Some 300 km away from Colombo lays Sri-Lanka’s second largest national park – Yala National Park. It is one of the oldest parks in the country having being designed as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and designated in 1938. The area of and around the park is filled with rich history from kings setting up their kingdoms here to being hit by one of the worst tsunami’s.
Still today it is the most visited park of the country and has five blocks in it. Two of these blocks are open to the public along with the adjoining parks. The blocks each have their own individual names and different entrances. There are overall six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the 979 square km vicinity of Yala.
The park is governed by the endless variety of flora and fauna. It has a variety of ecosystems including moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi-deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, fresh water and marine wetlands and sandy beaches. Other habitats of the park include water holes, lagoon, mangroves and Chena lands. The fauna in the park is supported by various categories of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibian, fishes and invertebrates.
Of 215 bird species of the park, six are endemic to Sri Lanka. The number of water birds inhabiting wetlands of Yala is 90 and half of them are migrants. Black-necked Stork and Lesser Adjutant are the rare birds that can be seen in the park. 44 species of mammals are resident in Yala National Park, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
The elephant herd of Yala contains 300–350 individuals. Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, Sri Lankan Leopard, Sri Lankan Elephant, Wild water buffalo are threatened species. The reptile fauna recorded from the park is 46 and five of them are endemic. There are 18 amphibians’ species that have been recorded from Yala. In the water courses of Yala, 21 fresh water fishes are found. Crabs and prawns include the fauna in the lagoons of the park. A variety of butterfly species is found here.
One can take a jeep safari to gaze over these beautiful creatures as the roam around in their natural habitat undisturbed. The park is open from 6am to 6pm and hosts a large no. of tourists every day. Accommodations have sprung up during the past few years to entertain the guests. If you an adventurous person you can also pitch tents at the border of the park and spend the night in the wilderness.
It is however closed for a while in the month of September-October and the locals say that the best time to visit the park is from February to June! The tickets come as cheap as LKR 3700 per adult for a day pass which you can also pre book online.
Pretty good deal for a wildlife adventure of a lifetime i’d say!