If you find yourself planning a trip to Sri Lanka you MUST check out this incredible safari. They might not be as well known as their African counterparts but read on to find out how they are equally as amazing.
Yala National Park
You may not have known you can go on safari in Sri Lanka, however there are a number to choose from.
The majority have very good reputations and packages on offer. We personally chose to visit Yala National Park in the South East of Sri Lanka.
This is probably the most well-known safari available due to its abundance of Sri Lankan leopards.
I was very sceptical when first hearing about safaris on an island as I assumed it would be smaller with fewer animals. I could not have been more wrong. We travelled around Yala for 12 hours, stopping for an hour for lunch.
So, we had 11 hours of constant safari, never visiting the same place twice. And to put it in perspective even more, Yala has 5 ‘blocks’ and we were only allowed to visit ONE of them.
Apart from the famous Sri Lankan leopard, Yala is chock full of different species of animal. I’m not going to list off the names of the different species of animal as I would embarrass myself with my lack of knowledge. Instead flick through the picture slider below and take a look at what we saw.
We were lucky with the variety of animals on offer the day we went. Spotting a leopard is rare here – you’ll be lucky to even spot one! However, there are ones we did not see, such as, the sloth bears which are considered even harder to see than the leopards. If you’re more interested in seeing lots of elephants, think about visiting Udewalawe National Park instead!
To get the best images, I would recommend a lens with at least 200mm focal length. I went with a 55mm as it was all I had and did not get as close as I would have liked.
There are always a number of packages on offer in any place like this. As always we recommend looking around for the best deals whilst also making sure a company is reputable with generally good reviews.
The general packages on offer are:
- 6 Hour Morning Safaris
- 6 Hour Evening Safaris
- 12 Hour all day Safaris
There are lots of variations of this but this is the general idea.
We ended up going with a company called Shehan Safari. The prices for this company are on the higher end of the scale. I have to admit though that I wanted this to be a highlight of the trip so I convinced Jade not to go too cheap. This is not to say the cheaper packages are worse, I just didn’t want to risk it.
Luckily, it turned out that we had chosen an absolute cracker of a company.
What To Wear
As you’ll potentially be outside in the sweltering heat all day, you need to think carefully about what you wear. Choose light, cotton clothing, but make sure that you have something to cover up with too. Remember the little things too, like sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
- 05:30 – Your driver picks you up from the hotel. This is for ‘all day’ and morning safaris.
- 06:00 – Enter the park to begin your morning game drive. This will either take you until lunch or until you leave after 6 hours.
- 12:00 – Lunch by the sea. There were lots of jeeps down by the beach so I think everyone who is on an all day safari goes to the same place, regardless of company.
- 13:00 – Afternoon game drive. For ‘all day’ safaris and afternoon safaris.
- 17:00 – 17:30 – Leave the reserve and back to the hotel.
I would completely recommend the all day safari. There are people who say it is too long or that the 6 hour is long enough, do not listen! I have a VERY good reason for this too.
Why Go For The 12 Hour Safari
We were trundling down the road when our driver heard the distress call of a deer. This means that they are warning other deer nearby of a predator – a leopard. So he stopped the car and said we were going to wait. We were there for maybe 40 minutes.
In this time I can’t tell you how many jeeps stopped and left. It was near the beginning of the safari so there were a lot of jeeps around as they had not yet gone their separate ways. At the end I would say there was only 4 jeeps remaining with maybe 30 stopping and carrying on. Even I started to wonder if we had wasted our time.
I learnt not to question our tour guides expertise again when a male leopard walked out of the bushes 15 metres away. He walked past our jeep and crossed directly in front of us. It was almost as if we could reach out and touch him. I’m not an emotional person and for 4 years Jade had never seen a tear appear on my face…
Our guide said sightings like this happen to him only once a month and he is there every available working day. It was only possible because we did not have a tight limited schedule; our tour guide had the flexibility to make the right call. Furthermore we went on to see nearly every animal the park had to offer and were the only people who saw an elephant out of all the jeeps we spoke to.
Reasons not to go for the all day safari
- If you have back issues I believe that the 12 hours of rough riding would make the experience difficult.
- You are on a tight budget. The all day safari can be quite a commitment.
- If you are with children it might be sensible to go for the shorter trip. It’s a long safari and inevitably there are occasions where nothing happens for a considerable time. Depending on the age of your children they might get restless and bored during these periods.
If you do not fit into the above categories, please go for the all day safari. You wont regret it.
- Binoculars for everyone with a decent enough range.
- We were provided with cold drinks constantly throughout the day, without ever having to ask.
- Breakfast, consisting of sandwiches, fruit, chocolate and biscuits was provided in the morning.
- An incredible Sri Lankan curry lunch was provided at noon by the beach.
- A professional tour guide who never tried to push too hard or too aggressively (the driver’s name is Nuwan if you are contemplating going with Shehan Safari)
- Private tour. We booked for two people and there was only two of us. Some other companies ram 6-8 of you in the same Jeep
At the beginning of the tour there were A LOT of Jeeps. We thought that it was going to be like that all day. If it was it certainly would have ruined the experience.
However about 3 hours in all the other Jeeps start to go back because they were on the 6 hour safari. Nearly no one does the all day trip. After that it was rare we even heard another vehicle.
That is truly the only negative and it was short-lived. We were incredibly lucky to have the perfect Yala experience.
Do you have any experience to share, good or bad? Specifically to Yala, Shehan Safaris or another company? Do you have any insights into any of the other safaris available in Sri Lanka? Please share in the comment section below!
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