Yala National Park, a name which is today, synonymous with the word ‘Leopard’. The park boasts of the highest density of Leopards in the world, making it one of the best places to spot Leopards out in the wild. The Sri Lankan subspecies of Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is also the largest Leopard in the world, due to the absence of natural predators and competition.
Spread over nearly 1300 square km, Yala is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka and an important conservation effort. It is divided into 5 blocks out of which only block I and V are open to the public. Block I of Yala is the most frequented National Park in Sri Lanka so expect crowds. Sitting on the Eastern end of the very busy Southern coastline of the island, the park is easy to access and draws plenty of tourists. In comparisson, fewer people visit the newly opened block V towards the Northern border of the park and is the ideal place for a quiet safari.
Most of Yala falls within the semi-arid zone, (the dryest of Sri Lanka’s climatic regions). Its vegetation is mostly scrub and thorn forests. Other notable ecosystems include dry evergreen forests, water-holes and tanks, grasslands, lagoons and beaches. While Leopards are Yala’s main attraction, many other mammals like Elephants, Sloth Bears, Sambar Deer, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo & Spotted Deer are also common in the park. While its home to many dry zone resident birds of Sri Lanka, from October to April the coastal areas also provide shelter to many migrant birds. The best times to visit the park would be after the Northeastern monsoon starts – November to March. Please note, the park is usually closed during the month of September.