Discover the Natural Splendour of Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

  • Cassidy Crook
  • 30 Aug 23

Located in the vibrant southeastern part of Sri Lanka, Yala National Park proudly holds the title of being the country's second-largest and most celebrated wildlife sanctuary. Overflowing with a kaleidoscope of wildlife and spellbinding landscapes, this park emerges as an absolute paradise for passionate nature aficionados.

Photo Credit: Soloviova Liudmyla

Photo Credit: Soloviova Liudmyla

Embark on an exhilarating journey through the marvels of Yala National Park, as we joyfully uncover its one-of-a-kind attributes and the astounding diversity of its wildlife!




Yala National Park's Wildlife Sanctuary

Established in 1938 and officially designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1990, Yala National Park spans over 900 square kilometres. While only a portion of the park is accessible to the public, it remains a remarkable treasure trove of native species. Indigenous leopards, elephants, crocodiles, and a plethora of bird species call Yala their home.


The Enchanting Landscape

In a remarkable tale of resilience, Yala National Park's breathtaking landscape was forever altered by the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Tragically, this natural disaster claimed the lives of around 60 people within the park's boundaries. Despite the devastation, the resilient wildlife managed to find refuge and escape unscathed. Today, Yala showcases a remarkable fusion of tropical rainforests, lagoons, lakes, and expansive open plains, creating an ambience reminiscent of Africa's vast wilderness.

Yala National Park, Sri LankaPhoto Credit: Annelieke Huijgens


Unveiling the Wildlife Through Jeep Safaris

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Yala National Park by opting for a thrilling jeep safari. These open-sided 4WD tours offer an up-close and personal encounter with the park's famous wildlife. As you traverse the rough, unpaved roads, expert local drivers will guide you through the diverse habitats. The park's scenery spans from lush tropical rainforests to serene lagoons, tranquil lakes, and vast open plains. It's truly astonishing how you're right by the Indian Ocean, yet feel as if you've been transported to the heart of Africa. The jeeps provide a perfect blend of comfort and adventure, allowing you to relish the refreshing breeze as you journey deeper into the wild. This safari experience is particularly suitable for individuals with mobility challenges, offering both excitement and accessibility.

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka - jeeps on safariPhoto Credit: David Reed


Exquisite Wildlife Encounters at Yala

Prepare to be amazed by the rich fauna of Yala National Park. Among the native Sri Lankan animals you might cross paths with are elephants, sloth bears, monkeys, leopards, water buffalos, peacocks, tortoises, monitor lizards, crocodiles, foxes, and an astonishing array of bird species – approximately 130 in total. The park's leopards, in particular, are highly sought after, as Yala boasts the highest concentration per square kilometre among all national parks globally. While leopard sightings are rare, they are not uncommon, so keep a keen eye out! 

Elephants are also frequently observed, often in familial groups, and they’re not afraid to get up close and personal with the jeeps, highlighting the importance of respecting the drivers' and guides' instructions. 

Yala also presents an opportunity to witness majestic wild water buffalos cooling off in lagoons, though their population has unfortunately decreased over the past three decades. Bird enthusiasts will appreciate the presence of lesser flamingos, hornbills, pelicans, storks, and the captivating Sri Lankan national bird, the Ceylon junglefowl. Thankfully, the adept local drivers possess the expertise to assist tourists in spotting these magnificent creatures.

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka - leopard on safariPhoto Credit: Ondre Jprosick


Perfect Timing for a Yala Visit

Yala National Park welcomes visitors throughout the year, ensuring exciting encounters no matter the season. The park only briefly pauses its vibrant activities in September for general maintenance purposes. For a less crowded experience, the ideal period to visit is from March to May. 

As the sun-soaked months of June to August roll in, the Yala National Park experiences arid conditions due to minimal rainfall, but this time offers the best opportunity to spot leopards. 

August, along with the months between October and December, witnesses peak tourism due to European summer vacations, leading to heightened demand for flights and nearby accommodations. 

For the ultimate wildlife spectacle, schedule your visit during the early morning hours around sunrise (approximately 6 am) or during the late afternoon just prior to sunset (after 4 pm). These timings increase the likelihood of spotting wildlife before they seek shelter from the scorching sun or retreat into the night.

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka - elephant close to jeeps on safariPhoto Credit: Volodymyr Shevchuk


Conservation Efforts and Responsible Tourism

Yala National Park's preservation is a top priority for the Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka. To look out for the park's incredible wildlife and keep its environment safe, they've put in place various amount of rules and regulations. All national parks, including Yala National Park, are protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. Strict rules control human access to specific areas, with only a fifth of the park accessible to the public. If you're planning to visit, you'll need to grab permits. This helps keep things in check, making sure both visitors and the local scene are taken care of.


So what are you waiting for!?

Discover the pristine wonders of Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, a destination that promises an extraordinary experience. Embrace the adventure and immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes and incredible biodiversity found within this remarkable sanctuary. As you voyage through the park on a jeep safari, the allure of Yala's native wildlife will captivate your senses. Respectful and responsible tourism practices ensure the continued preservation of Yala's natural splendour for generations to come. Remember to bring a good camera and cherish the memories made in this enchanting realm.


Discover Yala National Park with Bunnik Tours

If you want to discover Yala National Park, you can go on any of our amazing small group tours to Sri Lanka. If you have any questions about this blog or our Sri Lanka small group tours, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our friendly Travel Specialists on 1800 286 645.


Yala National Park FAQs:


What is the best time to spot leopards in Yala?

If you're seeking to catch a glimpse of the majestic leopards at Yala National Park, timing is essential. The best time to increase your chances of spotting these elusive creatures is during the dry season, which typically falls between June to August. Leopards tend to be more active during this period as they search for water sources in the park. However, it's important to note that leopard sightings can never be guaranteed, as they are wild animals and their movements can be unpredictable. It's always a matter of luck and patience.


Are there any restrictions or rules during a safari in the park?

To ensure the preservation of the park's natural beauty and the safety of both visitors and wildlife, there are certain restrictions and rules in place during safaris in Yala National Park. These regulations are crucial in maintaining the ecological balance and minimising human impact.


Can I do a self-guided safari in Yala National Park?

Yala National Park does not allow self-guided safaris. It is mandatory for visitors to be accompanied by an experienced and knowledgeable park guide. These guides are well-versed in the park's landscapes, animal behaviour, and conservation practices, ensuring a safe and educational experience. 


What measures are taken to ensure the safety of visitors during safaris?

The safety of visitors is of utmost importance at Yala National Park. To ensure a secure and enjoyable experience, the park authorities have taken several measures:

  • Trained and experienced guides accompany visitors throughout the safari, providing valuable knowledge about the wildlife and ensuring their safety.
  • Safari vehicles are equipped with safety features, such as first aid kits and communication devices, to address any unforeseen emergencies promptly.
  • Prior to the safari, a comprehensive briefing is conducted, which covers safety protocols and guidelines that visitors must adhere to during the excursion.
  • The park enforces strict regulations to prevent any harassment or harm to wildlife, ensuring a peaceful coexistence between humans and animals.


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