If you are looking for an unforgettable Sri Lanka tour that includes a remarkable wildlife adventure, look no further than Yala National Park. This is the most visited and second largest national park in the country and for good reasons. Yala National Park is home to a rich diversity of animals, birds, and plants, but it is most famous for its leopards. In fact, Yala has the highest density of leopards in the world, making it the best place to spot these elusive and majestic cats.
But there is more to Yala than leopards. You can also see elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, monkeys, deer, buffaloes, and many more during your Sri Lanka tour. You can also enjoy the stunning scenery of the park, which ranges from dry plains and grasslands to forests and wetlands. If you are a bird lover on a Sri Lanka tour, you will be amazed by the variety of feathered friends that inhabit the park, including peacocks, hornbills, eagles, and flamingos. Yala National Park is truly a highlight of any Sri Lanka tour for nature and wildlife enthusiasts.
In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know to plan your perfect safari trip to Yala National Park.
We will cover the following topics:
– How to get to Yala National Park from Colombo
– When is the best time to visit Yala National Park
– How to choose a safari tour and a jeep driver
– What are the best hotels and campsites near Yala National Park
– What are the safety tips and rules to follow in Yala National Park
– What are the other attractions and activities near Yala National Park
How to get to Yala National Park from Colombo?
Yala National Park is located in the southeast of Sri Lanka, about 300 km from Colombo.
There are several ways to get there from the capital city, depending on your budget, time, and preference.
– By bus: This is the cheapest option, but also the longest and least comfortable. You can take a bus from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal to Kataragama or Embilipitiya, which are the nearest towns to Yala National Park. The journey takes about 6 hours and costs around Rs. 300 – Rs. 400. From there, you can take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to your hotel or campsite near the park entrance.
– By train: This is a scenic option, but also a bit complicated. You can take a train from Fort Station in Colombo to Beliatta or Haputale, which are the closest railway stations to Yala National Park. The journey takes about 5 hours and costs around Rs. 1000 – Rs. 2000. From there, you can take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to your hotel or campsite near the park entrance.
– By car: This is the fastest and most convenient option, but also the most expensive. You can hire a car with a driver from Colombo to Yala National Park, which will take you directly to your hotel or campsite near the park entrance. The journey takes about 4 hours and costs around Rs. 40,000 – Rs. 50,000.
– By plane: This is the most luxurious option, but also the most limited. You can fly from Colombo (CMB) or Diyawanna Oya (DWO) to Weerawila (WRZ) or Batticaloa (BTC), which are the nearest airports to Yala National Park. The flight takes about 45 minutes and costs around Rs. 90,000 – Rs. 180,000. From there, you can take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to your hotel or campsite near the park entrance.
When is the best time to visit Yala National Park?
Yala National Park has a tropical climate with two main seasons: dry and wet.
The dry season lasts from May to September, while the wet season lasts from October to April. The best time to visit Yala National Park is during the dry season, especially from June to August. This is when the weather is hot and sunny, and the water levels are low. This makes it easier to spot animals as they gather around water sources such as lakes and rivers.
The wet season is not ideal for visiting Yala National Park, especially from October to November. This is when the weather is rainy and humid, and the water levels are high. This makes it harder to spot animals as they disperse into dense vegetation.
However, there are some advantages of visiting Yala National Park during the wet season.
How to choose a safari tour and a Jeep driver in Yala National Park?
One of the most important decisions you have to make when visiting Yala National Park is choosing a safari tour and a jeep driver.
There are many options available, but not all of them are reliable, professional, and ethical. Here are some tips to help you choose a safari tour and a Jeep driver:
– Book in advance: It is advisable to book your safari tour and jeep driver in advance, especially during the peak season. This will ensure that you get the best service and avoid disappointment. You can book online through reputable websites such as Sri Lanka Tours, or through your hotel or campsite.
– Compare prices: The prices of safari tours and jeep drivers vary depending on the duration, time, entrance, and quality of service. You should compare different options and choose the one that suits your budget and preference. The average price of a half-day safari tour is around Rs. 5000 – Rs. 10000, while the average price of a full-day safari tour is around Rs. 10000 – Rs. 20000. These prices do not include the entrance fee to the park, which is around Rs. 3700.
– Check reviews: You should check the reviews of safari tours and jeep drivers before booking them. You can find reviews on websites such as Google or ask for recommendations from other travelers or locals. You should look for positive feedback on aspects such as safety, punctuality, knowledge, respect, and responsibility.
– Choose a licensed driver: You should choose a licensed driver who has a permit from the Department of Wildlife Conservation. This will ensure that you are in safe hands and that the driver follows the rules and regulations of the park. You can ask to see the driver’s license before booking or boarding the jeep.
