Yala National Park is recognized as the second largest and the most visited national park in Sri Lanka. It is located about 300km from Colombo. The park covers 1260 square kilometres and extends over two provinces of Hambantota district of the Southern province and Monaragala district of Uva province. Although only one-fifth of the area is open to the visitors. During the colonial time period, the park was used as a hunting ground. Yala park was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1900 and was upgraded to the status of national park in 1938. The national park has five blocks, which two of them including adjoining park are open to the general public. Each of the blocks has unique names like Ruhuna National Park for block 1 and Kumana National Park or “Yala East” for the adjoining area. Simply, the neighbourhood of Yala has six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries with the largest as “Lunugamvehera National Park”. Despite its lust greenish look, Yala is in a hot, semi-arid environment. The annual temperature ranges from 260°C to 300°C. The park gets most of its rainfall during the north-east monsoon season from September to December.
Yala National Park gives you a great opportunity to witness the true beauty of wildlife in Sri Lanka and there is a large number of species of mammals, birds and reptiles. The park is a home for about 215 bird species including seven species endemic to the island. In the park, forty-four species of mammals have been recorded. Some threatened species like Sloth Bear, Leopard, Elephant, Water Buffalo, Wild Boar, Spotted Deer, Sambar and Golden Jackal can be found here.
Yala National Park has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. Sri Lankan Leopards are a different sub-species from the Indian Leopards. These gorgeous animals can be seen throughout the park. The best period to check out the leopards is during the months of January to July.
There is a considerable population of Sri Lankan Elephants in the park and the best period to check these gigantic mammals is during the dry season of May to August.
Yala has two important pilgrim sites within the park like Sithulpawwa and Magul Viharaya. It has been recorded that agriculture has flourished in the area during the period of the Ruhuna Kingdom. The presence of a large number of ancient but abandoned tanks proves as evidence of a rich hydraulic and agricultural dating back to 5th century BC.
The park got hit by 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The tsunami has caused a massive damage to the park with scrub forest and grassland as the most affected habitats. It has changed the land features of Yala’s coastal belt forever. No wild animals were killed from the tsunami event due to their sixth sense.
A safari jeep tour in Yala National Park will be an unforgettable experience and you will be able to witness many beautiful animals and attractive landscapes. For a true nature lover, Yala trip is worth an effort.