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Things To Do In Yala National Park
Located in Sri Lanka’s Southern Coast, Yala National Park is fairly undiscovered. Out of the 5 zones it is divided into, only 2 are open for visitors, while the rest are reserved for research purposes and filming documentaries. This also prevents the intrusion of human beings disturbing the tranquility of the park, letting it remain natural for wildlife.
Of the visitor zones, Zone 1 has bushes reaching right up to the trails with restricted viewing inside the habitat, making it sheer luck, if you end up viewing the animals on the road or beside. Comparatively, Zone 5 has an expansive landscape view. With winding paths and green canopies and moss-covered forestry, the best way to describe this part of the park is like a movie! Here are the best things to do in Yala National Park.
Safari Rides are an obvious choice in Yala National Park, with wildlife adventures and uncertain experiences all roped in to help you enjoy the jungle creatures in their natural habitat. It is wise to book a guided tour aside from a jeep and driver for your safari, as a guide will take you around all the best areas for sightseeing and be able to answer all your queries or share vital information and details about the Park and its residents.
As is true for any other safari, there’s really no surety of the kind of animals you’d end up seeing on the safari, however, you can be assured that you’ll witness a variety of birds like peacocks, crested serpent eagles, buffalo, spotter dear in hordes, wild boars and monitor lizards. Crocodiles, Elephants, and Leopards are a rare sight. With about 10-15 elephants in zone 1, it is likely that you see at least 1 of them. While an estimated number of 75 leopards are present in about a 144 sq. km region, the chances of seeing even a sole leopard are rare.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast, 2-3 nights is a good time to spend in Yala to cash in on the opportunity to see the animals. The park opens for visitors at 6 am each day, and towards the early part of the morning when the animals are waking up, walking or sitting on the paths, you may end up finding some!
Dwelling in the swamps of Yala National Parks are about 90 birds, half of which are migratory. These species include large waterbirds like Blackhead Ibis, Grey Heron, Asian Openbill, painted stock and Eurasian Spoonbill; waterfowls such as Garganey or Lesser Whistling Duck; then there cormorants like the Indian and the Little cormorants or the medium waders like the Tringa spp, small ones like the black neck stork, the lesser adjutant, the Charadrius spp or the migratory Great White Pelican and residing Spot bill Pelican.
Some other water birds that get attracted to the Park’s lagoon include the rare species of Purple Heron, Lesser Flamingo, Egrets, Oriental Darter, and the Purple Swamphen. There are some waterfowls who travel to Yala Lagoons every northeast monsoon, including the Eurasian Curlew, the Whitewing Tern, Ruddy, Godwit, Whimbrel or the Northern Pintail.
Yala is a residence to the Indian peafowl, the Black Stork, Greater Flamingo, and the Barred Buttonquail, with the Sea Eagle and Crested Serpent Eagle being the park’s raptors.
With most of the long shoreline out of limits for visitors, the park allows for moving around in the park in certain strategic locations, giving you an opportunity to explore the golden sand beach and get your limbs moving after a long sit in the jeep. One of the major beach spots, a bungalow that was open for public, got wiped out by 2004 Tsunami unfortunately along with its family. The ruins of the structure and a memorial make for a silent and private moment here.
The Hill of the quiet mind, or more popularly named Sithulpauwwa, is an ancient rock shrine which was believed to have housed over 12,000 monks in the old days, and south of Sithulpauwwa is the Magul Maha Viharaya which was the wedding site for King Kavan Tissa and Vihara Maha Devi. Visiting these two sites, given their proximity is worth a trip.
A string of bungalows under the aegis of Yala National Park offers an opportunity to wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy a simple stay in nature’s haven, exploring the off-beat trails at night and/or enjoy camping under the stars. Not to forget a BBQ dinner by the bonfire.
Get familiar with the traditional fishing means on a boat and indulge in the activity of fishing in a tank, interacting with the local fishermen and be privy to their daily chores.
Ride a bicycle or explore the winding roads in and around Yala on foot, to experience the culture and lifestyle of Yala villages. Bikes are readily available on hire here and make for an awesome sojourn on quiet evenings.