YALA NA­TIONAL PARK

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Sri Lanka -

BEST FOR: Leop­ards. Block 1 of the na­tional park, also known as Ruhuna Na­tional Park, is be­lieved to have one of the high­est den­si­ties of these big cats in the world. This nor­mally se­cre­tive an­i­mal has be­come bolder and eas­ier to see.

DRIVE TIME FROM COLOMBO: 5 hours.

WHAT’S NEARBY? World-class surf­ing at Arugam Bay.

Lo­cated in the south-east of Sri Lanka, Yala is a beau­ti­ful area of low­land dry scrub sit­ting on a long stretch of coast­line, punc­tu­ated by rocky out­crops. It is the premier na­tional park of Sri Lanka, and ar­guably one of the best for mam­mals in Asia. The top draw is the Sri Lankan Leop­ard, a sub­species en­demic to the coun­try. In cer­tain ar­eas of the park, the av­er­age leop­ard den­sity is as high as one cat to every square kilo­me­tre.

Dur­ing the fruit­ing of the Palu trees in June and July, sloth bears are of­ten ob­served. Other an­i­mals you might spot in­clude sam­bar (a large deer), spot­ted deer, buf­falo, wild pig, stripe­necked and ruddy mon­goose, lan­gur, toque macaque, golden jackal and Asian palm civet.

The com­bi­na­tion of fresh­wa­ter, marine, scrub and wood­land ar­eas en­sures a high di­ver­sity of birds; over 200 dif­fer­ent types and se­ri­ous bird­ers have recorded 100 species in a sin­gle day.

Bird­watch­ers should also visit Bun­dala Na­tional Park (an hour away) or the Palatu­pana Salt Pans (ten min­utes away), es­pe­cially for mi­grant shore­birds.

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