What are the 10 places to visit on Yala national park tours?

Watching a leopard stalking prey is an unforgettable and rare wildlife experience. You can count on this kind of experience on Yala National Park tours. It is a great site and a truly spine-tingling, memorable experience that any nature lover can imagine.

Table of Contents

What is Yala National park?

Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s second-largest national park, situated on the southern tip of the country, bordering the Indian Ocean. Perhaps Yala National park is the bst place for Sri Lanka safari packages. Three of the five blocks that make up the Yala National Park are open to visitors. Yala National Park spans 979 square kilometers, making it the island’s second-largest national park. Yala National Park is widely regarded as one of the world’s best places to see wild leopards. It has the world’s largest concentration of leopards compared to all other national parks of similar size.

In 1900, Sri Lanka designated Yala as a wildlife sanctuary, and Wilpattu as one of its first two national parks in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wildlife. It is important to conserve Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds.

Why should I choose Yala national park for my Safari tour?

Why choose Yala national park? Gooooood question, because Sri Lanka is home to more than a dozen of National parks and many of them can be used for wildlife safari. But, Yala stands out from the crowd, because Yala is the best national park in Sri Lanka to spot leopards. There is no other national park safari as good as Yala to see leopards. In fact, Yala is one of the best national parks in the world to see leopards. A large concentration of leopards is being a major reason for its popularity as a destination to see leopards. Yala safari also allows you to see many other wild animals such as bears, crocodiles, elephants, wild buffaloes, deer etc.

Where is Yala national park?

Yala National park is near the southern border of Sri Lanka, which is 280 km from Colombo. This very remote national park is located near the town of Tissamaharama, bout 20 km from Tissamaharama.

How to visit Yala National Park

Every southern Sri Lanka tour includes a Yala national park safari tour., So, venturing on a Sri Lanka trip to the south coast is the best way to visit Yala national park. Many local tour operators such as Seerendipity tours organize Yala national park safari from Colombo and 400+ beach resorts in Sri Lanka. However, the Yala safari can be booked as a standalone trip or combined with another Sri Lanka trip such as Sri Lanka 7 days tour or a Sri Lanka beach tour.

What are the top 10 places to visit on Yala national park tour?

Suppose you start the Yala national park tour from Colombo and take the Colombo-Galle main road, here are the top 10 places to visit along the way,

  1. Bentota beach
  2. Madu River estuary
  3. Sea turtle conservation centre
  4. Mask museum and gem museum
  5. Hikkaduwa marine sanctuary and the beach
  6. Galle Fort
  7. Kande Viharaya Buddhist temple
  8. Spice garden
  9. Mirissa beach for whale watching
  10. Kataragama temple

The vegetation of Yala national park

Yala national park is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, where the annual rainfall records less than 15000 mm. The park sees a long drought period every year. Due to the scarcity of rainwater, the vegetation in the park is well adapted to tolerate the scarcity of water. There are few forest types that can be seen in the park and thorn buses are prominent among them. These thorn bushes have very low density and enable the travellers to penetrate their sight into the deep inside the forest.

The Yala national park has a unique collection of trees, plants, veins and thorn bushes. The trees and plant distribution in the park as well as the immediate surroundings of the main road is in favour of wildlife lovers. Unlike in the thickly forested areas such as Sinharaja forest, at Yala national park you can have clear sight for about 10-15 meters into the forested areas from the road. Therefore, you can easily witness leopards that roam around the main road.

5 best places to visit in Sri Lanka in one day

12 best places to visit in Sri Lanka in 2 days

15 best places to visit in Sri Lanka in 3 days

Places to visit in Sri Lanka in 4 days

22 places to visit in Sri Lanka in 5 days

Yala national park tours for a top-notch leopard sighting

From Leopard spotting and ancient ruins of archaeological sites to serene beaches around the park, the magic of Yala national park takes the visitors by surprise always. Yala national park is the most popular for wildlife tours on the island and many thousands of travellers enter the park every day. According to the authorities, the park is over-visited.

