Yala National Park is Sri Lanka's most famous wildlife park. It was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, which makes it the first of two national parks to be formed in the island, alongside Wilpattu. Situated in a semi-dry climate, the sprawling area ranges from a dense jungle, to open parkland, freshwater and marine wetlands.
Yala is home to some of the most magnificent creatures of the animal kingdom, including mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and 215 kinds of birds. Of these, 7 varieties of bids are endemic to the country: the Sri Lankan grey hornbill, Sri Lankan jungle fowl, blue-tailed bee-eater, Sri Lankan wood pigeon, brown-capped babbler, crimson-fronted barbet, and black-capped bulbul. The park is home to a sizable number of large waterbirds, and many other migrant ones as well. Yala is also recorded as one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka.
Mammals that habituate Yala are of some 44 different kinds. The most popular of them are the Sri Lankan sloth bear, Sri Lankan elephants, wild water buffalo, and Sri Lankan leopard. All of these animals are threatened mammals, and are also endemic to Sri Lanka. About 300-400 elephants are residents of this sanctuary. Some of the other mammals you might spot include the toque macaque, red slender loris, fishing cat, golden palm civet, and more.
However, one animal you are almost certain to catch sight of is the Sri Lankan leopard! Due to the large number of these spotted felines that live here, Yala is commonly referred to as “leopard country”. A record number of 44 leopards call these grounds home, making it the place with the highest density of leopards in the world.
Yala is divifed into Yala West (also called Ruhunu) and Yala East (also called Kumana Park). The park is opened until well past dusk, and so you'll have plenty of time to explore it even if you choose to go for a one-day safari.