Yala National Park
Yala National Park is 309 km south of Colombo on the southeast of the island. It is well known for its biggest, extensive the area of 1,259 sq km, and for its best wildlife preservation in the country. With it considerable size, the terrain of the national park is varied from flat plains to rocky outcrops. The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense jungle. There are also abundance of water supply for animals and birds ranging from waterholes, streams, small lakes to lagoons. The national park is divided into Yala West (also called Ruhuna) and Yala East. Yala West or Ruhuna National Park is now well recognized for the best park in the world to observe and photograph leopards. There are about 35 leopards in the park which probably is the highest density than anywhere in the world. It is possible to take one day jeep-safari trip through the park although it takes you three days to see the entire park. The park is usually closed relatively late (almost 7.00 pm) therefore the chance to come across one of the leopards is quite high. As well as leopards there are a large number of elephants living inside the park and these can be seen bathing in anyone of the numerous lakes within the park. Other animal living in the park include sloth bear, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, toque monkey, stripe-necked mongoose, ruddy mongoose, wild pig, jackal, water monitor, marsh crocodile and estuarine crocodile. Also, 130 species of birds have been recorded here, they includes Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, Brown-capped Babbler, Stone Curlew, Greater Thick-knee, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-faced Malkoha, Green Bee-eater, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Blue-faced Malkoha, Green Bee-eater Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Brahminya Myna and Rose-colored Starling. A large variety of water birds also can be seen in the Kumana Mangrove Swamp inside the Yala East, which is 180 sq km in extent. Yala East National Park can be entered at Okanda, 25 km down the coast track south of Arugam Bay via the small town of Panama. Going to Yala East is not always possible as it is officially closed however a three-hour round trip can be arranged from Arugam Bay.