Ancient history and settlement.
Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most visited wildlife reserve. Yala covers an area of 1260 square kilometres, although four-fifths of this is designated a Strict Natural Reserve and closed to visitors. On the far side of the Strict Natural Reserve is Yala East National Park (see p.384), which is currently only accessible via Arugam Bay. There’s no public transport to Yala West, and you’re only allowed into the park in a vehicle, so you’ll have to hire a jeep.
About the Park
The park’s most famous residents are its elusive leopards, but you’ll be very lucky to see one either in the early mornings or in the late evenings. Much more visible are the resident elephants, best seen during the dry season from around January to May, when they come to drink at the park’s various lagoons. Other resident mammals include sambar and spotted deer, wild boar, wild buffaloes, macaque and langur monkeys, sloth bears, jackals, mongooses, pangolins, porcupines, wild boar, rabbits and (rare) wild cats. There are also plentiful crocodiles, though the fact that you’re confined to your vehicle prevents the white-knuckle close encounters you’ll get at Bundala — something which you might not entirely regret. Yala is also rich in birdlife. Around 130 species have been recorded here,