Nature Beyond Words -Yala National Park

Yala National Park Sri Lanka

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Yala national park is a strict nature reserve which covers a vast area of countryside in the southeast of Sri Lanka. It stretches over two provinces of the island namely, Hambantota and Monaragala. The park was initially used as a hunting ground for the privileged under British rule. It was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and as a national park in 1938. Presently with so much to offer, Yala national park is a promising sanctum for travellers seeking nature and adventure.

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Yala national park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land consisting of a diverse range of habitats including light forests, scrubs, grasslands, tanks, swamps and lagoons. This distinct landscape ensures the perfect habitat for a great variety and density of wildlife, making Yala one of the best national parks in Sri Lanka. Although the park is lack of thick forest cover the wild animals are experts in taking cover from the snooping eyes of the visitors.

Yala National park has been divided into five blocks. Due to the presence of an average of one leopard per square kilometre, block 1 has become the most visited one Block 1 is mainly under forest cover with some large grassland. other habitat types in block 1 are water holes, tanks, lagoons, mangroves and Chena lands. Block 2 is similar in vegetation to block 1 whereas in blocks 3,4 and 5 forests are reasonably widespread.

Despite the fact that much of the park is closed to visitors the area which is open has the richest and most diverse collection of wildlife and thus Yala national park has become the finest park in the country for viewing the biggest variety of animal in a single day.

Climate Of Yala National Park

Yala national park is in a dry, semi-arid environment in Sri Lanka, however, it demonstrates a fertile greenish look during the monsoon season. The temperature of the park ranges from 26c to above 30c. During the months of September to December. Yala gets most of is rainfall through the north-east monsoon. The mean annual rainfall ranges between 500-775 millimetres. Generally, December and January are the wettest months in the park while drought conditions are observed between May to September. The elevation is 30 meters in the areas close to the coast and rises in the interior to about 100 to 125 meters.

Flora Of Yala National Park

Yala National park is a vast extended forest with eternal beauty and mystery. It has varied ecosystems Including moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi-deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, marshes, marine wetlands and sandy beaches. The dominant plant species that are observed inside the park include Manilkara hexandra, Terminalia arjuna, Cynodon Barberi, Zoysia matrella Drypetes Sepiaria, Ceylon Satinwood, Limonia, Berrya cordifolia, Randia dumetorum ,Pleuroustylia opposite, Gymnema Sylvestre, Bell mimosa, Neem, Banyan, Toothbrush tree, Schleichera Oleosa, Vitex Pinnata, Indian blackberry, Gmelina Asiatica, Carissa Spinarum, Euphorbia antiquorum , Acacia Eburnea, Glennie Unijuga and asparagus Racemosus.

Fauna Of Yala National Park

Yala national park provides a memorable opportunity to see the island’s fauna, which consists of one the planet’s largest leopard populations. Yala is home to 44 mammal species, 215 bird species and 46 reptile species. Among the 44 different species of mammals found in this park. The Sri Lankan elephant and the Sri Lankan leopard are the most popular, It is also home to Panthera Pardus Kotiya, A majestic leopard endemic to Sri Lanka.

Other famous residents include wild water buffalo, Sri Lankan leopard, Sri Lankan sloth Bear, Olive ridley leatherback turtle hawksbill turtle, Green turtle loggerhead sea turtle, toque macaque, Golden palm civet red slender loris, fishing cat, crocodiles, Sri Lankan krait Boulenger’s keelback, Sri Lankan flying snake, painted-lip lizard, Wiegmann, fan-throated lizard, mugger crocodile, saltwater crocodile, Indian cobra and Russell’s viper.

Amphibians inside the park include bufo Atukoralei and Adenomus Kelaarti, Fish species in the lagoons and marshes include Mozambique tilapia, stone sucker, Esomus Thermoicos, blackspot barb, olive barb, orange Chromide, common spiny loach, crabs and prawns, butterfly species include common bluebottle, common lime butterfly crimson rose, common jezebel, and common Mormon.

Among 215 bird species In Yala, six are considered to be endemic to the country. Birds In Yala include Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, crimson-fronted barbet, black-capped bulbul, Blue-tailed bee-eater, and Brown-capped babbler, water birds include lesser whitelisting duck, garganey, lesser cormorant, Indian cormorant, grey heron, black-headed ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, Asian openbill, painted stork, rare birds include black-necked stork and lesser adjutant, migratory waterfowls include northern pintail, white-winged tern, Eurasian curlew, whimbrel, godwits and ruddy turnstone.

other birds include the great pelican, spot-billed pelican, lesser flamingo, pelicans, purple heron, night herons, egrets, purple swamphen, oriental darter, yellow-wattled lapwing, red -wattled lapwing, great stone-curlew rock pigeon, barred buttonquail, Indian peafowl, black stork, black-winged stilt, greater flamingo, crested serpent eagle, white-bellied sea eagle, orange-breasted green pigeon, hornbills, old-world flycatchers, Indian paradise flycatcher, Asian barbets and orioles.

Activities At Yala National Park

There are varies activities that can be performed at the Yala national park . from adventurous safaris, peaceful monasteries, to romantic beach walks, Yala has activities for every kind of traveller.

