SRI LANKA DAY TRIP, Colombo one day Trip, Sri Lanka 7-day tour itinerary with Sri Lanka beach tour, Minneriya National Park Safari, GUIDE TO YALA NATIONAL PARK

A GUIDE TO YALA NATIONAL PARK, SRI LANKA’S BEST SAFARI DESTINATION (UPDATE 2023)

Looking to go on a jeep safari in Yala National Park? Here’s my guide to Sri Lanka’s top safari destination, complete with recommendations for things to see and do, the cost of a jeep safari, and helpful travel suggestions.

For me, who had never been on a wildlife safari before, Yala National Park was without a doubt the most rewarding and exhilarating activity of my vacation to Sri Lanka.

It’s an amazing experience to embark on a jeep safari, knowing you’ll be observing extraordinary animals in their natural habitat while traveling down the wildlife park’s uneven roads.

Especially when you consider that Yala National Park is the most visited wildlife reserve on Sri Lanka’s teardrop-shaped island.

This high reputation stems from the park’s dynamic landscape, diverse and dense wildlife population, and the fact that it is regarded as one of the best sites in the world to watch leopards in their natural habitat.

Here’s my guide to Yala National Park, with information on what to see and do, which safari to take, and where to stay, as well as helpful travel recommendations such as pricing, the best time to visit, and how to get there.

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WHERE IS YALA NATIONAL PARK?

Yala National Park is located in the southeast region of Sri Lanka’s teardrop-shaped island, spanning two provinces: Hambantota and Monaragala.

Because Yala National Park is so distant, a visit to the town of Tissamaharama is inevitable

Tissamaharama is not a particularly interesting town, and getting there is tough. However, it serves admirably as the only official entrance to the wildlife area.

The official Yala visitor center is around 20 kilometers east of the town and is easily accessible by boarding a Yala National Park trip from Tissamaharama.

WHERE TO STAY IN YALA NATIONAL PARK?

You’ll find plenty of good accommodations (both inside and outside the park) to fit practically any budget and vacation style.

Tissamaharama offers a variety of budget-friendly alternatives, comfortable lodges, and luxury hotels, as well as a large number of luxurious wildlife campings and chalets within Yala National Park.

Going on a safari in Yala National Park is quite popular, so book your accommodations a few weeks in advance, especially if you plan to visit during the peak season.

I PROPOSE THE FOLLOWING ACCOMMODATION:

  • Hotel River Front

A pleasant riverbank hotel with large air-conditioned rooms, comfortable beds, and a fantastic outdoor pool. Thus, the hotel features a good in-house restaurant that serves delicious local, Chinese, and continental cuisine.

Booking.com – Hotels.com

  • Thaulle Resort

Thaulle Resort, located immediately on Yoda Lake, is an excellent hotel with traditional Sri Lankan-style accommodations, breathtaking lakeside views, a large outdoor pool, and a kind and helpful staff. Therefore, this hotel literally has everything you need to unwind after a thrilling safari experience in Yala National Park.

Booking.com – Hotels.com

  • Cinnamon Wild Yala.

If you want an unforgettable encounter, look no further. Thus, Cinnamon Wild provides breathtaking eco-friendly cottages amidst the vibrant jungle of Yala National Park. Therefore, it is unquestionably the top pick for distinctiveness, comfort, and world-class service.

Booking.com – Hotels.com

  • Jetwing Yala

A magnificent hotel with a beautiful outdoor pool, large air-conditioned rooms, and a nice atmosphere. Given the hotel location, you will be surrounded by beautiful scenery and fascinating fauna. The helpful staff provides excellent service.

Booking.com – Hotels.com

WHAT ANIMALS CAN YOU SEE ON A YALA NATIONAL PARK SAFARI?

Yala National Park is a large dynamic reserve made up of dense jungle, limitless meadows, and several lakes and lagoons.

This unusual landscape provides the ideal habitat for a diverse and dense population of species, thus making Yala one of Sri Lanka’s best national parks.

