Yala National Park
Yala West (Ruhuna) National Park is well recognized as one of the best parks in the world to observe and photograph leopards. The park covers an area of over 100,000 hectares and is divided into five blocks. Block one is the most visited area since it contains the highest density of leopards. However other areas of Yala such as Yala east had been closed to visited for some years it will take time to research leopard numbers in these areas. Yala west consist of scrub jungle, brackish lagoons and stunning rock monoliths scattered throughout the park, its eastern edge is bounded by the South East coast.
It is possible to take full day jeep safaris or to split your day into morning and afternoon drives. Your best chance to see a leopard is generally early in the morning and then again at dusk. You can stay until just after dark inside the park, thus maximizing your chances of a leopard encounter. The made leopards in Yala are very confident and are often seen walking the tracks during the day.
Young males in particular seem to have no fear of the jeep, which can lead to some excellent photographic opportunities. There are similarities between Yala and best National Parks in India for photographing tigers, in both cases the big cats have become habitualized to the jeeps thus enabling us to enjoy a privileged view of these magnificent animals.
There is also a substantial elephant population along with spotted deer, sambar, wild buffalo, sloth bear, jackal, mongoose, pangolins and crocodiles. The bird life comprises over 120 species, and ranges from lesser flamingos to Paradise Flycatchers, Crested Hawk Eagles and Black Bitterns. Outside of the park are several other fascinating birding locations, including the ancient hermitage of Sithulpahuwa, Debarawewa wetland and Palatupana salt pans. The coastline forms a major nesting ground for marine turtles.