Safari Rides At The Yala National Park

No visit to Yala is complete without a safari tour inside the park. the safari rides at Yala national park takes you on an experience of a lifetime. The drive through the massive park can be bumpy and rough, and roads can be fairly narrow with trees and lots of vegetation on either side of the path.

The joy of watching animals that walk freely in their natural habitat is inimitable. each safari is completely unique and it is impossible to guarantee what animals you are going to see. Although the animals are not an easy spot, there are reasonable chances of seeing them if you spend some time in the park with a sound team.

it is important to keep in mind that animals are not duty waiting for visitors. to catch the inhabitants of the jungle you need to be there at the best time with compliance to stay patiently.

The sight of wild elephants and leopards is the utmost excitement that is experienced during the safari rides at Yala national park. The elephants in Sri Lanka belong to the same subspecies that is found throughout Asia. These massive animals move majestically throughput the park while some are in the habit of seeking fruits from visitors by standing across the road. however, the elephants are known to be well – mannered and will allow a way for the vehicles. it is not wise to assume every elephant coming on to the road to be people-friendly. cautious driving with no flame in your vehicle I always a necessity for safe safari rides.

The greatest emphasize of Yala national park is its remarkable population of leopards. it is acknowledged as one of the best spots in the world to see wild leopards. there are 60-70 animals living in the area of the park which is open to visitors. Sighting of these animals is not certain, But spending a day in the park will give you a reasonable chance. Leopard sometimes cleans themselves in the sun on the tops of various rocks or hang down from the branches of trees. Also, they occasionally walk along the park’s tracks.

Yala national park also offers outstanding opportunities for bird watching throughout the year. From October to march the visitors get the added benefit of seeing thousands of migratory species arrive the park to escape from the northern winter, peacocks are everywhere all over the park, while you will also spot at least a couple of jungle fowl, which has been adopted as the national bird of Sri Lanka

Yala national park provides guided safari tours with experts accompanying you in your safari vehicle and informing you about every aspect of the jungle during the tour, The nearby town Tissamaharam is home to an abundance of safari tour operators. A safari jeep has the capacity for up to 6 people and the safari tour operator will usually arrange a pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation.

Yala national park can be visited as part of a morning afternoon or full-day jeep safari. it is often said that a morning safari provides the best conditions when it comes to potential sightings of elusive wildlife. This is mainly due to the fact that animals are not yet disturbed by the vehicles that drive along the park’s roads throughout the day.

Once the jeeps start driving in, animals are likely to move into more hidden areas to evade disturbances. If you are joining a morning safari, it is vital to arrive at the gate well. Before it opens. Being one of the first in line provides the benefit to enter the park as early as possible.

A great alternative for those who experience difficulties in morning safari is taking the slightly more popular afternoon safari. According to most Yala safari rangers. there is no significant difference between the morning and afternoon safari when it comes to the sightings of wildlife.

Although it sounds attractive, going on a full-day safari might be exhausting as you will have to be in the park during the hottest part of the day. Neither is it guaranteed that you will see more animals during a full-day safari compared to a morning or afternoon safari in Yala national park.

The price of a jeep safari is made up of the official Yala national park entrance fee plus the price that you will arrange with your safari tour operator. The price of a safari tour operator varies and depends on the duration of the tour, the standard rates of the tour operator and the number of people joining the tour.

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Pilgrim Sites At Yala National Park

There are two pilgrims sites inside Yala, namely Sithupauwwa and Magul maha Viharaya. The monastic settlement of Sithulpawwa is an important pilgrim site which offers a sight into a glittering past. The name Sithulpauwwa is derived from the word ‘Chittalapabbata’ which means the hill of the 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 Kavan Tissa to vihara maha Devi which is located at the south of Sithulpawwa.

it is like to combine a visit to Sithulpawwa and Magul Maha Viharaya as they are located closely together. Also, there is the famous Kataragama temple, Kirinda beach and several historic sites nearby Yala national park.

Beach Walks At Yala National Park

There is a long windblown coastal stretch that hugs Yala national park. However, most of the coastal area is out of bounds for the humankind due to occurrence of crashing waves. but there is a chance to get off designated places of golden sandy beaches and be exposed to the marine beauty

Camping At Yala National Park

If you are interested in camping, there are sites within the Yala National park specifically allocated for this purpose. However, the campers must be fully aware of the rules of the park and expected to be in-line with all of them.

Campsites are open for any bookings of not more than 3 days. The campsite can provide accommodation for 3 maximum of 10 people at a time. In addition to that 2 kids below the age of 6 are allowed. Inside a campsite, permanent constructions are not allowed. You will be given 20*20 ft. Land to build your temporary dwellings.

If you need more than 1 camp tent, You may have to pay extra for each additional tent. Littering, alcohol consumption smoking inside the park is strictly prohibited. They are onsite toilets for campers and you need to clean it when leaving the camp.

Plannning The Journey To Yala National park

Proper preparation and making a well-thought-out schedule before actually getting to Yala national park is the key to make the most out of the visit. Sound knowledge of the park and its animals will always help you in planning the journey.

