Yala National Park. National Park in Sri Lanka, Asia

Yala National Park

National Park in Sri Lanka, Asia

Leopard Photo © Kolitha de Silva

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Yala National Park

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Brown Shrike ( Lanius cristatus cristatus ) @ Yala National Park - Yala National Park
Brown Shrike ( Lanius cristatus cristatus ) @ Yala National Park - Yala National Park. Photo by Gaurika Wijeratne
Yala National Park is the second largest and the most visited national park in Sri Lanka.
This park consists of five blocks, out of which only two are presently open to the public as of now, along with its adjoining parks.

These two places have their own individual names, Ruhuna National Park (Block 1) and “Yala East” which is also known as the Kumana National Park for this adjoining area, lies in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka.
The Yala National Park, located in the Uva Province (Wikipedia Article) of Sri Lanka, covers an area of 387 square miles and is situated around 306 kilometers from Colombo City.

This game reserve was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and it was also thereafter selected as one of the first two national parks (along with Wilpattu) within Sri Lanka in 1938.

Among all other animals, the Yala National Park is more famous for its conservation of Sri Lankan Elephants, aquatic birds and Sri Lankan Leopards which inhabits this territory.

There are around three wildlife sanctuaries and six national parks in the vicinity of Yala. The largest amongst them is the Lunugamvehera National Park.

Yala is also known for its wide variety of ecosystem, which ranges from freshwater, marine wetlands, and also moist and dark tropical forests.

The Yala National Park is home to 215 species of birds, among them, six are registered as endemic species in Sri Lanka. This park also has the largest number of leopard density in the world.

There are two important religious pilgrim sites Magul Vihara and Sithulpahuwa which are located inside this park.

The tsunami in 2004 caused severe damage to this wild habitat, as 250 people died during this tragic natural catastrophe and are among those who lived within this park. However, since 2009 security measures in this park has improved considerably, resulting in the rise of visitors to this area with the numbers escalating with the turn of every year.

There are several water tanks inside this park such as the Uraniya, Maha Seelawa, Buthawa and the Pilinnawa tanks which provides water for the water bodies inside this park. The Kumbukkan Oya River and the Menik River, along with their tributaries, also flows through this park. This park also has a number of lagoons that are situated along the coastline that borders Yala National Park.

Sri Lanka - Yala
	National Park
Sri Lanka - Yala National Park. Photo by shumakovnikolay

What to Do

Yala Night Watching

Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela) - Yala National Park
Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela) - Yala National Park. Photo by David Cook
There are a series of wildlife bungalows which are operated by the park authorities within the enclosure. Nature enthusiasts who wants to spend a night in this wild and dark ambiance may find an unforgettable experience in this animal kingdom on a nocturnal visit to Yala National Park.

Bird Watching

As Yala National Park is one of the 70 IBAs (Important Bird Areas) in Sri Lanka, one can go for bird watching while visiting these territories.
Many of the birds found in the wetlands of Yala are migrants, and so it is indeed a splendid experience to watch these birds in this park, during most times of the year.

Beach walking

While most of the coastline that stretches along this park is beyond the reach of the traveler, the park lets those off at certain designated places, where once can take a stroll on the golden sand beaches.

Safari Ride

The safari ride inside the Yala National Park is indeed an experience of a lifetime. It is the adventure and the uncertainty of finding wild animals in odd places that makes this wildlife viewing experience so unique while visiting this place.

Always remember that in order to catch the inhabitants of this jungle, one needs to arrive in the area at the best time (which are the early morning hours) and tread patiently to get a glimpse of the exotic wildlife.

It has often been quoted that- ‘conservation is the state of harmony between men and land’.


The Yala National Park has a variety of ecosystems that ranges from dry monsoon forests, moist monsoon forests, grasslands, semi-deciduous forests, freshwater and marine wetlands, beaches, and also thorn forests in different parts of this wild landscape in the Sri Lankan territory.

	Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) - Yala National Park
Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) - Yala National Park. Photo by Thimindu Goonatillake



The most important birds found in this park includes Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Brown-capped Babbler, Black-capped Bulbul, Lesser Flamingo, Cormorants, and others.
Thousands of waterfowls migrate to the Yala lagoons, during the north-east monsoon seasons in Yala National Park.
Migratory rare birds like Pelicans and Flamingos can also be seen in this park.


Among the 44 species of animals that are found are the Sri Lankan Leopard, Sri Lankan Elephant, the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, and the Wild Water Buffaloes are some of the rare species of mammals that are found in this territory.


There are approximately 18 species of amphibians that lives in this park, such as Crocodiles, Adenomus Kelaartii, Bufo Atukoralei and others, which are endemic to Sri Lanka.


The Blackspot Barb, the Orange Chromide, and Common Spiny Loach, Stone Sucker and the exotic fish, Mozambique Tilapia, are some of the fish that are found in the water bodies around Yala National Park.


There are around 45 reptiles that are found in Yala National Park. To name a few, the Sri Lankan Krait, Sri Lankan Flying Snake, the endangered Sea Turtles, Sri Lanka’s Mugger Crocodile, Saltwater Crocodile, and also the deadly Indian Cobra are some of the fearsome reptiles that live in Yala National Park.

Apart from these, Prawns, Crabs and numerous Butterflies even live in these wild territories.

How to Reach

safari Yala
	national Park - Yala National Park
safari Yala national Park - Yala National Park. Photo by prise69
There are several routes to get to Yala from Colombo, however the route via Ratnapura and Tissamaharama (Wikipedia Article) is the shortest which is just 270 kilometers between Colombo and Yala.

Best Time to Visit

As Sri Lanka is a country located in the tropics, it is hot and humid throughout the year. Hence to enjoy the beauty of this place, one can visit Yala National Park during all seasons throughout the year.

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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Sep 15, 2014


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