What happens when you combine 378 sq miles, 44 species of mammals, and 215 different types of birds? You get one of the most exotic wildlife parks in the world! Located on the Southeast coastline of Sri Lanka is the island’s most famous national park and home to the world’s largest concentration of leopards. Yala National Park is one of the best safari destinations outside of Africa and is a perfect destination for the adventuresome family. With a plethora of wildlife such as elephants, sloths, buffalo, monkeys, bears, crocodiles, and the biggest leopards found anywhere in the world, this park is sure to be a crowd pleaser for all ages.
When To Visit
Yala National Park and Sri Lanka as a whole, are slowly becoming hot spot tourist destinations. If you are planning to visit this beautiful island country, then be sure to do so soon! It’s currently a great budget destination, but as more and more people add it to their list of must-see places, the prices will surely skyrocket.v
The best time to visit the park is outside of the monsoon season which is June-August. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka actually has two monsoon seasons with half the country being in its rainy season while the other side is dry. If you are staying in the country for a few weeks, you will most likely experience rain at some point! So, just be prepared and plan accordingly. Yala National Park is also often closed for September and occasionally into October, so be sure to check opening dates if you are hoping to plan a safari for that time.
Visiting The Park
It’s recommended that you get to the park a day before you go on safari and then spend a day or two in the area as well. The best time to enter the park is just after sunrise or just before sunset. While there is always a possibility of seeing animals at any time, they tend to take cover and sleep during the hottest parts of the day. While you can hire a jeep and guide at the gate when you arrive, you can also book them ahead of time online. If you are short on time, or have kids who you need to work around then this might be the option for you.
A half day safari will run $35 and $60 for a full day safari. The tickets to enter are $15 per adult and $8 per child and with the price of the ticket also comes a trekker (guide), however with the increase of visitors not every group will be able to be allocated one. There are very few facilities available once inside the park, so make sure to pack a lunch or some snacks ahead of time. It can also be quite hot even as the day starts to cool down, so bring water, a hat and sunscreen for yourself and the kids!
Where To Stay
Sri Lanka is a country that has every budget in mind when it comes to accommodations. From just a few dollars a night to extremely high end and pricey hotels, you can pretty much find it all. If you are planning on bringing the kids, you will probably want a hotel with a pool and a few restaurants in order to make things easier. Although, if you and your kids are the extra adventurous type there are also plenty of camping and more “rustic” options!
Be aware that there are no fences to keep the animals in a certain area of the park. In fact, the entire country is pretty open to the wildlife. You could be driving down the road and see an exotic animal cross your path at any time! So, be sure to keep a close eye on the little ones and don’t let them wander too far. There are quite a few options close to the park such as the Cinnamon Wild and Jetwing Yala which all get great reviews from families. If you want something even more luxurious than you can opt for the all-inclusive Wild Coast Tented Lodge and relax in your room along the Indian ocean after a safari and day sightseeing.
Other Activities In The Area
While most people only spend a couple of days in the Yala National Park area, there are plenty of things to do within a couple of hours along the coast to and from your next destination. Sri Lanka is home to a huge surfing scene and has some of the best waves for beginners. Try your hand with a surf lesson for you and the kids or just relax on the beach while watching!
The old city of Galle is another great stop which is about a 2.5 hours drive from Yala National Park. Founded in the 16th century by the Portugese, there are many historical buildings that the kids would enjoy seeing. From the Galle fort to the lighthouse at the point the city has lots of great attractions. As a bonus, there are plenty of great places to eat! Just remember Sri Lankan food is some of the spiciest in the world, so be sure to tell them to go easy on the spice!
If before or after your trip to Yala, you end up driving around the west coast of Sri Lanka, you will surely come across quite a few sea turtle hatcheries. These hatcheries are very controversial and many eco-conscious tourists feel that despite these places calling themselves conservation and rescue centers, that they actually do the opposite. If you do choose to visit one of these hatcheries while on your trip, it is best to do some research ahead of time to understand exactly what they are all about.
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