Yala National Park’s popularity stems from more than just its diverse wildlife population. No, it’s primarily because it’s recognized as one of the best places in the world to watch wild leopards.

THE ANIMALS OF YALA NATIONAL PARK.

However a safari tour does not ensure that you will encounter every species in Yala National Park, thus, you can expect to get up close and personal with water buffalos, wild boars, spotted deer, monkeys, and peacocks.

Leopards, elephants, Black Sloth bears, Fishing cats, Red Slender loris, and crocodiles are among the animals that can be spotted.

Yala National Park is home to 44 species of mammals, 215 species of birds, and 46 species of reptiles, therefore, it’s hard not to see some wildlife on your safari.

LEOPARD SIGHTINGS IN YALA NATIONAL PARK.

According to thorough research, Yala National Park is considered to have the world’s highest concentration of leopards.

Given that the park is home to roughly 55 leopards, you may have the good fortune to encounter one during your Yala jeep safari.

However, each safari is unique, and it is impossible to predict what creatures you will see (particularly uncommon ones). As a result, I strongly advise you to temper your expectations because leopard sightings are very rare.

JOIN A YALA NATIONAL PARK TOUR.

Tissamaharama is home to a plethora of safari tour companies who are all eager to take you on your once-in-a-lifetime Yala National Park safari trip.

A Yala safari jeep may accommodate up to six people, and the safari tour operator will normally arrange for pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation.

Yala National Park can be explored during a morning, afternoon, or full-day vehicle safari.

Book | Plan your Yala National Park Safari Tour in advance.

MORNING SAFARI IN YALA NATIONAL PARK.

A morning safari in Yala National Park is widely regarded as the ideal time to see elusive species.

This is primarily owing to the fact that the animals have not yet been disturbed by the several jeeps that go along the park’s dusty roads throughout the day.

Even though rising up at 04.30 is a challenge, it’s reasonable to say that it’s well worth of your effort.

By taking a morning safari, you’ll be picked up at your accommodations at 05.00 with the goal of arriving at the park’s entrance before it opens at 06.00.

As per opinion, the finest aspect of a morning safari is the exhilarating ride to the park when it is still dark, knowing you are about to see wonderful wildlife while the park is still relatively peaceful.

Book this incredibly popular guided safari during the golden hour.

Duration: 05:00 – 10:00, with about 3 hours at the park.

AFTERNOON SAFARI IN YALA NATIONAL PARK.

For those who struggle with waking up early, the slightly more popular afternoon safari in Yala National Park is an excellent alternative.

Most Yala safari rangers believe there is no substantial difference between the morning and afternoon safaris in terms of animal sightings.

During my afternoon safari in Yala National Park, I saw a wide range of animals and had a relaxing yet exciting experience. I also observed a gorgeous sunset as I left the park.

Duration | 13:00–18:00, with around 3 hours in the park.

A FULL DAY SAFARI IN YALA NATIONAL PARK.

Although it seems appealing, I would not advocate taking a full-day safari in Yala National Park.

Being at the park for 12 hours straight is quite taxing, especially considering that you’re there during the warmest time of the day. Therefore, believe me, this can get really intense in Sri Lanka.

A full-day safari in Yala National Park does not guarantee seeing more animals than a morning or afternoon safari.

This excellent full-day safari includes lunch.

Duration: 05:00 to 19:00, with approximately 12 hours in the park.

YALA NATIONAL PARK SAFARI COST.

A jeep safari costs the official Yala National Park entrance charge plus the sum agreed upon with your safari trip operator.

The cost of a safari tour operator varies depending on the following factors: the length of the tour, the tour operator, and the number of individuals who join the safari tour.

Jeep safari tours are typically priced per jeep, which can seat up to six people, and are simple to arrange at practically every lodging in Tissamaharama.

I wrote an analytical summary to give you a clear picture of the prices of a jeep safari in Yala National Park.

