Yala National Park is the 2nd largest National Park in Sri Lanka situated in the deep down south province bordering the eastern province of Sri Lanka. Drive from Colombo will take approximately 5 to 6 hours and can vary depending on the traffic and the number of stops you make on the way. So when visiting Yala National Park you need at least 1 night and 2 days to explore it.
Yala National Park is open from 6 AM to 6 PM for visitors. The mode of safari is only in soft top Jeeps. No walking safaris allowed.
When travelling to Yala National Park either you can take Sothern Highway from Colombo to Matara which joins Matara – Tissamharama road or Colombo – Tissamharama via Ratnapura which is an interior road. First option is much convenient and comfortable though it is little lengthier than the latter. Privately hired car or van is the best recommended travelling mode.
Tissamaharama is the main closest town to Yala National Park which is approximately 20 kms away from Yala National Park’s main gate, Palaptupana entrance. Early years all most all hotels serving Yala National Park were situated in Tissamaharama but since last 5 years many hotels have opened in Kirinda area where it is more closer to Yala Natioal Park making it closer as 10 kms. Now there are many hotels, guest houses and tented camps are operating in Tissamaharama and Kirinda areas. The 2nd entrance to Yala National Park is Katagamuwa entrance located about 30 kms from Tissamaharama town but more closer to Kataragama town. Travellers who stay in Kataragama use Katagamuwa entrance as it is only 15 kms to Katagamuwa entrance. Palatupana entrance is the main gate for Yala safari goers as it is easy to access the game viewing areas from this entrance.
Best time to visit Yala is from May to August as it is the peak of the drought season , Leopards and Elephants are easily seen during this time as they roam all over the park in search of water. From November to January is the raining season in Yala but despite of the rains this period attracts the most number of visitors because this is the time most travellers visit Sri Lanka for holidays (Christmas and New Year)
Yala National Park consists of five blocks but only block 1 and 2 are opened for visitors and the other blocks are strict natural reserves. Yala block 1 is the most popular game viewing area .
Climate in Yala National Park is dry and arid so you need to expect hot humid, dusty and bumpy ride when going safari in Yala National Park.
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 Buthawa 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.
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