Whether you’re an avid lover of nature or visiting a wildlife park for the first time, if you’re coming here with an eager mind to explore and learn, you ‘re going to go away with new meaning to life. Yala has a large nature reserve paired with a national park. The park is divided into five blocks and has a protected area of almost 130,000 hectares, consisting of light forests, scrubs, grasslands, tanks, and lagoons. At the moment two blocks are open to the public.

Yala is all about magnificence and resilience convergence, creating a picture of everlasting elegance and mystery. It is a large deciduous forest where the soil surrenders its green edge, revealing wide expanses of open fields filled with grasslands and shrubs, reservoirs and lagoons, water holes and sand dunes. Given the lack of a dense forest cover, animals are always safe from danger. 

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About Yala in brief

Based in the southeast of Sri Lanka facing the panoramic Indian Ocean, in 1900 Yala was declared a nature sanctuary, and in 1938 was named a national park. Ironically, under British rule the park was used initially as a hunting ground for the elite. Yala houses 44 mammal species and 215 species of birds. The world’s highest population of leopards is among its most prominent inhabitants. Along with majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted dear, peacocks, and crocodiles. The best time to visit Yala is between February and July when the water levels of the park are quite low, bringing animals into the open.

Given its lush greenish look, Yala is in a dry, semi-arid climate, particularly during the Monsoon season.  Temperatures range from 26 degrees celsius to about 30 degrees celsius. The North-East monsoon season is  from September to December, is when Yala receives much of its rainfall.

Safari rides at Yala

Your travel to Yala obviously revolves around the safari ride which takes you on a lifetime experience. Note, this is not a circus and there are no animals waiting for you on duty. It is the feeling of uncertainty and excitement the makes it an experience with wildlife. To capture the forest inhabitants you need to sit there patiently at the right time and place.

Bird watching at Yala

Their are a number of waterbirds inhabiting Yala’s wetlands, and nearly half are migrants. These include waterfowl, cormorants, large waterbirds, medium-sized waders, and Charadrius spp., small waders. Black-necked Stork and Lesser Adjutant are two of the park’s rare birds which can be seen. At Yala the migrant Great White Pelican and resident Spot-billed Pelican were also sighted. Throughout the northeast monsoon, thousands of waterfowls flock to the Yala lagoons. The forest birds include Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Hornbills, New World flycatchers, Asian Paradise-flycatcher, Asian barbets, and Orioles.

Beach walks

While most of the long coastal stretch that hugs the park is out of bounds for the humankind, the park lets you get off at designated places. It gives you a chance to exercise your legs and take a stroll on the golden sandy beaches. The primary beach spot open to the public was the location for one of the bungalows which were wiped out by the Asian Tsunami along with its occupants. 

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Ancient temple sites in Yala

The ancient rock temple “Sithulpauwwa” is a place of worship for devotees. It is believed that in ancient times this rock temple housed a total of 12,000 monks.  Magul Maha Viharaya is believed to have provided the setting for the marriage of King KavanTissa to Vihara Maha Devi. One could combine a visit to Sithulpauwe and Magul MahaViharaya as they are located closely together.