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Southern Province, Sri Lanka

Yala National Park Safari

Yala National Park is one of the best places in the world to see leopards in the wild. Without any natural predators in the park, over-200 leopards thrive at Yala, and they often emerge from the low-lying shrubs for a drink at the water tank. Other than the leopard, Yala is also teeming with large game such as the endangered Asian Elephant and the playful sloth bear, and majestic, multi-hued birdlife. Its incredibly diverse ecosystem makes driving around Yala an exciting quest - you never quite know what's around the corner!


The best way to get to Yala is by private transport as it is the fastest and most direct way. You can head to either Kataragama or Tissamaharama which are the two largest towns near the park that offer accommodation and safari jeep hires. The journey from Colombo by car is about 5 hours. Tissamaharama is slightly closer (by about 15-20 minutes) than Kataragama, but further away from the park, so it will mean an earlier wake up time (by about half hour - 45 minutes) for your morning safari. If you prefer to take public transport, you can also catch a bus from Colombo to Kataragama, which will take about 8 and a half hours.

Only park-registered jeeps are allowed to do game drives within Yala National Park, so no private self-drives are allowed. All the options here will provide you with a park-registered jeep, and a great safari tracker who will spot all the wildlife hiding among the shrubs, and tell you fascinating stories!

No walking necessary, just sit back and enjoy wildlife spotting!

Yala National Park is open all year round for visitors, except for September, when the park is often closed for maintenance. During the dry season of February to June, the wildlife like to come out to the lagoon to drink, so visitors have the highest likelihood of spotting all the animals on their bucket list then!

Depending on with option you pick, you'll need 4-5 hours (for a single game drive), or overnight :)

It depends on whether you would like game drives & accommodation (in which case, choose between Coconut Garden, Leopard Trails and Kulu Safaris), or just a game drive (in which case, choose between Eagle Safaris and Dilan). Wildlife is very unpredictable, so if you want more time to spot all the big game at Yala, do opt for the 2 game drives option!

The towns of Kataragama and Tissamaharama don't offer a lot by the way of sightseeing and are mostly just a quick stopping point or overnight for people heading to Yala. If you prefer not to eat at your hotel, here are a few suggestions for food: Kataragama:


  • The Chill Restaurant - head here for homemade Sri Lankan dishes. It's not fancy here, but the food is yummy
  • Coconut Garden - this serves yummy fresh food, in addition to providing well-priced, good quality accommodation

Tissamaharama:

  • The Flavours - this has very friendly staff that serve up great local dishes like fish curry. Lunch buffet is also a geat deal! Come here to try a bit of the regional dessert (curd with honey)
  • New Cabana Restaurant - this is known for fresh seafood curries, as well as Chinese food
  • The Muthu Restaurant - the friendly and accommodating staff here serve up a good mix of local and western food