The island of Sri Lanka is renowned for its great cultural heritage. It is steeped in history and tradition and holds plenty of surprises in store. There are lush landscapes everywhere. Whether you come as a family for a discovery holiday or as a couple to spend your honeymoon, Sri Lanka is ideal for a stimulating holiday.
There are many cultural sites to visit, yet Sri Lanka also boasts many nature sites with wonderful scenery to discover. Yala National Park is one of them. It’s the second-biggest national park in Sri Lanka and also the one with most visitors. It’s located in the south-eastern region, in the Uva province, and extends over 979 km2. This former hunting reserve became a nature park in 1938. Famous for its wildlife, today Yala Park is a refuge for elephants and water birds. In fact it’s one of 70 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in the country.
Yala Park’s flora
Yala Park boasts an impressive flora. The reserve has many different ecosystems such as tropical rainforests, dry broadleaf forests, deserts and scrubs, grasslands, marine wetlands, bodies of freshwater as well as sandbanks. The Park is divided into different zones and blocks. The area under forest cover includes open parklands and grasslands. The forest area is located around the Merik river. In these diverse natural habitats you will find incredible vegetation, with many endemic plants and others more widespread.
Yala Park’s fauna
The park boasts a very impressive diverse range of wildlife. As a matter of fact it is home to hundreds of species. Here are but a few:
– Birds. There are 215 different bird species in Yala, including 6 species emblematic of Sri Lanka: the Ceylon grey hornbill, the Ceylon junglefowl, the Ceylon wood pigeon, the crimson-fronted barbet, the black-capped bulbul and the brown-capped babbler. No less than 90 water bird species live in the park’s wet zones and half of them are migrant species.
– Mammals. There are 44 mammal species to discover at Yala National Park, including Sri Lankan elephants. The park is home to the largest number of leopards in the world. As well as elephants, leopards and other well-known species, visitors can discover sloth bears – an endangered species – , toque macaques, fishing cats, red slender lorises or golden palm civets.
– Reptiles. They are also well represented in the park. You can find 46 different species of reptiles including 5 emblematic ones endemic to Sri Lanka and well represented in Yala: the Sri Lanka krait, the Boulenger’s keelback, the Sri Lankan flying snake (chrysopelea taprobanica), the painted-lip lizard and Wiegmann’s agama. There are also 5 endangered species of sea turtles and 2 species of Sri Lankan crocodiles. Other noteworthy snakes include the Indian cobra and Russell’s viper.
The park also has a lot of fish and a wide variety of butterflies.
Animals roam inside Yala Park completely free, so you probably won’t be able to see every kind of animal on your visit. A safari remains hugely enjoyable regardless, as you can admire magnificent scenery and feel very close to nature. There are six other national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries near Yala that you can also visit.