced in Yala by National Geographic channel - "Night Stalkers" Leopard battleground & BBC’s