Yala National Park is Sri Lanka's most popular wild life safari park. Situated in the south-eastern corner of the island, the park is famous for its high density of leopards, perhaps the highest in the world. You are also sure to see elephants – grumpy loan males during the dry months and large herds in the wet season. Sloth bears are also a big draw. You will also see mammal such as wild boars, several species of deer and wild buffalo. There is a plethora of reptilian species and platoons of crocodiles. As is common in Sri Lanka there is a huge diversity of stunning birdlife including migratory species such as the flamingo. It is also one of the few places in the world where the severely endangered black necked stork can still be seen. The uniqueness of the park is the sheer diversity of the habitat: dense jungles suddenly give way to lagoons and open plain areas and the park has a simply beautiful sea front. Huge, stark boulders dominate the horizon and the elegant, languorous leopard can often be seen basking atop the sun baked rock.
The best months to visit the park are between January and May, when the vegetation is at its most lush. The dry season, from June to October, offers a different view of the scenery as the waterholes dry and the land takes on a parched and dry appearance. The park has been divided into different blocks and you will need to camp to visit more than one in a day. Most visitors hire jeeps for the day and venture in for both morning and afternoon drives.
As a result of the stunning natural beauty and plentiful wildlife, Yala gets quite busy during the peak months and you will likely share your viewing time with many other jeeps. If the chance of spotting animals in a wilder and less visited setting sounds better to you, we would recommend trying Wilpattu or Wasgamuwa National Parks.
Kulu Safaris operate their luxury camping service in Yala, which is undoubtedly the best way to experience the park. You will be on a safari drive long before and after all the other jeeps have left, giving you the massive park to yourself.
Accommodation around the park is wide and varied. You may wish to combine a visit to Yale with a stay at the incredible Tree Tops Jungle Lodge, which will prove as interesting as the park itself. In terms of hotels, the only real upmarket option is the modern and spacious Chaaya Wild, with sea and lagoon frontage. Alternatively look at the Safari Hotel.