I've made two visits to Yala National Park, most recently a few years back when I last visited Sri Lanka. That visit provided the material for this blog.
Yala is the second largest and most visited National Park in the country. It's in the southeastern corner of Sri Lanka, and a long day's drive from Colombo. Yala covers 1000 sq km, and is well know for it's large assortment of wildlife, especially herds of elephant and a large population of leopards (although the latter are shy and difficult to spot).
I'd arranged for a private vehicle to take my friend and I on a half day safari into the park. We were picked up at our hotel well over an hour before sunrise and our plan was to get into the park at dawn, the best time for wildlife viewing.
We arrived at the park gate to find a traffic jam. Dozens of vehicles were waiting for the park office to open so they could obtain their park permit for the day. We had to wait about an hour for our driver to obtain his permit and by then it was well past sunrise -- a frustrating disappointment.
We spent a half day exploring different side roads in the park. The game viewing was okay but not as good as I remember it being from my prior visit. The park roads were extremely rough and bumpy, and our Jeep did not seem to have any shock absorbers, so we ended the morning shaken and sore from the ride. But we were in beautiful nature that was the point of it all.
Here are some of the animals we spotted during that morning's safari:
Buffalo: The most common animal we spotted on this safari. They were especially fond of the watering holes.
Spotted Deer: Lots of these around the park.
Elephant: This was the only elephant we spotted, and he disappeared very quickly. Couldn't even get a decent photo of him. Disappointing for a partk know for its elephant population.
Peacocks: Found by the dozens and often were strutting their stuff.
Little Green Bee-Eater: Petite and full of energy, always waiting for a bug to fly by.
Sri Lanka Junglefowl:
Asian Openbill Stork: It was the first time I'd spotted this bird, a large and distinguished animal
Lesser Adjutant: A type of stork.
Pelicans and Oriental Darters:
We took a mid-morning break at a rest area near the Indian Ocean. Seems most everyone else is here at the same time. By the time we left it was late morning and the animals had mostly disappeared into the jungle, so we made our way back to our hotel.
As we drive out of the park we pass several large lotus ponds -- quite lovely.
In summary, a nice park but I don't think I'd return here. Professor Abe described an interesting safari in Lunugamverhera National Park -- I probably head here for a wildlife experience instead.