Where the Wild Roam, Yala National Park

Long weekends in Sri Lanka are a plenty and locals make ultimate use of them. The city goes quiet, hotels get full. Families, friends and loved ones are off somewhere in some part of this dynamic little world of ours, having the time of their lives. Last weekend, so did we!

My father bought himself a birthday present, and he wanted to put it to the test…as you may see why!

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The trip was not solely to go to Yala; in fact, going into the park was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Leaving Colombo, we took a cross-country drive, heading to Tissamaharama, enjoying the scenery and experiencing the marvelous change in cultivation and village life.

The Route
The Route

The three nights were well spent at The Safari, Tissa, belonging to the Ceylon Hotels’ Corporation and managed by The Galle Face Hotel. The hotel stands by the magnificent Tissa Lake, offering you the privilege of a beautiful sunrise. It is roughly a 30-minute drive from the hotel to the park’s entrance. Here are a few shots of the hotel –

The lobby and entrance
The lobby and entrance
The pool and lake
The pool and lake

Off to the park…

The park office opens at 6.00am for tickets, but I suggest you plan to be there by at least 5.30am before the queuing starts! To enter Block 1 of the park you need to have your own 4WD or you can rent out a safari jeep, available anywhere in the town. To enter any part of the park, you must have a tracker, and if you’d like to go into Block 2, you need to have two 4WD’s and two trackers.

Entrance to the Yala National Park
Entrance to the Yala National Park

And our adventure began…

We hoped like crazy that we’d spot a leopard. Although Yala is not really known for a high concentration of leopards, we knew they had a few of them. To our luck, a leopard was the first thing we saw! Oh that gorgeous fellow, was just blissfully on a rock, oblivious to the hundred and one pairs of eyes drooling over him. According to the tracker, he was the biggest in the pack, and was known as the “Loku Kolla” or “Big Boy”.

Yes, yes, I shall share a picture.

Leopard in Yala
Leopard in Yala

After all the spotty excitement, we took the not-so-popular roads inside the park. February is usually the middle of the dry season, and it was indeed, very dry. The lakes looked thirsty, the trees and leaves craving for drops of water. The crocs were out enjoying the sun and the oh the peacocks!

Peacock at Yala National Park
Peacock at Yala National Park
Crocs at Yala
Crocs at Yala

Surprisingly however, we didn’t come across many elephants. In fact, we just spotted one lone male over the bund having a late morning meal.

Elephant at Yala
Elephant at Yala

We did however see herds and herds of spotted deer. Such a beautiful species!

Spotted Deer at Yala
Spotted Deer at Yala

We headed back for a cool shower, washing off that soft orange film of dust on ourselves. It was exciting to have seen a leopard that close and it was the first time I’ve seen a live crocodile! Exhausted, excited and yet with a new found energy, we drove into the town in search of a street-food shop that would sell Kottu – if you’re not Sri Lankan, it’s one of the most ultimate street-foods that you must have!

More from Tissamaharama in the posts that follow.

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