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Updated by Joanna James on May 28, 2020
Headline for The First-Timer’s Guide to Visiting Yala National Park – Know What to Expect
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The First-Timer’s Guide to Visiting Yala National Park – Know What to Expect

Draping the Southeast border of Sri Lanka is the Yala National Park, the second largest of its kind in the country. It was initially designated as a wildlife reserve in 1900, making it a haven for many animals that are endemic to this paradisiacal island.

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About the National Park

Yala National Park was declared as a National Park in 1938, under the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance passed by Mr. D. S. Senanayake, who was the Minister of Agriculture at the time. Consisting of five blocks, out of which only two are open for the general public: the first and the fifth. The Southern and Uva provinces boast of housing this national park, which is enriched with a variety of interdependent ecosystems.

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When to Visit

The best time to visit this national park would be in the dry season when animals gather around water holes to quench their thirst. Although the tickets are priced less during the rainy seasons, the dry season, which occurs between February to June is the must-visit time for anyone who wishes to capture some magnificent snaps of the free-roaming animals in this national park. Those who crave for a close up of a leopard should visit during February and March. Keep in mind that the park will be closed during September for maintenance purposes.

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Discover Animals and Reptiles

Around 44 species of mammal can be observed in their natural habitat in the Yala National Park, out of which the Sri Lankan Elephants are among the most sought out by many tourists from near and far. The place also is famous for its high density of leopards. The Sri Lankan wild water buffalo, sloth bear, the fishing cat and the golden palm civet, golden palm civet, are some other interesting mammal species that captivates the observer. The reptile population is recorded to contain around 47 species, which also includes six endemic species to the island. The coastal area is visited seasonally by some globally endangered sea turtles such as the leatherback turtle and the olive ridley. The mugger and saltwater crocodiles can be observed lying still as logs for hours waiting for their prey. The Indian cobra and Russell’s viper are among the other reptiles found in this national park.

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A Bird Paradise

Apart from the 18 amphibian species and the 21 freshwater fish species that contribute to the ecosystem of Yala National Park, its bird community is what attracts many nature-lovers to this area. Two hundred and fifteen species of birds bejewel the monsoon and the semi-deciduous forests, the grasslands, the marshes, and many other ecosystems of the site out of which Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka grey hornbill and the black-capped bulbul are among the seven endemic species to the country. The migrant and indigenous birds have made bird watching a priority on the list of things to do in Yala in many itineraries of travellers around here.

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Getting There

The one and the only entrance to Yala National Park can be accessed from Tissamaharama, which is a city located in the Hambantota District of the Southern Province. The best way to reach this city is via the Southern Expressway via car or bus. It would take almost 4 hours to reach the destination, which lies approximately 264 kilometres away from Colombo. Most tourists stay closer to the national park at properties such as Chena Huts so that they can have more time exploring the nooks and crannies of this fascinating national park.

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