How to Spend 1 Day in Yala National Park
Sri Lanka’s most popular safari site, Yala National Park sprawls across coastal plains, forests, and lagoons. It’s one of the world’s best leopard-spotting destinations, and sightings of elephants, deer, monkeys, and crocodiles are almost guaranteed. Here’s how to make the most of the area in just one day.
Morning: Elephant excursion
Wild animals are at their most active around sunrise and sunset—so get to the Yala area the night before to set yourself up for a dawn game drive. Start your day at Uda Walawe National Park, home to hundreds of wild elephants that roam in herds of up to 50. Be sure to stop at the Elephant Transit Home, an ethical halfway house for rehabilitating orphaned elephants. Interaction isn’t an option, as the elephants will eventually return to the wild, so look for a tour that arrives around feeding time.
Afternoon: Looking for leopards
Travel back to Yala, and refuel with a hearty Sri Lankan lunch. Then, head out on your second game drive of the day, this time in Yala National Park, home to one of the densest populations of leopards. Even if you don’t manage to spot the famously elusive predator, expect to see deer, crocodiles, peacocks, monkeys, and maybe even a sloth bear. For more flexibility and to avoid the more crowded areas of the park, splurge on a private safari.
Night: Beachfront barbecue
Yala closes in the early evening, so there are no night safaris within the park. However, the perfect way to unwind after a day of animal antics is to have dinner under the stars. Opt for a barbecue feast on a romantic Indian Ocean beach; venture into the buffer zone around the park to dine surrounded by fire torches and the cries of nocturnal animals; or choose a sunset cruise on Tissa Wewa (Lake Tissa).