Where leopards, elephants and bears roam
Yala (also known as Ruhuna National Park) combines a strict nature reserve with a national park. Divided into 5 blocks, the park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land consisting of light forests, scrubs, grasslands, tanks and lagoons. Two blocks of around 140 sqkm are currently opened to the public. Situated in Sri Lanka’s south-east hugging the panoramic Indian Ocean, Yala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and was designated a national park in 1938. Ironically, the park was initially used as a hunting ground for the elite under British rule. Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. Among its more famous residents are the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted dear, peacocks, and crocodiles. The best time to visit Yala is between February and July when the water levels of the park are quite low, bringing animals into the open.
Climate and physical features
The Yala area is mostly composed of metamorphic rock belonging to the Precambrian era and classified into two series, Vijayan series and Highland series. Reddish brown soil and low humic grey soil are prominent among six soil types. Yala is situated in the lowest peneplain of Sri Lanka, which extends from Trincomalee to Hambantota. Topographically the area is a flat and mildly undulating plain that runs to the coast with elevation is 30 metres (98 ft) close to the coast while rising in the interior to 100–125 metres (328–410 ft). The national park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. The mean annual rainfall ranges between 500–775 millimetres (19.7–30.5 in) while the mean temperature ranges between 26.4 °C (79.5 °F) in January to 30 °C (86 °F) in April. It is windier in Yala, during the southwest monsoon compared to the wind during the northeast monsoon with wind speeds from 23 kilometres per hour (14 mph) to 15 kilometres per hour (9.3 mph).
Yala is in a hot, semi-arid environment despite its lush greenish look, especially during the monsoon season. Temperature ranges from 260 C to about 300C. The North-east monsoon season is when Yala gets most of its rainfall from September to December.
Yala is leopard country and they are the Lords of the jungle! With a leopard density that’s higher than anywhere else on this planet, these menacing predators prowl majestically in Yala, while elephants roam in their numbers with cautious deer scampering by their side.
4 Entry points.
There are four gates to the Park. Gates at Palatupana and Katagamuwa leading to Blocks 1 & 2 remain the most visited. However, the two gates at Galge covering Blocks 3 & 5 are becoming known among visitors who do not want to contribute to congestion. There are reports of frequent leopard sightings on these routes too