Boasting with bountiful jungles, open grassy planes, shrubs, rocky outcrops, fresh water lagoons and rivers, outlined with silvery sandy beaches, is a great forest housing a family of wilderness in its cocoon of nature.
Yala is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka. And it has also been the subject for documentaries by BBC and Discovery Channel. The 300km ride from Colombo is worth it to witness the treasure trove of wild animals. There are 5 blocks in Yala of which only two are open to the public. Block 1 or Yala West was initially a gaming park for hunters, but was conserved in 1938. Block 2 is dense jungle and beaten tracks, where patience comes in handy to spot animals hidden by the foliage. Yala East is also known as “KumanaNaional Park”.
The park is reputed to have the highest density of leopards in the world. PantheraPardusKoitya is a leopard species found only in Sri Lanka, and takes its royal presence in the outskirts of Yala. The best time to see leopards is from January to July.
Elephants are another major attraction in Yala as the roam the jungle mainly in herds. They could be crossing the road from one grassy plain to another, hidding behind the shrubs or dipping in for a bath by a watering hole. They enjoy the attention of the countless visitors and get about their business, as long no threat is posed to their younglings. The baby elephants are a delightful sight, playfully frolicking with their mates under the protective eye of the herd.
The sloth bear is a rare to see, but if luck is on your side it is an unforgettable sight! Peacock pageantry is a show on its own, as vibrant blue and green penetrate the eye even from a distance. During the mating season they dance flirtatiously showing off their glamorous feathers.Yala is also home to the endangered Slender Loris, Spotted Deer, Buffaloes, Sambar ,Monkeys, Wild Boars and Jackals .
Yala is also houses over 200 species of birds, including endemic and migratory birds. Some of the endemic birds are Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl, Sri Lankan Grey Hornbill, Sri Lankan Wood Pigeon, Crimson fronted Barbet, Black capped Bulbul and Brown Capped Babbler. There are many migrant water birds, cormorants and waders found at the water dwellings in the park. To name a few; Lesser Whistling Duck, Indian Cormorant, Painted Stork, Pelicans and Herons. Catch a glimpse of the grand raptors such as Crested Serpent Eagle and White Bellied Sea Eagle. The park is one of the 70 most important bird areas in the island.
Yala is not only lush with flora and fauna, but has a rich history for owning the oldest Brahmin inscriptions discovered in Sri Lanka. Out and about Yala you may visit the ancient SitulpawwaRock Temple dating back 2200 years. This was a monastery for over 12,000 Buddhist monks (Arahants) who have attained sublime nirvana. Close by is the temple MagulMahaViharayathe blessed site where matrimonial ceremony of King Kavantissa and Queen Viharamahadevi took place.. The religious city of Kataragamais a popular excursion from Yala, which attracts devotees from all religions. The perehera in Kataragama takes place in July/August.