Looking forward to exploring Yala National Park? Here’s some information to help you get started on planning your travel itinerary.
Yala National Park
Journey to the southeast coast of Sri Lanka and you will come across Yala National Park, the country’s most popular park and probably its most well-known. For decades, wildlife safaris in Sri Lanka were synonymous with Yala National Park. Home to many endemic species such as the Sri Lankan sloth bear and leopard, this park is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and contains numerous species of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Which blocks should you explore
Yala National Park is made up of 5 blocks, out of which all are accessible except Block 4.
Each of these blocks have different entrances and a different level of exposure to safari jeeps. For example, Block 1 has been the most popular of the years, and as a result the wildlife there is more used to visitors and jeeps, and so may tend to be less ‘shy’.
Block 1 is also the section of the park that boasts the highest leopard density, which increases the likelihood of your spotting a leopard.
How to plan your trip
When planning your Yala travel itinerary, the first thing to consider is how much time you should allocate to safaris at the park. This depends on how much of the park you want to see as well as how intent you are on seeing as many kinds of wildlife as possible or how eager you are to give yourself the highest possibility of spotting more elusive wildlife such as the Sri Lankan leopard, among others.
You can opt to visit the park just once or twice over one day or split it over 2 days (or more if you’re a safari enthusiast). Generally, there are morning tours and evening tours. The former kind tends to start early in the morning, around sunrise or a little earlier and end by mid-morning. This ensures that you can avoid the heat of the late morning and afternoon sun. The latter kind tends to start in the late afternoon and goes on past sunset. For example, if you’re touring the park on an excursion arranged by Uga Chena Huts (which has some of the most luxurious cabanas in Yala), for most of the year, their timings are 5:00 am to 9.30 am for the morning safari and 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm for the evening safari.
Some safari packages may also involve a packed lunch in a shady spot or by a water source such as a tank or river (the cool shade / watering hole tends to draw in wildlife that you can observe while relaxing – they come in search of a cool spot to escape the sunshine or water to quench their thirst).
Once you decide on how much time you would like to allocate to safaris at the park, the next step is to determine how much time you would want to spend on other things like relaxing and trying out activities at your hotel or resort. This includes spending time cooling off in the pool and relaxing with soothing spa treatments.
Or indulging in private dining experiences like this:
How to prepare for your safari
Make sure to get a good night’s rest the night before as it can be a rewarding yet physically tiring excursion. Unlike at some other national parks in Sri Lanka such as Horton Plains National Park, where you can explore the park on foot, at Yala, you are strictly required to remain in your safari jeep while you’re on the trails – nevertheless, it can be a bumpy and dusty ride and a hot one too thanks to the heat of the tropics. So make sure to be well rested before the day(s) of your safari(s).
Also, make sure to pack sufficient water to stay hydrated as well as a sunhat, sunglasses, sunblock and a good camera if you want to capture some good wildlife shots. If you have a good pair of binoculars handy, take that along too.
Do also dress appropriately. Light and subtly-coloured clothing is recommended in breathable materials such as cotton. Comfortable yet practical, covered footwear such as trainers or gym shoes are ideal.
What’s the best time to visit the park
The ideal time for your Yala tour is during the dry season which runs from May to October.
Is there an entrance fee
Yes, you will have to buy tickets to enter the park. It’s best to pre-book your tickets to avoid long queues at the gate at the time of your safari.
Armed with all this info, it’s time to get started crafting your Sri Lanka wildlife holiday at Yala National Park!