– Choose an experienced driver: You should choose an experienced driver who knows the park well and can spot animals easily. This will increase your chances of seeing leopards and other wildlife, and also make your safari more enjoyable and informative. You can ask the driver about his experience and qualifications before booking or boarding the jeep.
– Choose an ethical driver: You should choose an ethical driver who respects the animals and their habitat, and does not disturb or harm them in any way. This will ensure that you have a responsible and sustainable safari, and also contribute to the conservation of the park. You can ask the driver about his attitude and behavior towards wildlife before booking or boarding the jeep.
What are the best hotels and campsites near Yala National Park?
There are many hotels and campsites near Yala National Park, ranging from budget to luxury.
Here are some of the best options:
– Wild Coast Tented Lodge: This is a luxury tented lodge located on the edge of Yala National Park, overlooking the Indian Ocean. The lodge offers spacious and stylish tents with private plunge pools, outdoor decks, and en-suite bathrooms. The lodge also features a restaurant, a bar, a spa, a library, and a pool. The lodge organizes daily game drives with expert guides. The price per night is around Rs. 200000.
– Jetwing Yala: This is a luxury hotel located near the Palatupana entrance of Yala National Park, facing the beach. The hotel offers modern and comfortable rooms with balconies, air-conditioning, and free Wi-Fi. The hotel also features two restaurants, two bars, a spa, a gym, and a pool. The hotel organizes game drives with experienced drivers. The price per night is around Rs. 30000.
– Kithala Resort: This is a mid-range resort located in Tissamaharama town, about 30 km from Yala National Park. The resort offers cozy and clean rooms with balconies, air-conditioning, and free Wi-Fi. The resort also features a restaurant, a bar, a garden, and a pool. The resort arranges game drives with reliable drivers. The price per night is around Rs. 10000.
– Yala Safari Camping: This is a budget campsite located near the Katagamuwa entrance of Yala National Park. The campsite offers basic but comfortable tents with beds, fans, and shared bathrooms. The campsite also provides meals, drinks, bonfires, and entertainment. The campsite organizes game drives with knowledgeable guides. The price per night is around Rs. 5000.
What are the safety tips and rules to follow in Yala National Park?
Yala National Park is a wildlife paradise that offers a thrilling safari experience for nature lovers.
However, to enjoy the park safely and responsibly, you need to follow some safety tips and rules. Here are some of them:
– Do not litter the park, especially with plastic bottles and wrappers, or leave behind anything that could negatively affect the park’s ecosystem.
– Do not leave the safety of your vehicle during the safari, unless specifically informed that it is safe to do so by your guide.
– Take with you a bottle of water to keep you hydrated, a camera for taking the best photos, a scarf to breathe through because the air is full of dust from all the jeeps running in all directions, and sun cream and a hat to protect you from the sun.
– Vehicles in Yala do not go off-roading-they follow strict rules that prevent drivers from getting too close to animals or harassing animals. This means that when vehicles line up and crowd into one location, it can be hard for any one vehicle to move. Secondly, your guide will record and report the sighting.
– Respect the animals and their habitats. Do not feed them, tease them, or disturb them in any way. Keep a safe distance and observe them quietly.
What are the other attractions and activities near Yala National Park?
Yala National Park is not only a place to see leopards, elephants, and other amazing animals.
It is also a place to enjoy other attractions and activities that will make your visit more memorable. Here are some of them:
– Explore the ancient ruins of Sithulpawwa Rock Temple, which dates back to the 2nd century BC and was once home to 12,000 monks.
– Visit the Kataragama Temple, a sacred site for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and indigenous Vedda people. Witness the colorful rituals and ceremonies that take place every evening.
– Relax on the beautiful beaches of Kirinda and Yala, where you can swim, surf, or sunbathe. Watch the stunning sunset over the Indian Ocean and enjoy the fresh seafood.
– Experience the luxury of camping in Yala with all-inclusive packages that include private game drives, meals, drinks, and comfortable tents. Listen to the sounds of nature and gaze at the stars at night.
– Learn more about the conservation efforts and research projects in Yala at the Elephant Transit Home and the Leopard Research Station. See how these initiatives help protect and rehabilitate the wildlife in the park.
To sum up, Yala National Park is the best place to see leopards and other wildlife in Sri Lanka.
In this guide, you will learn how to get there, when to go, how to choose a safari tour and a jeep driver, where to stay, and what else to do in the area. You will also discover the amazing scenery and biodiversity of the park, and how to have a responsible and sustainable safari experience.