What To Expect On A Sri Lankan Safari

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.

If you find yourself plaaning a trip to Sri Lanka you MUST check out one of its incredible safaris. They might not be as well known as their African counterparts but read out on to find out how they are as equally 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.

Size

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.

A narrow rough looking path through the trees in the Jungle

Animals

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. 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 Kaudulla National Park instead!

A large reptile on the side of a log
A child deer following its mother whilst looking at the camera across the road
A buffalo running through the water
A large eagle flying overhead with a blue sky in the background
A large reptile walking across the road
A large crocodile in the distance. very camoflaged
A chameleon in a tree surrounded by leaves
2 Sri Lankan foxes in the distance on the grasss
A mongoose looking at the camera next to the water
A white Sri Lankan Egret next to the water
4 little pigs running across the road
A male elephant in the distance eating a tree
A small monkey looking very fed up with its head in its hands
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Some sort of Reptile on the side of a log
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Slider

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.

Packages

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.

A monkey sat on a tree looking like he needs a haircut

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.

Kev, Jade and Nuwan at the exit of Yala National Park

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.

Itinerary

  •  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.

Jade looking through her binoculars

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.

A small stream leading to the sea through an opening in the trees

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.

A monkey in a tree looking directly at the camera

Extras

  • 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)
  • Seatbelts
  • 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

A Sri Lankan buffet lunch, consisting of potatoes, chicken, rice, poppadoms etc

Negatives

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!


Dont forget to pin us too!

If you find yourself plaaning a trip to Sri Lanka you MUST check out one of its incredible safaris. They might not be as well known as their African counterparts but read out on to find out how they are as equally amazing. If you find yourself plaaning a trip to Sri Lanka you MUST check out one of its incredible safaris. They might not be as well known as their African counterparts but read out on to find out how they are as equally amazing.


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About Kev Shepherd

Hi, I'm Kev. I am currently in China making the money to start travelling the world with my partner Jade. I have a degree in Sports ands Exercise Science which aids me in no way when faced with the challenges of exploring new cultures and places.

16 comments on “What To Expect On A Sri Lankan Safari

  1. Oh how cool to see those leopards! I have never considered going to a Sri Lankan safari, didn’t know it as “a thing”. Thanks for sharing all the pertinent information. Looks interesting and very fun!

    • No problem! So many people say they didn’t know, we certainly didn’t. We both caught the safari bug though!

  2. Wow, looks like you guys had a lot of fun! The leopards are such beautiful creatures! I love safaris, did a few in South Africa, but not yet in Sri Lanka. Thanks for sharing!

    • It was one of the best days of my life (Kev). I hope we follow in your footsteps and see some of the African Safaris as well!

  3. I’ve never done a safari before, but this sounds wonderful! I love all the animals that you are able to see and all the different time options they offer! Want to try this someday!

  4. I did this Yala safari and my experience was AWFUL. The park was full of jeeps, some of them only occupied by only 1-2 people, I guess all the drivers want a piece of the cake. The worse was that as soon as one of the drivers spotted a leopard he called his friends-drivers and we all headed to that direction exceeding the park’s speed limits and anything else. We almost ran over a beast like this ! Never never more, at least not in Sri Lanka: they only care about money

    • I’m glad you’ve brought this up because it’s a view shared by some other people we met and talked to. I’d be interested to know if you went for the all day or not because everyone else that we spoke to who had a negative experience like this went on the shorter tours and all of the drivers go crazy aorund the park to find as many animals as possible. I’m gutted you had a bad experience though.

    • My sister just went to South Africa and did a safari. She said it was awesome so go for it! Glad you enjoyed Sri Lanka.

  5. 12 hours seems like a long time but sometimes those long tours show the best of places! My husband has always wanted to do a Safari, so hopefully one of these days we get around to doing one!

    • The 12 hours went by like a blink of an eye. Don’t get put off by how long it seems. Hopefully you guys can get to see one soon!

    • Definitely try to get on a safari when you can. My sister recently went in South Africa and said that was amazing too.

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