Yala National Park

Indian peacock at the Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
A deer at the Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s second largest and most visited national park, Yala is made with five blocks, out of which Ruhuna National Park and Kumana National Park are fully accessible to the public.

Covering 979 square kilometers of forest and shrubland, Ruhuna National Park is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to observe Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), a leopard subspecies native to the country.

The second block is the Kumana National Park also known as the Yala East National Park. It’s the world-renowned location to observe local and migratory birds, especially large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds.

Despite the constant presence of tourists and wildlife enthusiasts, Yala’s diverse fauna and landscape which includes shrubs, light forest, grassy plains and brackish lagoons offer a thrilling wildlife experience like no other sanctuary in Sri Lanka.

An early morning visit during the post-rainy season will put you in direct contact with large elephant herds and proud blue peacocks displaying their blue-green spatula tipped feather fans in a graceful courtship dance while the chatter of the monkeys breaks the peace in the morning.

As one of the important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is home to a large number of endemic and immigrant, land and water birds including the celebrated raptor birds of Sri Lanka. Whether you are looking for Lesser Flamingos, Pelicans, White-bellied Sea Eagles and Crested Serpent Eagles, Yala has nearly 215 bird species with seven endemics.

Despite its elephants and birds, Yala is most celebrated for the high density of leopards. With over 40 leopards sharing an area of 14,101 hectares, the possibility of you spotting a solo leopard heading for a walk, returning from a waterhole, walking their babies or relaxing atop a tree or among shrub is very high.

Maintaining a safe distance with whatever the animals you are watching at Yala is a rule of thumb to go by when visiting a wildlife park as busy as Yala.