Don’t feed animals during the safari

The hoards of tourists in the park have deteriorated the lifestyle of the animal up to a certain level. Even though it earns money for the country on the other hand wildlife safari at Yala causes some damage to the wildlife.

To make it worst the jeep drivers and the visitors are not adhering to the rules and regulations, which should be observed during the safari. E.g. many elephants in Yala national park have become used to being fed by visitors. When the animals are frequently fed by humans, the elephant makes it a habit to rely on humans for food.

These types of elephant habits are innocent initially but they tend to become more aggressive gradually over time, like “Gemunu”, a bull elephant that lives in Yala national park, which blocks the dirt tracks and halts safari jeeps to sniff out food inside.

The Yala safari tour provides a great opportunity to explore Sri Lanka’s wildlife

It gives you the maximum of wildlife adventure, it is rustic, scenic and wild at its wildest. The vegetation of the Yala national park is dominated by shrubs, thorn bushes and various types of grasses. Isolated big trees are seen at the beginning of the Yala national park safari tours while dense jungle dominated as you go deep into the park.

Venturing on Yala national park safari tours is the best way to explore the rich wildlife of Sri Lanka. Yala national park is the most popular safari destination on the island of Sri Lanka and it is set in the island’s legendary Ruhunu kingdom of southern Sri Lanka.

Yala national park safari tour is one of the most popular activities for travellers, who visit Sri Lanka and it includes most road trips of Sri Lanka. Tour operators such as seerendipity tours organize one-day tours, multi-day Sri Lanka tours and adventure trips to beach holidays with the inclusion of Yala national park.

Yala National Park is the second biggest wildlife reserve on the island. It spreads over a huge area of rainforest, grassland and lagoons bordering the Sea, in southeast Sri Lanka. It’s home to wildlife such as leopards, elephants, sloth bears and crocodiles; to name a few, as well as hundreds of bird species. Yala ranks among the best places for Sri Lanka jungle tours and attracts a large number of travellers every year.

Spotting leopards on Yala national park tours

I had done Yala national park safari tour many times with our customers and had the opportunity to spot the leopards many times. However, spotting a leopard in the park cannot be guaranteed. It can be difficult to spot this elusive cat on a short Yala safari. But the travellers get a very good chance of spotting a leopard on a full-day safari.

The drought period is the best time of the year to spot leopards in Yala national park. Therefore, wildlife lovers like to visit Yala national park during the drought. Not only wildlife lovers, but leopards also love the drought period. During the drought, the leopards stay on the move for a long period of time every day. Therefore the chances are better to see Leopards during the drought.

The main rainy season in Yala is from November to Jan and April. During rainy days, the leopards retreat deep into caves, Therefore, chances of spotting leopards during the Yala safari are relatively low. But you still can see leopards even during rainy days, however, the travellers should have a whole lot more patience with their adventure.

Rare opportunity to spot black leopards in Yala National park

Black leopards are a variation of common Sri Lanka leopards found in various places on the island. This rare creature was spotted rarely on the island and they were mainly seen in Sri Lanka’s hill country. Despite the high population of leopards in Yala national park, no one has spotted black leopards in the Yala national park over the last 50 years. The last black leopard reported within the Yala national park was about 50 years back. A group of travellers, who were on a Yala safari had been able to spot a black leopard on 24th March 2023. This elusive creature was captured in the cameras by a few foreign and local travellers for the first time in history. The black leopard that was spotted in the National was around 5 months old and the cub was with his mother.

The news about the black leopard went viral over social media and since then the number of visitors to the national park has increased in great numbers in order to take a glimpse of the rare creature. According to conservationists “Black leopards are born due to melanism, which resulted due to the recessive or dominant alleles”.

Jeep tour with an experienced driver

You need a trained eye to spot animals and most importantly you should have a good idea about places, where they are roaming, for instance, the elephants and many other animals are coming to waterholes afternoon. Fortunately, the jeep driver can help you to find animals. So having an experienced guy is key to the success of your Yala safari tour. Success in the sense, I mean spotting a leopard and encountering other animals such as Elephants is fairly easy on your Yala safari tour.

