Sri Lanka has an impressive array of wildlife for a country of its size, and whilst most people tend to associate the tiny Indian Ocean island with honeymoon beach holidays, safari tours are equally big business. Of all the National Parks on the island, Yala National Park – with one of the highest population of leopards in the world – is the jewel in Sri Lanka’s glittering crown.
We chose Yala National Park for our safari because of its proximity to Hikkaduwa, the beach where we were based over Christmas and New Year. The park is a 4-hour drive from Hikkaduwa, making it (just) possible to do in a day. It was a long day that started with a 3am pick-up from our guesthouse. We drove through the gates of the park around 7am, not long after the sun rose.
Leopards at Yala National Park
Yala is most famous for a population of around 20 leopards in Block 1 of the park. Sadly, we were not fortunate enough to spot the elusive spotted feline, but we saw plenty of other animals including elephants and a rare sighting of a sloth bear. And if this is not exciting enough, Yala sits right on the coast of the Indian Ocean, so one minute you’re spotting elephants and the next moment you are on the beach! Where else does that happen?
For $90 per person (including transport from Hikkaduwa) we spent 4 hours bouncing along clay-clogged tracks in an open-sided jeep that contained only one other guest. We were perhaps a little unlucky in the weather as a light drizzle kept most of the animals under tree cover and therefore away from our camera lenses – I have no clear photograph of the sloth bear, but it was amazing to put the camera down and simply watch as a mother bear and cub lumbered through the foliage. Thankfully, the elephants came right out of the trees to greet our jeep and pose for some pictures.
My favourite photographs from Yala National Park
For more information on Yala National park visit their website.
Have you been to Yala National Park, or would you like to go? Which picture is your favourite? Please take a moment to comment below