Yala is home for leopards and has been recorded to have the highest density of leopards for the area. The Yala National Park is divided into 05 blocks and the usual Safari’s take place in the 1st block. Well of course, it does sound like you are missing all the action by only going for the block 1, but let me tell you, it’s nothing like that.
When it’s said that Yala National Park has the highest density for the leopards in the world, it does sound like you are guaranteed for a leopard sighting. No, sadly… No.. It only means that, leopards count is high in this small area compared to the other locations that have leopards in more numbers even. For me, I had a good luck spotting the leopards, like thrice.
The Safari into the Yala National Park is like best done either in the morning starting at around 06.00 am. or evening at around 03.00 pm. Jeeps are available, like a lot of jeeps and you don’t have to worry about finding a jeep. Just ask your hotel staff or anyone and anybody in the area could point you to a contact to hire a jeep.
Jeep cost is around LKR 5500/- for a good condition Safari jeep but you can find cheaper after bargaining or for aiming on low quality. You can fit in 06 people into a Jeep and then the tickets to the National Park are to be purchased from the ticket counter. You can get the help from the Jeep driver for this. The entrance tickets are different from Local to Foreign as usual.
Yala (and the whole area) is quite warm and sunny during most parts of the year but rainy during October to January annually. It is a general idea that the Yala National Park is closed during each September and until about mid-October sometimes. In 2014 they closed until mid-October but in 2015, it was only from 05th September to 05th October.
I was in the evening Safari where it’s said that it’s more productive because the animals kinda come out to the open in search of water and all.. Trust me, for the first half an hour, I was so pumped and looking here and there for the leopards. Nope, no luck at all.. Keep you hopes high because the jeep drivers communicate with one another so that they can get to the leopard areas quickly.
For the first half an hour it was only trees, peacocks, wild boars, buffalos for me.
Then suddenly my jeep driver communicated with another and Bam! We were at a location where a pretty leopard was sleeping on a tree. I gotta tell ya, I’m no professional and all I captured was the long-distance shots from the Cyberpix camera. There are professionals who wait and wait just to get the best images of these beautiful creatures.
The Traffic. The Traffic is like so much of a headache sometimes. All you see is Jeeps, Jeeps and Jeeps. There could be around 100 jeeps lining up as soon as a leopard sighting is in place. Sometimes these jeep drivers try to please the customers more and they just stop at the location. After sometime, the leopard moves away and the others who were in line were wasting time trying to get a glimpse at the leopards.
The Safari is usually like 03 hours long, with a point where you get to stop for like 15 minutes in the middle of the Block 1. You can get this by talking with your jeep driver and they know the best locations to have a stop.
There are many sightings other than the leopards when you visit the Yala National Park. The Asian elephant, the sloth bear, mugger crocodiles and the jungle fowl are some of them. The list goes on… I of course didn’t have the best sightings because I couldn’t spot the Asian Elephant and the Sloth Bears. In Sri Lanka, the Big Five consist of the Leopard, Asian Elephant and the Sloth Bear that are found within the Yala National Park.
At the end of the Safari, at around 5.45 pm. Or 6.00 pm, your jeep driver will take you for the hotel or place you want to be dropped off to. Keep in mind and TIP them. They are doing a fantastic job to make sure that your Safari ride is fun as possible and to get you to see the sightings. Definitely Tip them with about LKR 1000/- if you can.
One nice quote is, “Leave only footprints, take only memories”.