If you are local tourist, decide on your route and make sure you have proper transport A4-WD vehicle or a van with high ground clearance is recommended for the journey. If you do not have one, you may hire a safari jeep at the entrance.

If you are an overseas visitor, Yala national park would be among many other local destinations that you plan to visit.so, it’s important to slot it in well in collaboration with your tour operator. Most probably you would first visit the ancient kingdoms in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya.

First and travel next to hill country before arriving inyala with plans to move to the southern coast and ending back in Colombo. It’s important to allocate adequate time to arrive at the park at the planned entry time. If you get into a Nearly location in the previous Evening , you will have Pleasant and relaxed mood when entering the park.

A duration that consists of 1 night and 2 days is ideal for a trip to Yala national park. within that, a period of about 5 hours is adequate to explore the park while engaging in all the major activities like safari, wildlife spotting, beach walks and visiting pilgrim sites inside the park. wildlife enthusiasts and photographers can spend more time inside the park at their convenience with special permissions from the forest authorities.

Best Time To Visit Yala National Park

Although you can visit the park year-around, the absolute best time to visit Yala national park is during the dry season, which is between February and July. When the water levels are quite low, animals come into the open area, in search of water from natural water resources that are available in the park. The months of February and March are considered as the undisputed peak months to spot leopards.

The Yala national park will be closed 1st September to 15th October for development of infrastructure, as well as to allow the flora and fauna to flourish in their natural habitat without interference.

Opening Hours Of Yala National Park

The Yala national park is open daily from 6.00 am till 6.00 pm. and is pretty strict regarding the regulations of the opening hours. It is also essential that all jeeps are out of the park before it closes at 6.00 pm. This is monitored by the official wildlife officers that note and check licence plates of the jeeps that enter and leave the park.

Access To Yala National Park

There are some well-known routes to Yala national from famous locations of Sri Lanka.

  • Colombo to Yala through Ratnapura -This route starts from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. Then the route will through, Bandaragama, Horana, Ratnapura, Palmadlla, Kahawata, Madampe, Udawalawe, Thanamalwila and Tissemaharamaya to Yala block1, This route is around 243km in distance.
  • Kandy to Yala through Nuwara Eliya starting from Kandy, this route passes through Pilimathalawa, Gampola, Nuwara Eliya, Welimada, Bandarawel, Dyathalawa, Haputhale, Wallawaya and Tissemaharamaya and arrives at Yala block1. This route has about 245 km.
  • Galle to Yala -The route that starts from Galle goes through Matara, Hambantota, and Tissamaharamaya. This finally reaches Yala block 1 after passing 169 km from Galle.
  • Arugam bay to Yala-this route starts from Arugam bay and passes through Buttala and Katarama before arriving at Yala
Entry Points Of Yala National Park

There are four gates to the Yala National Park. Gates at Palatupana and Katagamuwa leading to blocks 1 and 2 remain the most visited. However, the two gates at galge on the Butala-Kataragama Road, Covering blocks 3 and 5 are also becoming known among visitors. There is a small museum near the entrance showing the development of the park. Also, models and skeletons of animals are exhibited there.

On arrival at the Yala National Park, The guest registration forms must be filled, in addition to the entrance fee, you will have to allocate payments for a tracker assigned by the park. The trackers are experienced in the ways of the jungle and sometimes prove to be fascinating companions, spotting the best places to find wildlife.

Accomadation Facilitties At Yala National Park

There is also an interesting spread of accommodation from eco-lodges to beach resorts and campsites from very basic to luxurious that suits almost every budget and travel style. If you select your accommodation wisely, your experience in this eco-tourism hot-spot of Sri Lanka will be a remarkable one. It is always good to reserve your accommodation a couple of weeks in advance, especially if you are planning to visit the park during the high season.

Nature enthusiasts are also facilitated to spend nights in the park via a series of wildlife bungalows operated by the park itself. These bungalows with well-promoted open space will give you an unforgettable experience at nights in this animal kingdom.

If your main goal of visiting the park is to get some rare animal sightings, then it is recommended to stay near the park in suitable accommodation for one to three nights. This enables you to take safari tours 3-4 times to experience various sightings and gain valuable experiences. Many of the hotels In Yala provide guided tours for you or have good connections with companies that will offer such services.

Travel Tips For The Visitors Of Yala National Park
  • If you are interested in serious photography do not forget to bring your camera and zoom lenses, If you do not have the fancy lenses and still want to capture the scenery and animals, you will be able to hire out camera equipment from the hotels that provide such facilities for you.
  • The Sun can be extremely harsh during a safari in Yala, therefore, safeguard yourself with sunscreen.
  • It is always good to have good bug repellent within hand reach.
  • Wearing a warm sweater will help you during the morning safari.
  • Bringing drinking water is vital to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • Do keep in mind that there are no toilets available inside the park.
  • It is always wise to visit without expectations as there is no guarantee that you will see all the animals that you hope to see.
  • Be responsible for all your actions inside the park. you should not leave anything in the park apart from your footsteps. Any harm caused to nature by you is a serious crime and will be dealt with extreme prejudice.
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