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It was still dark out when we set off on our Jeep Safari through Yala National Park, the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. The elusive appeal – an opportunity to spot a leopard in the wild – was enough to draw us to the town of Tissamaharama, a gateway to Yala National Park, during our trip in Sri Lanka in December 2013.

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Yala National Park is known to have the highest concentration of leopards in the world and one of the best places for wildlife enthusiasts to spot these beautiful creatures in the wild, but there is so much more to Yala than that!

It took us about 30 mins to reach the park entrance. Tired and groggy, we bounced around the back of the jeep half asleep. I’m really not the early mornings type, but the incredible beauty of a sun rising up from the horizon quickly jolted me out of sleep. Excited by nature’s incredible show, I grabbed my camera and didn’t let go of it for the rest of morning.

Sunrise at Yala National Park
Sunrise at Yala National Park

“Life goes on here like this every day”, I heard David Attenborough narrating in my head. “The animals awaken from their sleep and head to the nearest water source to quench their thirst”

Sun rises over a lagoon in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Sun rises over a lake in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Water buffalo at sunrise in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Water buffalo at sunrise in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Within minutes it was day light and the water buffaloes were joined by dozens of other animals. All happily co-existing together.

It was wild life at its best. Uninterrupted. Free.

Water buffaloes are joined by other animals in Yala National Park
Water buffaloes are joined by other animals in Yala National Park
Deer gather near the lake in Yala National Park
Deer gather near the lake in Yala National Park
Water buffalo bathing in the morning sun in Yala National Park
Water buffalo bathing in the morning sun in Yala National Park

Yala National Park boasts a variety of ecosystems including monsoon forests, grasslands, marine wetlands, and sandy beaches. Additionally it is home to over 2oo bird species, 44 mammal species, and 46 reptiles. There is no shortage of animals to observe and admire.

The vast flora of Yara National Park: beaches, forests and mountains seen in the distance
The vast flora of Yara National Park: beaches, forests, and mountains seen far off in the distance
Swamp near Lunuganwehera Reservoir inside Yara National Park
Swamp near Lunuganwehera Reservoir inside Yara National Park
Wild Boar in Yala National Park
Wild Boar in Yala National Park
Peacock.. unfortunately he never opened his stunning tale for us
Peacock… unfortunately he never opened his stunning tale for us
Monitor lizard in Yala National Park.. and a sneaky little mosquito just above her
Monitor lizard in Yala National Park.. and a sneaky little mosquito just above her
One of 215 birds in Yala National Park
One of 215 birds in Yala National Park
Mugger crocodiles cooling off in Yala National Park
Mugger crocodiles cooling off in Yala National Park
Family of elephants, just a few of over 300 that reside in Yala National Park
Family of elephants, just a few of over 300 that reside in Yala National Park
Baby elephants in Yala National Park
How cute are these baby elephants?

We spent hours upon hours roaming around the park in search for a leopard. Luck wasn’t on our side that day, but it didn’t even matter! Of course, it would’ve been amazing to catch a glimpse of this rare animal, but it wasn’t the only reason why we choose to visit Yala National Park. We enjoyed out safari with Ajith Jeep Safari and especially our guide Anushka whose expert wildlife knowledge helped us get the most out of Yala.

It was our first wildlife safari, but we know it won’t be our last…

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Yala National Park is known to have the highest concentration of leopards in the world and one of the best places for wildlife enthusiasts to spot these beautiful creatures in the wild, but there is so much more to Yala than that!

Have you ever been on a wildlife safari anywhere in the world?
Share your stories with others in the comments section below. 

4 thoughts on “Searching for Leopards in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka”

  1. We didn’t have any luck during our leopard safari to Yala either, but we also loved our time there as well. Even without the leopards, it’s a beautiful park and we enjoyed the other wildlife we did get to see (we were also lucky enough to see some elephants). I’m glad to read that you had a similar experience, although now I want to know how many people actually see leopards there!

    1. We were sooo close to seeing one. All the drivers inside the park seemed to be collaborating with each other. Our driver was always on his phone talking to other guides trying to figure out where the leopard was spotted last. At one point, he got a call and rushed to a particular area but by the time we got there the leopard was gone. We saw a lot of people oooo-ing and awww-ing about seeing a live leopard cross the road right in front of their car. Luck just wasn’t on our side that day. But that’s ok. We didn’t feel like we missed out. It was still a great experience, even without the leopard.

  2. Very well written essay with all the pictures. I have been dreaming of going on to a safari but I just need to save some cash for it. I know one day I will be able to enjoy being so close with nature.

  3. Sri Lanka Por Libre

    Great post! We were not lucky to see the leopard, but we really liked the Yala National Park. It’s a beautiful place!

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