Next on our itinerary, the Yala National Park, is famous for its Leopard population. This park became famous after the Discovery channel created a film on this place titled "Leopards of Yala". Since then the park has seen a major increase in tourist visits. We stayed at 'The Safari' hotel. Have put up the review of the hotel here.
One needs to book jeeps in advance for the safari. We were able to book our jeeps at the hotel. Do research the rates in advance. We were charged 5000 LKR for the morning safari. Separate tickets per person need to be bought at the park entrance. A forest official joins you for the safari.
We did 2 safaris in the park, early morning and late evening. We had a much better experience of sightings for the morning safari. The park territory extends right up to the Indian Ocean. It bore the brunt of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Our guide informed us that the tsunami waters had come inland upto 1 km. It seems the animals in the park had 'sensed' the tsunami and had moved further in. A tsunami memorial has been built by the sea in memory of the victims. During both the safaris that we did, we went as far as up to the memorial and then started the return journey. The beach here is stunning and makes for an excellent 10 minute break.
The park has a number of bird and animal species. For me the highlight of the safaris was the Leopard sightings and the peacock dance.