Yala National Park has been re-opened for 3 months now and I am happy to say its back to its former glory. In a resent visit to the park we were able to observe several Elephants, Jackals, troops of Gray Langers & Toque Macaques and to top it off a Leopard resting on a Palu tree. All this was in just one safari which lasted from 7am to 10.30am. We also observed over 50 species of birds on this safari and we did not stop to watch them much as our main target was the Leopard.
It’s clear to see that the park is back to its former glory with frequent big game sightings. The park did not have more than 10 jeeps on that day and it was nice to go around the park without having to bump in to other jeeps in every corner which is the usual case with Yala.
It had been raining heavily in the month of March in Yala which is very unusual for this area. The roads were very muddy and there was water all over the park. Yala being mainly a dry zone park is not used to this sort of rain. Despite all this rain we managed to see so many animals and birds.
The coming months will be the dry sell in the Yala area and by June, July the game viewing will be excellent in the park. When the park dries up and water holes are the only means of quenching thrust, all the game will be heading towards them. So all you have to do it to stay by one with your camera ready for shooting. This is an especially good time for Leopard as you see them come to drink water several times a day to the water holes. Also it’s a great ambush spot for the Leopard as many herds of Spotter Dear and Wild Boar come to the water to drink and its easy prey for the Leopard.
In May, the Palu tree bears fruit and this is a favourite of the Sloth Bear. Usually this elusive animal is very hard to see (harder than the Leopard). The Palu season as it’s called will give you a chance to see the sloth bear within Yala and mother and babies are seen on top of the trees enjoying the Palu fruit.
You should have at least two nights in Yala, so that you can experience a mix of both the early morning and evening safaris. They both have their advantages in terms of game viewing and also the lighting for photography. You can chose to stay at one of the hotels in Yala, either Yala Village or Elephant Reach. The best experience would be to do some luxury camping with Kulu or Leopard Safaris within the park. If you’re on a budget, base yourself in Tissamaharama where there are plenty of small guesthouses and resthouses that offer good clean accommodation. It’s about 45 minutes drive to the park from here.
It would be worth your investment to have expert naturalist guide for your visit to Yala. His knowledge will enhance your chance of seeing more animals and also to get to know the wildlife of Sri Lanka better.