Experiencing the wild @ Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
One of the main reason I decided to pursue my degree in forestry is to observe the animal in their natural habitat. The number of forests and animal had been reduced tremendously for the past few decades mainly due to human activities. It makes me wonder... Will our children be able to see animals in their natural habitat when they are growing up? As nature is slowing being destroyed by mankind, I will grab whatever opportunities that I had during my travel to visit it before it had been gone for good. This is why, I was attracted to visit Sri Lanka especially, Yala National Park.
Sri Lanka, the Wildlife Paradise of Asia
Due to continuously conservative by their forefather, Sri Lanka had been blessed with among the best forest reserves in the world. The local did a fantastic job in balancing their economy needs with the needs of protecting nature.
We Don't Own the Planet Earth. We Belong to it and We Must Share it with Our Wildlife. - Steve Irwin
Due to their hard work, today, Sri Lanka can proudly promote their national parks for some of the easiest place in the entire to see some of the rarest creatures in the world. From Leopard (in Yala National Park) to the world biggest creature of blue whale in Mirissa, Sri Lanka is truly a wildlife paradise. For this post, I will be sharing my amazing experience in Yala National Park.
Yala National Park
Located in south east of the island and about 6 hours away from the capital of Colombo, Yala National Park earned its reputation as being the easiest places in the world to spot Leopard. Here, the chances of one to spot Sri Lanka Leopard (a subspecies of Leopard which is endemic to Sri Lanka) is as high as 50%. Some even said that you must be super unlucky if you did not spot any Leopard here.
Located next to the sea, Yala offered various combination of landscape. Saltwater marine life, freshwater lake and lowland forest. These combinations will beat even the most established safaris in Africa.
However, as a shallow-minded human, I wished to observe the 3 Big Brothers of Yala (Elephant, Leopard and sloth bear).
But a visit here is eye-opening as Yala is not only about the 3 Big Brothers.
Yala National Park was designated into different zone where some zones are strictly reserved for research purposes. For tourism, Zone 1 is the most common visited due to the higher tolerance of the animals here towards the sound of the jeeps.
I based myself at Tissamaharama which is the closest city to the park. Safari runs in 2 different time slot; 6am and 2pm. Each tour last about 4 hours. Visit to this park is strictly through various travel agency scattered around the city. You can easily book one and it is quite cheap. Price is based on the total people on each jeep. Meaning, the more acquisition that you have, the cheaper it going to be per headcount. Since I am alone, I paid about USD60 for my morning tour.
Tips: As the trails are off-road, for those with motion sickness, it is advisable to do some prior preparation. If you opt for the morning tour like me, bring a jacket along as it is cold in the morning.
Awake since 5am to wait for my pickup at hostel, I am excited with the thought of seeing this amazing big cat. At 6am, we are already at the entrance to the park and once the gate opened, our driver dashed into the park.
And Yala does live up to it reputation and the photo below is what greeted us upon our entry to the park.
It is not too long when our driver suddenly stops his jeep on the side of the road. He signalled us to remain silent and focus our manpower to the bush on the right. Wow... Is a leopard.
The wow factors kick in. Within 30 minutes, I manage to saw 2 of the 3 big brothers. It a good start to the trip. While it is regret for not able to take the perfect whole body shots, but I should count myself lucky because at least I manage to see it, right? We should always feel blessed with what we have instead of ranting about what we missed out, right? #motivation
With this motivation, the hunt continues for the sloth bear next.
Tips: Since the animals are shy, it is advisable to invest in some camera equipment in order to capture these stunning animal (especially zoom lens). All my photos here were captured by using Tamron 55-400mm lens or bring Binocular along if you wish to immortalise in your mind.
A Perfect Bird Sanctuary
After silently observed the leopard for about 15 minutes, our jeep moves away to make space for other jeeps to enable other visitors to have the chance to glimpse at the leopard.
Along the trails, many birds species can be observed especially near water source. If you are a bird lover, remember to include Yala National Park on your bucket list.
What else can I spot here?
Yala is like a playground of animals. It is so easy to spot the various animals here with Elephant and deer's species being the most common animals here. If you are lucky, you will see the little sly hunter of Jackel in his mission. 😊😊😊
After 2 hours of animal hunting, our driver stops at the spot as photo below and share with us about 2004 tsunami. Like other parts of Sri Lanka, Yala was not spared from it. Most of the park was submerged during the tsunami but according to our guide, the casualty among the animals is very low here. Most of the animals made their way to higher ground just before the water stuck here. Nobody knows how the animals know the tsunami is striking. Perhaps, the tsunami is punishment from God to punish us, the human for all the damage we had done to this planet and to return this piece of land to its rightful owner, the wildlife of Yala.
Do you see the cement just behind the jeep? It used to be a guest house here and it was razed to the ground during the tsunami. The only remain is the cement block of the stair.
At about 10am, our safari tour is finally ending. Overall, it is a satisfactory and eye- opening trips. One animal that I did not manage to see is the sloth bear. But my newly acquittance (a fellow Malaysian, yeah) manage to see it just the day after my trip. Below is the video shared by him.
Let Protect it, so Our Children can see it too.
Yala National Park is a prime example of where human and animal can co-exist together in harmony. By protecting the park, it generates income for the local. From the income, the local can feeds their family without resorting to killing animal for their part or clearing the forest. Say no to the killing and destruction of forest.
Finally, why do we need to go so far away to Africa and spend a huge fortune there just to experience safari if we can experience here in Asia, right?