Yala National Park consists of five blocks with a total of 130,000 hectares of land. It is the most popular and second largest National Park in Sri Lanka. There live an estimated 25-30 leopards in Yala National Park which is the highest density of leopards in the world! This is the reason why Yala is the most popular park in Sri Lanka.
There are some amazing glamping options in in the park, for example the all inclusive Yala Safari Camping. We stayed there for 2 nights and it was absolutely incredible! It’s the only tented camp that is literally inside of Yala National Park. Read everything about our glamping experience in this blog post!
What to expect during a safari in Yala National Park
Because Yala National Park is so popular, you will be in the park with many other jeeps. The best time to spot leopards in Yala National Park is in the dry period from February to August. With the water levels lower, it’s easier to spot animals, especially leopards, coming out to the lagoons to drink. The most popular area at Yala which is open to tourists is block 1. The reason for that is that the most leopards live in that area. But, be aware that Block 1 & 2 normally closes each year during the months of September and October to give the animals rest. This is very important to take into account when you definitely want to spot leopards in Sri Lanka.
Often you can already spot wild elephants along the road on your way to the entrance of Yala National Park. In the park aren’t that many elephants as for example in Kaudulla or Minneriya National Park.
Yala National Park animals
- There are 215 different species of birds like the Sri Lankan wood pigeon, blue-tailed bee eater, grey hornbill and Sri Lankan junglefowl, Red wattled lapwing, Asian openbill and Hawk Eagle. We’ve seen all of these birds during our Yala Safari adventure!
- 44 mammals live in Yala National Park including the famous Sri Lankan elephant, leopards (Yala has the highest density of leopards in the world!), the Sri Lankan sloth bear, spotted deer, jackal and many more.
- 47 reptiles species including the Sri Lankan saltwater crocodile, monitor lizard, flying snake, Indian cobra and many more.
Best time to do a safari in Yala National Park
To spot leopards the best period to do a safari in Yala National Park is from February to August. In the other months it is also possible to spot them, but with every safari no one can guarantee you to actually spot the animals.
Entrance fee Yala National Park
The entrance to Yala National Park is about 4000 rupees per person, but apparently it changes often depending the season. The tours and rent of the jeep should cost about 4000 to 6000 rupees on top of the admission ticket. Depending on the amount of persons you share the jeep with, you can split those costs.
Our experience during the Yala National Park Safari
The Yala National Park Safari is so much different than the other safari tours in Sri Lanka. The park is way bigger than Kaudulla National Park for example, and you have the chance to see many more different animals. But the most special animal to spot in Yala National Park is the leopard!
We did the afternoon safari with Yala Safari Camping where we stayed for 2 nights. In a private jeep we set off to the entrance of the park. We immediately saw a crocodile. an eagle and many other birds. Further in the park we saw an elephant, monkeys and deer. We stopped at a dam with an amazing view over the vast landscape. And after driving around for more than 2 hours we were finally treated with a quick view on a leopard! After that is was time to head back to the camp. The sun started to set, and every jeep needs to get out of the park at 6PM. It was time for dinner and to look through all the photos we made during the safari!
What to prepare before your safari
If you love nature, wildlife and photography, you will be completely in your element during the Yala National Park safari! Because you want to be sure to capture every moment you see a wild animal, there is a big chance that your memory cards will be full in no time. So take enough of these with you and always make sure you have empty memory cards before you leave for the safari!
- Mosquito repellent with DEET
- Zoomlens, if you have one. Otherwise this would be a perfect reason to buy one if you love photography! 200mm is the minimum you will need! Also a camera with very good Inbody Stabillization is highly recommended!
- Enough empty memory cards
- Binoculars. Some tour operators provide these, but if you’re with more people in one jeep it’s not guaranteed that everyone can use a binocular at the same time,
- Take enough water with you. Most of the tour operators provide water, but I would suggest to always take at least half a litre refill bottle yourself
- Light snacks
More Sri Lanka travel inspiration
For more Sri Lanka inspiration, head over to these blog posts