Watching leopards in Action

Watching a leopard stalking prey is an unforgettable and rare wildlife experience that you can count on on a Yala national park safari tour. It is a great site and a truly spine-tingling memorable experience that any nature lover can imagine.

Unfortunately, only a few places allow you to have that experience and a few travellers get the opportunity to witness this magnificent hunter in the action. Count on Yala national park for similar kinds of experiences, it is Yala where you can hope to spot this big cat in action because Yala has the highest number of leopards compared to any other national park of its size in the world.

Historical facts about Yala national park

One of the notable differences between Yala and other national parks in Sri Lanka is the collection of fascinating ruins within the borders of Yala national park, the ruins belong to a Buddhist monastery complex dating back to the 2nd century BC (visiting a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka these are the rule need to know).

Wild animals such as monkeys, deer, elephants, wild boars and even leopards are roaming around the monastery. The monastery is situated at one of the highest places towards the western borders of the park commanding a breathtaking view from its lofty position.

What animals do we spot on Yala national park tours?

  • Leopard
  • Elephant
  • Deer
  • Crodocile
  • Monitors
  • Jackal
  • Buffalo
  • Bear
  • Sambar deer
  • Wild boar
  • Mongoose
  • A large number of bird species
  • Many species of vertebrates

Undoubtedly, spotting a leopard is the most sought-after experience of visitors who take Yala national park safari tours, but, spotting the leopard is the most difficult and it cannot be guaranteed. Even though the park is home to a large number of leopards, spotting this magnificent carnivore is a daunting task and needs a great deal of patience as well as luck. In some cases, you will be able to spot all the creatures living in the park such as leopards, sloth bears, deer, crocodiles, elephants, monkeys, mongoose, jackals, water buffaloe etc during your Yala safari tour. But there are instances that you only see a few species of these animals during the Yala national park safari tour.

How big is Yala national park?

Yala national park is the 2nd biggest national park on the island and it was established in 1900 as a wildlife sanctuary. The park spreads over 978 km2 and is one of the best places to observe wildlife on the island.

Geological facts about Yala national park

Yala national park has a fascinating blend of ecologically different places such as lakes and water holes, huge boulders, grasslands, thorn bushes, and sand dunes. Yala national park is the most popular national park on the island mainly due to the large concentration of leopards.

Sloth bear, another rare animal that can be spotted in Yala national park

Why is the Yala Safari tour special?

The visitors are lavishly rewarded by mother nature when they take part in Yala national park safari tours. You can see gorgeous scenery across the grasslands, and huge lakes filled with rainwater with colourful birds. You can spot majestic elephants, leopards, and various other animals.

Colourful green bee-eaters are everywhere and they allow you to have a close look at them. You see the isolated mongoose, herds of buffaloes, deer and wild boar in the distance as you pass the grasslands. You will be greeted by wild crocodiles as you come across the ponds and waterholes.

You will encounter large herds of deer, numbering hundreds on some occasions, grazing on the lush green growth. Leopards are the rarest animal to spot here and you can see this predator everywhere in the park. It can be occurring on treetops, on grassy plains, on boulders or near water holes.

Grasslands and shrub forests are very frequent at the beginning of the Yala national park safari tours, where you see the animals even in the distance with ease. Unlike most national parks, you don’t drive hours without spotting any animals at Yala. In Yala, you see an animal at every moment of your game drive, at least a troop of monkeys.

How easy to watch elephants in Yala?

One of the most common animals in Yala is the elephant. Almost every traveller gets the opportunity to see several elephants at any given time of the day. These jumbos are starting to appear as you drive about 2-4 kilometres deep into the jungle. Usually, jeep drivers wheel around the Elephants and position you to have a better view of the animal all the time. Sometimes the elephants are getting very close to the jeeps. In some instances, they are standing next to your jeep and not more than 15 feet away from the door.

Unlike in most other national parks such as Minneriya national park and Udawalawe national park, it is very convenient to spot wild animals during the Yala national park safari tours. Visitors are not required to drive many kilometres from place to place to spot animals. The visitors can spot the animals every 10-15 minutes interval. After about 2-3 hours the jeep covers the entire circuit (usually the safari takes place in Zone 1 of Yala national park) of the safari trip and guests are able to spot most animals during this time.

