Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Yala is undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s most visited national park and the best in Sri Lanka for viewing a wide diversity of animals. It is a wonderful place with a spectrum of habitats from scrub jungle, lakes and brackish lagoons to riverine habitat. Ruhuna National Park is divided into five blocks of which Block 1 (Yala West) is open to the public. Yala may be closed between 1st September and 15th October
The flora is typical of dry monsoon forest vegetation in the southern belt. Plains are interspersed with pockets of forest containing species such as Palu, Satinwood, Weera, Maila, Mustard Tree, Neem and Woodapple. Endemic birds include the Ceylon Junglefowl, Brown-capped Babbler, Ceylon Woodshrike and Ceylon Swallow. The park is also good for dry zone specialties like Indian and Great Thick-knees, Sirkeer and Blue-faced Malkohas and Malabar Pied Hornbill. The park is probably the best place to see the rare Black-necked Stork. A day’s birding in the park, during the northern winter, can yield a 100 species.
The biggest draws in Yala are Elephants, Leopards and Sloth Bears. A recent study has shown that Yala has one of the highest densities of Leopards in the world. A game drive could yield Black-naped Hare, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Hanuman Langur, Toque Monkey, Stripe-necked and Ruddy Mongooses, Wild Boar, Jackal, Land and Water Monitor and Marsh Crocodile. At the end of the North-east Monsoon (February), the park is also very good for butterflies.
Tissamaharama has a broad range of accommodation. Near the park is Yala Safari Game Lodge (Re-opening summer next year), Elephant Reach Hotel and the Yala Village hotel.
Source: Sri Lanka National Parks & Reserves by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, published by Jetwing Eco Holidays.