Luxury Travel to Yala National Park
Occupying the south-eastern corner of the island, the vast Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s second largest national park and also its most popular.
The park itself is divided into five blocks, two of which, Ruhuna and Kumana, can be explored on guided game drives, and stretches from the sea inland, encompassing some 979 square kilometres (378 square miles) of forest, wetlands and savannah. This varied landscape provides a vital home for hundreds of Sri Lankan elephant, sloth bear, crocodile and rare wild water buffalo, as well as over 200 bird species.
But it is the leopard, found here in perhaps the highest concentration in the world, that are iconic of the park. Their secretive nature means spotting Sri Lanka’s top predator is still a challenge, but accompanied by a skilled guide and a little luck, there a few better places in the world to find these enigmatic cats.
When to Go
Yala National Park can be visited year round, depending on your interests. The rainy season, from November to April sees short dramatic downpours and brings with it lush vegetation and wildflowers. This is the best time for birders, with many migratory species flying from as far north as Siberia to escape the winter and is good a good time for spotting elephants. The dry season from May to October sees the bush die back and animals congregating around water holes making it the easiest time of year to see leopards, elephants, buffalo, spotted deer, wild boar, eagles, owls and kingfishers though it is hot and dusty.
I really loved my time in Yala – it’s a busy park, but our rangers still managed to find areas where we only had the wildlife for company. I was absolutely blown away by the birdlife in the park – such an incredible variety of species. Leopard sightings aren’t guaranteed, but you’ve got a pretty good chance!
Itineraries including Yala National Park
Whatever you want your luxury tour or safari itinerary to include, we’ll create something fully bespoke for you… and only you.
Accommodation in Yala National Park
Here are some of our travel designers' favourite options
Leopard Trails Yala CampLeopard Trails Yala Camp provides an immersive and intimate safari experience right on the edge of Yala National Park. The camp comprises eight tents – six classic and two luxury – all of which are air conditioned with en suite bathrooms, personal outdoor showers, charging points and just canvas separating you from the wilderness outside. The luxury tents are more spacious and can accommodate families. A fire, bar, lounge and dining area sit at the camp’s heart. Dining is a convivial experience, with chefs serving up authentic Sri Lankan cuisine, an endless array of colourful and fragrant curries and sambols, and Western dishes. There are twice daily game drives into the park accompanied by an in-house naturalist who is ever willing to share their knowledge of the Yala’s wild elephants, leopards, sloth bear, mugger crocodiles and numerous birds on nature trails. For younger guests, there is a Junior Ranger Programme where they can learn about tracks, bird calls and wildlife conservation.
Wild Coast Tented LodgeWild Coast Tented Lodge is located adjacent to the world famous Yala National Park, renowned for its dense leopard population. The luxury tented camp sits where the jungle meets a rugged, empty beach, overlooking the Indian Ocean. The use of arched fabric structures allows each of the 28 tents to take on the shape and colour of the rocks and boulders that lay scattered nearby, whilst a clever layout in the shape of a leopard’s paw print alludes to the area’s most famous resident. The main buildings are made of bamboo and blend in with the distinctive rock formations of Yala. The uniquely shaped tents, called cocoons and urchins offer state-of-the art amenities including air-conditioning. The open-air bamboo-clad Ten Tuskers bar and dining pavilion wrap around the resort’s enormous free-form swimming pool. Guests can enjoy creative daily-changing menus of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine in the restaurant, as well as sundowner cocktails and picnics al fresco on the sand dunes, watching dusk settle over the Indian Ocean.