Situated on the South East coast, Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s second largest and boasts one the highest concentrations of leopards per sq mile in the world. We arrived with eager anticipation, we were not disappointed.
We flew from Colombo City to Weerawila Airport in a Cinnamon Air float plane! This was somewhat of a surprise to us as we thought we were travelling on a normal aircraft. We took off from Colombo City and after a quick stop for people to get off and on in Kandy we arrived at Weerawila an hour later. It was approx. a 1 hour drive from the military and civilian airport to our meeting point, a huge Buddha statue. There we were met by Sam our guide from Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris in one of the Land Cruisers. It soon became apparent why a 4WD was required, the roads leading to the camp were muddy and bumpy!
After a 10 min drive we reached the camp where we would be spending the next 5 days and we were introduced to the staff. We were given a fresh coconut juice and shown around the camp and taken to our tent.
We spent our first two nights in a mobile tent, with an insect proof sleeping area containing a double bed, bedside table with fan and light and power socket for charging batteries. In the living area of the tent there were two camping chairs and table, a cupboard and a light. Just outside the tent was a flushable toilet with a light and in a separate tent a shower which would be filled with hot water before our return from the afternoon drive.
We sat with Sam our guide and the camp manager Sajith for lunch and what a lunch, the food was absolutely incredible, several different traditional Sri Lankan dishes each bursting with flavour and as each dish was presented Sam gave us it’s name and explained the main ingredients.
After lunch we went for our first afternoon drive. We left around 2:30pm and it took about 30 mins to arrive at the park gate for what is know as ‘block 1’. There is plenty of wildlife to see on the way to the park including macaques, wild boar, black-naped hare, peacocks, peahens, grey langur monkey and a wonderful variety of birds.
On arrival at the gate we collected a wildlife ranger from the park, his name was Raj. He came with us on every drive we did in block 1 and was great as an extra pair of eyes spotting and identifying different species. Around 90 mins into our first drive, a peacock had come quite close to our vehicle and we were busy taking photos of it when suddenly we realised up ahead there was a leopard crossing the track! We drove slowly towards her and our excitement levels went through the roof! She was wandering slowly around, sniffing and checking out the area. Then as quietly as she arrived, she silently wandered into the thick bush and she was gone. It was a truly magical moment, she was absolutely beautiful and we felt very lucky!
We left the park at sunset, around 6pm and went back for a shower before dinner.
The food served at the camp during our entire stay was absolutely delicious, authentic Sri Lankan dishes with a fantastic variety each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spice levels are adjusted to your requested tolerance (so don’t panic if you are not good with too much chilli!) and wine, beer & spirits are all included.
Our next 3 days followed the same pattern, starting with an early wake up around 5:15am with a quick tea/coffee before setting off to Yala National Park to be ready when the gate opens at 6am, meaning you are able to look for the wildlife while they are still active. Morning drives last approx. 3 hours before returning for breakfast. Lunch was at around 1pm after which we left for the afternoon drive at around 2:30pm. The park closes at 6pm and we would have drinks and canapes before dinner at around 7pm.
Sam was a brilliant guide and he looked after us incredibly well and took us on some fantastic game drives where we saw leopards on 4 out of 7 drives and we also saw a sloth bear on the final drive! That was a fantastic end to our stay and we felt incredible lucky. We completed one drive in ‘block 5’ and all of the rest were in ‘block 1.’
We visited the beach at the southern end of the park, where tragedy struck during the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, taking the lives of 47 people. There is a memorial, next to the remaining foundations of a guest house. A sobering reminder of the force and power of nature.
A brief list of the wildlife we saw during our stay aside from the leopards and sloth bear included; spotted deer, crocodiles, elephants (including one tusker), water buffalo, wild boar, monitor lizard, mongoose, macaques, peacocks, peahens, owl, eagles, hares and a superb array of birdlife plus lots of other interesting species. Sam was a passionate guide with incredible knowledge of all the animals and birds in the park and he was a safe and skilled driver.
For our second two nights we were upgraded to one of the two luxury tents, which has air conditioning and an attached bathroom and is much larger. The plan for the camp is to eventually upgrade all of the tents to the luxury style and I am sure they will prove very popular, it was very comfortable. Thank you so much to General Manager Sajith for the upgrade! They are also in the process of building a swimming pool which will be a most welcome addition to the camp.
Before we left, we were invited to plant a tree, which was a very special moment. Such a lovely idea and we hope to return one day to see how our tree has grown.
We had a brilliant time at Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a stay here. The great conversations with all of the staff during drinks and meals, the outstanding food, the service from the whole team and the exciting game drives made for a wonderful stay.
What to pack
- Lightweight, breathable cotton clothing
- Jumper/cardigan for morning game drives
- Sun hat or cap
- Sun cream and insect repellent
- Head torch
- Small day bag
The Land Cruisers have bean bags for supporting camera lenses and binoculars as well as cold drinks and a snack box.
The average temperature is 27 degrees Celsius all year round and the climate is hot and humid. In the dry season temperatures can reach 37 Celsius during the hottest part of the day. Rains are usually expected during the North East monsoon from late November to January. The rain often comes in short and dramatic bursts before clearing up.
Unpredictable inter-monsoonal rains can occur during March or April.
The main dry season spreads from May to October.
Leopards and other wildlife can be viewed all year round in Yala National Park.
All-inclusive Rate Mobile Tents (Single, Double, Triple or Family Tents)
Adults rate (over 12 years, per night)
|LOW SEASON||HIGH SEASON*|
|1 Adult||475 USD||555 USD|
|2 Adults||895 USD||990 USD|
|3 Adults||1 350 USD||1 545 USD|
Children Rate (per Child, per night)
|LOW SEASON||HIGH SEASON*|
|6 – 12 years||290 USD||345 USD|
|3 – 5 years||200 USD||250 USD|
The minimum age for children for our safaris is 3 years at the date of arrival.
- Christmas/New Year Holidays
- Chinese New Year Holidays
- Easter Holidays
- Summer Holidays: month of August
All-inclusive Rate Luxury Lodge Tent
Adults rate (over 12 years, per Night;)
|LOW SEASON||HIGH SEASON*|
|1 Adult||725 USD||920 USD|
|2 Adults||1 250 USD||1 600 USD|
1 extra bed can be added for US$500 (all-inclusive)
What’s included in the package?
- Unique tented accommodation waterproof canvas bush tents
- Freshly prepared meals, BBQ, and snacks; all cooked with love
- All drinks, incl. drinks from our international jungle bar
- Two 3 hour game drives per day in our customized Toyota Land Cruisers with snacks and drinks
- National park fees
- Binoculars, tripods, monopods, bean bags, battery charging on board safari jeeps
- All applicable taxes
INFORMATION ABOUT SRI LANKA
- Sri Lanka has two capital cities – Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (Administrative) and Colombo (Commercial)
- There are two official languages; Sinhala and Tami however English is a recognized language too
- Buddhism is the major religion with approx. 70% of the population estimated to be practicing Buddhists. Other religions include Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.
- Population – approx. 21.5 million
- Currency – Sri Lankan Rupee
- Vehicles drive on the left hand side of the road