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Yala National Park is a popular wildlife destination located in the dry semi-arid climatic region, southeast region of the country, 300 km away from the capital city Colombo. It covers 979 square kilometers and is best known for its variety of wildlife, some endemic to Sri Lanka. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900. The park consists of 5 blocks and is home to 44 varieties of mammals and 215 species of birds.
The sanctuary attracts a large number of foreign and local travelers each year on both travel and research purposes. Leopards and elephants are the main crowd-pleasers in the Yala National Park and can be spotted freely roaming in their natural habitat. Scrubs, grasslands, tanks and lagoons in the sanctuary have made it an ideal eco system suitable for its wildlife. The best time to visit Yala is between February and July.
Yala was initially used as a hunting ground in the British rule. Later it was converted into a national park for its rare and precious wildlife and a tourist destination for nature lovers.
Yala is a combination of different eco systems that range from monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. The extensive grasslands make it a perfect home for deer, wild boars, and other grazing animals. The lagoons, streams and tanks act as an important source of water for the animals in the sanctuary and for the existence of aquatic animals. The famous Menik River and Kumbukkan Oya that flow through the park provides an important water source for the inhabitants of Yala. The highest rainfall occurs during the months of September to December in the North-east monsoon season.
"Leopard fans pick Yala out of all other destinations, for its highest densities of leopards in the world. Wildlife photographers spend nights in the park to capture a glimpse of the Sri Lankan leopards. The majestic elephants that move in herds, crossing paths or taking a river bath is a wonderful sight common in the Yala National Park."
Sloth bears, peacocks, crocodiles, spotted dear and water buffaloes delight the travelers who visit this amazing wildlife sanctuary. Bungalows and camping sites provide accommodation within the park for those who want to spend a night or two and have an unforgettable nature experience in this animal kingdom.
Apart from being a wildlife attraction, Yala is also an important location for its cultural value. It has been a center of past civilizations, with a rich agriculture during the Ruhunu Kingdom. Sithulpawwa, the ancient rock temple close by to the Magul Maha Viharaya, the place where King Kavantissa and Queen Vihara Maha Devi’s marriage ceremony took place are also not to be missed in the Yala tour.
Many tour operators provide economical travel packages to Yala, with safari jeeps and tour guides to accompany the travelers. It is much safer to travel with them as they know well about the park, the common spots to view animals and how to watch them safely. All travelers are requested to travel without harming or littering inside the sanctuary premises that may disturb the natural existence of the wildlife. Conserving this beautiful sanctuary and preserving it for all humans and wildlife is the sole responsibility of everyone as a nature admirers.