YALA TOURISM | TOURIST PLACES TO VISIT & TRAVEL GUIDE TO YALA
About Yala National Park
#9 of 10 Places to visit in Sri Lanka
Ideal Trip Duration: 1-2 Days
Nearest City to Yala National Park: Colombo (304 Kms), Galle (172 Kms)
Best Time to Visit Yala National Park: February to July
Peak Season: March to May
At a distance of 21 km from Tissamaharama, 111 km from Ella, 164 km from Nuwara Eliya, 172 km from Galle, 225 km from Bentota, 247 km from Kandy, 283 km from Sigiriya, 304 km from Colombo, 336 km from Anuradhapura, and 373 km from Trincomalee, Yala is a national park located in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka. It is the most popular national park in Sri Lanka and among the must include places in Sri Lanka Tour Packages.
Extends over the Hambantota district of southern province and Monaragala district in Uva province, Yala is the second largest national park as well as the most visited national park in Sri Lanka due to its high density of leopards. Ironically, the park was initially used as a hunting ground for the elite under British rule. Situated in Sri Lanka's south-east hugging the panoramic Indian Ocean, Yala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and was designated a national park in 1938. Yala combines a strict nature reserve with a national park.
Divided into 5 blocks, the park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land consisting of light forests, scrubs, grasslands, tanks, and lagoons. Though Yala spreads over a vast area, only two of its designated blocks are open to the visitors while the remaining area is a strictly designated Natural Reserve. The rocky outcrops scattered over the park provide vantage points to enjoy the sprawling areas with Sri Lanka's dry zone landscape. Still more, the southern border of the park being the south-eastern coast, the brackish lagoons and dunes enhances the distinctive charm of the Yala National Park.
The 2004 tsunami caused severe but localized damage to the park. Some 250 people in and around the park were consumed by the rampaging waves, also forever changing the land features of Yala's coastal belt. A Tsunami memorial is constructed at Patanangala, reminding visitors of the devastation it caused and the lives it took. Visitors are allowed to get off at this point by the beach.
Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. Among its more famous residents are the world's biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted dear, peacocks, and crocodiles. Yala National Park is rich in birdlife and around 130 species have been recorded here. Besides, Situlpahuwa, Kataragama, Kebiliththa, and Buduruwagala are the other places to visit in and around Yala.
Yala National Park has four entry gates. Gates at Palatupana and Katagamuwa leading to Blocks 1 & 2 remain the most visited. However, the two Gates at Galge on Buttala-Kataragama Road, covering Blocks 3 & 5 are becoming known among visitors who do not want to contribute to congestion. There are reports of frequent sightings of leopards on these routes, too.
The Yala wildlife adventure seems to be incomplete without taking the awe-inspiring wildlife safari. The park authorities offered two types of jeeps to its visitors - half-day safari and full-day safari. There are two half-day jeep safari slots that you can choose from, the morning slot or the afternoon slot. The morning slot starts at 5:30 AM while the afternoon slot starts at 2:30 PM. Each safari lasts about 3 hours. The permits for day visits to the park are available online on Park's website or one can book at the park's ticket window.
Palatupana & Katagamuwa are closed from 1st September to 1st October every year while the Galge & Yala West Gates on Buttala-Kataragama Road which remain open 365 days. For the most reliable wildlife sightings, the best time to visit Yala is between February and July when the water levels of the park are quite low, bringing animals into the open.
A series of wildlife bungalows operated by the park afford nature enthusiasts to spend a night in the park. These bungalows are very basic, promote open space but give you an unforgettable experience as you experience a night in the animal kingdom. Besides, Tissamaharama and Kataragama are good bases from which to do a safari to Yala and any hotel or guesthouse would be able to arrange this for you.
Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Colombo is the nearest international airport which is about 308 km from Yala. It has well flight connectivity with India and other parts of Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and the United States. Haputale Railway Station is the nearest railway station, which is about 132 km from Yala. It has regular trains from Colombo, Nuwara Eliya, Elle, Kandy, and Badulla. From Haputale, it's about an hour and a half drive to Yala National Park. Tissamaharama Bus station, about 21 km from Yala, is well connected by bus with Colombo, and Kataragama.
Safari Timings: 5.30 AM & 2.30 PM, closed from September - October
Entry: USD. 15 for Foreign Adults, USD. 8 for Foreign Child, USD. 35 per Jeep for Half Day Safari & USD. 60 per Jeep for Full Day Safari
Palatupana & Katagamuwa are closed from 1st September to 1st October every year while the Galge & Yala West Gates on Buttala-Kataragama Road which remain open 365 days.