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Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

After my recent trips to Botswana and South Africa, the idea of visiting a National Park in Sri Lanka with the intent to see wildlife was not something I was keen to do. Yala National Park proved me wrong.

H1 (1)Located in the ‘Deep South’ as the locals call this Sri Lankan region, Yala National Park is divided into five sections of which only 1 is accessible to visitors.

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So where to start? If you arrive in Colombo, reaching Yala National Park by car could take anything from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the traffic conditions. The small town of Tissa could be your outpost to plan your safari.

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The truth is that there are plenty of agencies offering private or group safaris, but there seem to be no limitations on the number of jeeps accessing the Park on a daily basis. This, unfortunately, creates unnecessary traffic in the jungle and distress to the animals, not to mention the uncertain status of many dirt roads.

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Entrance ticket to the Park is 2056Rupees (approx. 15USD) for foreigners against 120Rupees (less than 1USD) for locals. Jeeps need to be arranged prior your arrival to the Park’s Entrance, for example at your hotel. Don’t be surprised about the bad driving style, the high speed and the poor conditions of the jeep.

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But if the driver picked you up at the right place and you survived the drive to reach the Park, you will be rewarded from the moment you step inside until you leave.

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Most of the areas accessible to visitors stretches along the coastline was severely damaged during the Tsunami in 2004. Dirt roads surround shallow lakes where myriads of birds can be observed.

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The highlight of Yala National Park is the leopard, but wild elephants, crocodiles, deer and an incredible combination of birds of all kind, stunning peacocks and pelicans make Yala National Park the perfect wildlife sanctuary at the core of the Indian Ocean.

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Despite the safety measures courtesy of your driver, wildlife is not to be taken lightly. These two elephants here quickly turned a great picture moment into a scary one without warning.

Leopards? Yes, there are a lot of leopards here. But I also saw one, and it was so brief that I forgot about my camera, and I just enjoyed the moment.

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