  • Yala National Park admission fee: 7.000 LKR ($21.50) per person.
  • Half-day Jeep Safari | 11.000-15.000 LKR ($33.00-45.00) per jeep
  • Full-day jeep safari: 24.000 – 30.000 LKR ($72.00 – 90.00) per vehicle

YALA NATIONAL PARK OPENING HOURS:

Yala National Park is open daily from 06:00 to 18:00 and has rigorous opening hours requirements.

If you’re going on a morning safari, aim to get at the gate well before it opens. Being one of the first in line allows you to access the park as early as possible.

Furthermore, all jeeps must leave the park before it shuts at 18:00. Official wildlife officers are keeping an eye on this and are observing the license plates of jeeps entering and leaving the park.

BEST TIME TO VISIT YALA NATIONAL PARK.

Although Yala National Park is open throughout the year, the dry season is the optimum time to visit. Thus, this season extends from February to June, with February to March being the undeniable prime months for spotting leopards.

It is reported that animals is more visible at this time, owing to the park’s limited natural water resources. As a result, animals become more active, leaving their hiding places to drink from nearby water ponds.

I visited Yala National Park during the offseason in September and had a fantastic safari experience with a large number of animal sightings.

Please keep in mind that the park may be closed for work in September.

HOW TO GET TO YALA NATIONAL PARK.

In comparison to other major tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is slightly off the beaten path. This does not imply you should be discouraged; it is well worth the extra effort.

The only entrance to Yala National Park is Tissamaharama, which is reachable by local bus or car.

The bus ride can be long, hectic, and stressful, but believe me, it’s one of the best ways to experience local life.

Keep in mind that the local bus makes frequent stops and that you will have to change buses multiple times to get to Tissamaharama.

Yala National Park is typically visited after Mirissa, Ella, and Arugam Bay.

FROM MIRASSA TO TISSAMAHARAMA.

  • Bus travel between Mirissa, Matara, and Tissamaharama
  • Cost: 250-330 LKR ($1.30-1.80) per person
  • Travel time is around 3.5 hours.

FROM ELLA TO TISSAMAHARAMA.

  • bus ride from Ella to Tissamaharama
  • Cost: 220-250 LKR ($1.20-1.35) per person.
  • Travel time is around 2.5 hours.

FROM ARUGAM BAY TO TISSAMAHARAMA.

  • Bus travel from Pottuvil to Monaragala, Wellawaya, and Tissamaharama.
  • Cost: 350-380 LKR ($1.90-2.10) per person.
  • Travel time is around 6.5 hours.

INSIGHTFUL TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING YALA NATIONAL PARK.

  • Photography gear If you’re a serious photographer, bring your camera and zoom lens. See what I have in my camera bag here.
  • Sunscreen: Even though the jeep is partially covered, the sun may be exceedingly strong during a safari in Yala. Better safe than sorry.
  • Bug repellent: Always keep a decent bug repellent on hand.
  • Sweater: Pack a cozy sweater. This will be your best friend on a morning safari.
  • Drinking water: Bring enough water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • There are no toilets in the park Please keep in mind that there are no toilets within the park.
  • Last but not least, decrease your expectations before embarking on a safari. Every safari is unique, and there is no assurance that you will see all of the animals you wish to see.

STAY SAFE IN SRI LANKA/TRAVEL INSURANCE.

Though Sri Lanka is absolutely secure for travelers, I usually try to arrange travel insurance before arriving in a foreign country, and I strongly suggest anyone else do the same.

Whereas we would prefer that everything go smoothly during our trips, an unexpected event, such as an injury or a road accident, can occur at any time. When this happens, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Heymondo: Whether you’re going on a three-week backpacking trip or staying overseas for an extended period of time, Heymondo has fantastic insurance options for you, as well as full covid-19 coverage and a convenient app with 24-hour medical support. Readers of WTSW enjoy a 5% discount on any insurance coverage; more information is here.

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