The rarest animal to spot in Yala national park is the leopard, still, Yala is one of the best places to spot leopards in the world. Usually, travellers are able to see a large number of wild animals on every safari, but it is difficult to find the leopard and bear compared to other animals such as elephants. Other than leopards and bear wildlife sightings are very common during the Yala national park safari tours.

It is always recommended to use professional safari jeep drivers for Yala national park safari tours. Because the success of safari largely depends on the drivers, they have a very good eye and can easily spot wild animals hidden in the woods. They have a good idea of where the animals are roaming in the park. The animals show up in different places in the park depending on the season and the time of the day. Normally lakes and waterholes are the best places to spot wild animals. These lakes are also occupied by hundreds of different species of birds.

What is the best time to do the Yala safari tour?

Usually, the Yala national park safari tours start early in the morning (at around 5.00 AM) or in the afternoon (at around 2.00 PM), therefore most travellers who are coming from far away destinations spend one night in a nearby hotel (before or after the safari) and do the Yala national park safari at a most suitable time.

Seerendipity tours organize Yala safari tours from 40+ hotels around the island. You can book a regular Yala jeep safari as well as a full-day Yala jeep safari tour with us, please contact us at admin@seerendipitytorus.com for more information.

Full-day Yala Safari tour vs regular 3 hours Yala safari tour?

If you come to Yala in order to spot a Leopard and do not want to miss the opportunity, I recommend you do a full-day Yala safari tour. Regular Yala Safari tour lasts about 3 hours and therefore chances of spotting leopards are very narrow. However, if you venturing on a full-day Yala Safari tour, the chances of spotting leopards are far greater than the usual safari great. A full-day safari starts around 05.00 am and lasts until dusk, and the full-day safari includes drinks as well as a picnic lunch.

Yala safari invariably means spotting leopards because the expectation of most visitors to Yala wildlife reserve is to spot leopards. It is highly recommended to do a full-day Yala safari in order to realize your target. It could be difficult to a leopard on a half-day regular jeep safari but a full-day jeep safari increases your chance of spotting leopards considerably and thereby you can realize your expectations.

On the full-day jeep safari usually, the safari organizer provides a picnic lunch in one of the designated areas to spot in the park. There are 2 picnic spots to choose from one is near the beach while the second place adjoining the river. Most guests who are on jeep safari choose the beach in order to take a rest.

Is Yala national park open throughout the year?

No. There may be instances, Yala national park is closed to visitors. However, it is decided by the park administration. usually, the Park is closed for about a 1 month during the peak period of the drought season. When teh Yala national park safari is not available, we arrange a safari for our customers at other nearby national park such as Udalwalawe and Bundala national park.

Tissamaharama is the gateway to Yala national park

Tissamaharama is the nearest city to Yala and most accommodations facilities available around Tissamaharama. All types of accommodations, from star-class hotels, Eco-hotels to cheap guest houses are available here making it a destination that is suitable for any type of budget. Tissamaharama has situated about 10km from Yala national park. Tissamahrama is the gateway to Yala national park and most accommodation facilities you find here are not near the Yala national park. Only a very few hotels are located near the Yala national park.

There are several campsites also available near Yala national park, for travellers who are interested in camping. These campsites are not located directly in the park but at the border of the Yala national park. These luxurious camping sites offered all meals and 2 safaris trips to the Yala wildlife reserve.

Yala national park is one of the best places to witness leopards in the world

Yala is considered to be one of the oldest national parks in Sri Lanka and it is one of the biggest national parks in Sri Lanka with 97880hectares. The densest population of the biggest leopards in the world is recorded in Yala national park. The Sri Lankan leopard is identified as a sub-species of common leopards (panthera pardus kotiy) and, is endemic to the island.

Yala national park was initially used as a hunting ground during British rule in Sri Lanka. As the number of animals drastically reduced due to hunting, Yala is declared a national park in 1900 and became a safe place for wildlife. Yala is the biggest national park and is divided into 5 zones. The biodiversity of the national park is considered to be high and Yala is mainly recognized as the best place for observing leopards in the country. Other than the leopards there is a number of other animals in the park such as Elephants, Deer, Buffalo, Wild boar, Bear, monkey etc.

