Yala National Park, Spot the Leopards

Yala National Park and the Leopards of Sri Lanka

After having our dinner at the floating market in Colombo, the one close to the bus station, we caught the semi luxury bus to Tissa (Tissamaharama) around 11 pm. There were busses leaving to Tissa every 15 minutes from the Colombo main bus stop. They gave continuous night services as well so calculating the six hours trip we thought about traveling during the night time as it was not dangerous at all. There was nothing to complain about our bus trip if not the music which was quite loud but the miserable price we paid for the ticket (not more than € 4 each) made it however bearable. We reached Tissa ahead of schedule, some minutes before five am. Knowing well we’d be here probably before sunrise, we had previously organized with our hotel for the transport, in fact our three wheeler was already at the bus station waiting for us. Travel time to the hotel was not more than fifteen minutes.
Hotel Yala Eco Tree House was situated in a great location. Amila, the owner had only 3 rooms nestled in three different trees. They were not real tree houses but huts built among treetops sustained by 4 large cement columns. Our room had everything, mosquito net, ac, fan, a small table adapted from the branch of the tree and a bathroom few steps down collocated in the next branch of the same tree. I really enjoyed those hours in my balcony watching that early morning sunrise of the savanna. Even if it was an extraordinary place, I’m sure that it would not suit everyone, if you are looking for hustle and bustle, and have troubles to climb delightfully the stairs to the room, you should absolutely avoid this place. For me staying there was the highlight of the trip, quiet and peaceful area out of the town where I really enjoyed watching the rural life style of the country. The only problem I went through was the stray dogs, there were too many of them along the street out of the hotel area. One of them tried to bite me as well when I tried to walk down the road!!! Probably we shouldn’t have gone out without someone’s help. We had dinner in the hotel with two other girls living in the tree hut next to us. They were Italians as well; Amila arranged a BBQ and a campfire for us! The girls have been to national park that morning and they seemed not excited about their trip because they didn’t see the Leopard! Being Sri Lanka’s most famous wild life park, specially promoted for its high density of leopards, it was in fact disappointing not seeing one of it! The only one reason which takes such a big number of tourists to this park is indeed the presence of leopards!!! I hoped in my heart to see at least one.
The next day we started to sketch down with Amila our visit to the national park, instead both the girls left for Arumgambay early in the morning after having breakfast. The tour was done in two different timeframes: during sunrise and during sunset. These are the moments when animals start looking for food and water. The departure to the morning safari starts at 4:30 AM and the afternoon one at 2:30 PM. We opted for the evening one and Amila organized it very well. The jeep came to pick us up at the hotel at 2.30 pm and it took about half an hour to reach the park. As soon as I reached the entrance I started to understand the reason why the leopards are no longer seen: there were more than 50 big jeeps, full of people queuing for tickets. It was a real business. All of them were waiting for the right moment to start their safari. The entrance ticket was quite expensive, we gave the money to our driver and he managed to buy the tickets for us. Pay attention because I heard that tourists also pay unknowingly for locals tagged along with the driver for unexplainable reason. Like every attraction in Sri Lanka locals pay less money to get inside! At a certain time our race to catch the leopard started. All the jeeps started to run toward somewhere! It was a noisy race. Everyone’s eyes were hopeful to spot the animal but nothing happened! Just elephants, peacocks, wild boars and some other animals but no leopards. It was getting close to the sunset and all the jeeps stopped the engines and waited around to a small water spot in order to see the leopard coming to drink water. We have waited more than 40 minutes but nothing happened. Professional photographers were also present, the looked very hungry to catch a photo of the poor animal. Just the moment we were about to leave someone shouted that a leopard was moving on the tree above us.
It was true but the animal upon hearing the voice, jumped frightened moving fast away from the tree. All the jeeps turned on the engines again and followed the animal. My gosh it was so stupid! Do we really need to see a leopard!? Why don’t we leave the animal free in its own place? We were all so disparate that we run after it faster and faster in the sandy road hoping to see it nearby! The drivers seemed crazy; they moved the heaven and earth to show us the leopard. My gosh how selfish we were! One leopard vs 100 or more humans!!! Some of us have been able to see it and others have not! I saw it but I haven’t been able to photograph it well. It was not a big deal for me and I felt really sorry for the situation! This is what I hold in my heart about Yala. Later, during the dinner in our hotel we met some locals who told us that due to the dry season which has lasted months and months in the Tissa area, animal are migrating towards places with water spots. According to them this was the main reason why leopards are not seen any more. I think there is another important reason why leopards are not seen: so many human that continuously disturbing them and polluting their environment. Anyways if you are planning a trip to Yala, watch out for its closing dates because due to the prevailing drought conditions, the government is thinking to close it for a brief period for visitors in order to fill mechanically the lakes and watercourses so as to ensure the wild life of the area. This is all about my experience to the most visited National Park of Sri Lanka. Something must be changed: first of all the employers should be trained to preserve and conserve the nature. The second important thing to be done according to my opinion is absolutly reducing the visitors and vehicles entering the park and why not reducing the speed limit of the vehicles as well?

The day after, a close relative of Amila took me to their other land just in front of the hotel, on the other side of the road. The land was ending with a very beautiful lake. Fantastic scenery! There were plenty of peacocks, cows, fishing men and ladies washing clothes. I could take some great photos. Special thanks go to that old man who took me there and waited patiently a long until I have finished taking photos of everything. All in all it has been quite an experience. Excluding the leopard adventure, the barren lands and the uncontaminated nature made me fully appreciate the trip.
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Yala National Park, Spot the Leopards Yala National Park, Spot the Leopards Reviewed by Travel Tips on August 07, 2017 Rating: 5


  1. so closed to the nature. Nice shots!

  2. Would love to visit soon with my kids.

  3. Really lovely blog. I hope to visit Sri Lanka someday

  4. I have a wish to visit Sri Lanka for quite some time and this post made me got here right now! :)

  5. We are in love with Sri Lanka just after exploring the South Coast of it. And now wanna check the rest of it too. So, hopefully we will have our next trip to the Yala National Park. Lovely pictures.


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