Sri Lankan leopard

Yala has a reputation as one of the best places to witness leopards (panthera pardus kotiya) in the world with 17 ½ big cats per 100 square kilometres. Naturalists are saying that in Block 1 of Yala National park could be home to the densest population of leopards in the world, the density of leopards in block one around a leopard per every 2 sq. kilometres. Thirty adult individual leopards are identified by the naturalists in Yala block 1 other than the cubs.

Unlike most other national parks where leopards can be seen in the dark Sri Lanka leopards are on the move during the day as well. One of the main reasons for the great concentration of leopards in Yala is the abundance of games for the animals. One naturalist has said “There is no competition for food. So they are not bothered about protecting a kill. We have noted a number of kills left here and there. Leopard kills feed a number of other animals. They actively keep the prey in check”.

Leopards are the most fearful and biggest carnivores on the island. The physical characteristics of leopards are varying depending on the habitat, and leopard in Sri Lanka is considered to be the biggest leopard in the world, which grows up to seven feet in length and up to 170 pounds. The larger body size of the leopards enables them to prey on larger animals such as full-grown sambhur or big buffalo. The leopard in Sri Lanka is identified as a sub-species of common leopards in the world. The Sri Lanka leopard (panthera pardus kotiy) is endemic to the island.

Yala national park is not only a great place to watch leopards. It is also a great place to watch dry zone birds and other favourite animals. And of course, the bears, the microcosm of biodiversity including crocodiles are on show at the Yala National Park. Yala is also a good place to see crocodiles in action, and during the dry season, they could be seen feeding and preying on dead buffaloes.

How to determine where leopards are occurring

Usually, most Yala safaris take place in block 5, which is the area to spot leopards. Blocks 1-4 are deep in the jungle and tourists are not going that deep into the jungle. Patience is very important to spot leopards and sometimes you need to stop the jeep and wait for many hours until the leopard show-up to kill its prey. Usually, drivers (who have a lot of experience) are able to determine where the Leopard is hiding, by the warning calls made by the deers, as well as the direction the deers were looking.

Yala Block 1 is the best quarter of the national park to spot leopards, Yala block 1 is home to between 100-125 leopards and there are a few famous characters among them.

Sri Lankan sloth bear

Sri Lanka sloth bear is another rare animal in Sri Lanka, perhaps the bear is even more rare than leopards. Therefore, it is more difficult to spot bears in the jungle than leopards. The Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus inornatus) belongs to the Sloth bear family. The Sri Lankan sloth bear is mainly found in low-land dry zone forests such as Yala. There is a chance of spotting sloth bears during the Yala national park safari, however, cannot be guaranteed.

It is difficult to spot bears in the jungle mainly due to their low population within the island. Like most other wild animals the bear is also highly threatened. According to the information, the bear population within the island is less than 1000. The bear population is on a downward trend mainly due to the habitat loss. Living habitat is very important to the bear species because it is highly dependent on the natural forests for its food source

Spotting birds in Yala

Yala is also considered to be one of the best places to see birds, especially in April-October; migrating birds also flock into the park during this period. Yala is the home for many endemic birds such as Lanka Habam Kukula – Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Lanka Wali Kukula – Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Lanka Mailagoya – Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Lanka Giramaliththa – Hanging Parrot of Sri Lanka, Layard’s Parakeet, Lanka Alu Girawa. Yala also attracts a large number of seasonal birds, especially during the bird migration from October to April.

What is the price for Yala Safari?

There are a few factors that decide the Yala safari price. The main contributors to the Yala safari price are the entrance fees, and transfer charges, So if you start the Yala safari from Colombo for 2 persons it would cost around USD 100 per person. If you start the trip from Bentota, Kalutara or Hikkaduwa, the Yala safari price would be around USD 90 per person based on 2 persons.

Hotels near Yala national park

There are only very few hotels near Yala national park to stay in during your Yala national park safari tours. Most tourists who wish to make Yala national park safari tours opt to stay in a hotel near Tissamaharama rather than in Yala. Tissamaharama is the main city near Yala national park, which is around 20 km away from Yala national park. There are a large number of good hotels in Tissamaharam. Here you can find accommodation from very cheap dormitories to luxurious boutique hotels. Whatever the budget you have you can find suitable accommodation here.

Apart from a large number of possibilities to get accommodation, there is another important reason why most travellers stay in Tissamaharama, which is the possibility (of course with different prices and different categories) of exploring many other historical and natural attractions such as Kataragama temple, Tissa lake, Kirinda etc. Yala is a remote isolated area with dense foliage whereas Tissamaharama is concerned it is a very populated area with markets, shops, restaurants, hotels, bars and many historical places around.

How to go to Yala national park

Yala is located at Southeast Sri Lanka and the park is far away from cities and other populated areas. The park entrance is well above 10 km away from the main road and travellers need to travel 20 minutes between the forest in order to reach the park entrance. The ticket counters are located at the park entrance.

Because the park is located in an unpopulated area do not expect to have public transportation to reach the park. At least the last leg of the trip  (10 km between the main road and the park entrance). Since every traveller goes to Yala to observe wildlife they have to rent a jeep sometime of the trip. Usually, most jeeps are stationed at Tissamaharama and jeeps do not charge anything extra for the drive from Tissamaharama to Yala national park. Therefore it is recommended to start the jeep safari in Tissamahara where you can find accommodation easily. It is easy to reach Tissamaharama from any part of the island and you find direct buses to Tissamaharama from most cities.

Where do I get a jeep for the safari?

It is not tricky and complicated to get a jeep for your Yala safari. There is a large number of jeeps providing service to travellers in Yala. You can get hold of a jeep either at the entrance of Yala national park or in Tissamaharama. You get a large number of jeeps near the lake of Tissamaharma and you can book a jeep spontaneously. Usually, the jeep drivers start their journey from Tissamaharama, which is the biggest city close to Yala national park. I fact, most travellers stay overnight in Tissamaharama, where there is a large concentration of hotels and guest houses.

Kataragama temple, Yatalatissa Buddhist temple, Kirinda

What are the does and doesn’t of Yala national park safari tours?

1. Don’t ever take fruits into the national park elephants smell the fruits and come to you

2. Take a bottle of water

3. Take binoculars to see animals and birds

4. Wear a hat

5. Wear a light cotton dress, it is very hot and humid in the Yala park

6. Apply sunscreen if you start your Yala national park safari tour in the morning

7. Roads are very dusty in the park, therefore, be prepared to get dirty

The road is very dusty and there is a very high possibility of getting caught in dust clouds. It mainly happens due to the speeding-up of the jeeps that drive in front of you. Sometimes the drivers get hints from other jeeps, about the places, where animals are occurring, for instance, when a driver spots a leopard on a tree he informs the other drivers, over the mobile phone, about the leopard. Once the message is passed to other jeeps, other drivers also rush to the place, so that they can show the leopard to their guests. I have never seen this type of communication in other national parks in Sri Lanka.

Why you should choose Seerendipity for Yala national park tours?

Seerendipity Tour is an entirely locally owned travel company with a head office in Colombo. The highly experienced local staff is a key strength of Seerendipity Tours, and they can plan your dream holiday to Sri Lanka.

The best price guaranteed for your Sri Lanka trip

When you book a tour with Seerendipity Tours, you directly book the tour with the local company, which means there are no middlemen and therefore you can guarantee the best price. Simply get in touch with us and let us know when you travel and what you like to see.

Plan your best Sri Lanka trip with-expert

Our staff makes a personalised programme for you, which you can change until you find the best Sri Lanka trip package for you. You can also browse our existing tour packages for inspiration (www.sirilaktours.com); all our ready-made tour packages are customizable and can be tailored to meet all your expectations. Write to us at admin@seerendipitytours.com, tel. 0094-77-440977, WhatsApp 0094-77-4440977

Please support us

We have put a lot of time and effort into compiling this blog post. Please be kind enough to leave your very own comments.