The most popular national park in Sri Lanka is Yala, also known as Ruhuna National Park. Almost encompassing 1000 sq km, it is the second largest national park in the island, situated in the southeast region approximately 300 km from Colombo. Yala experiences a dry semi-arid climate and hosts a wide range of ecosystems ranging from freshwater and marine wetlands to moist and dry monsoon forests. Thus it is home to an amazing collection of flora and fauna species, many of which are endemic.
Yala is an amazing destination for bird enthusiasts; it harbours over 200 species of birds including six endemic ones - these are the Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Junglefowl, Wood-pigeon, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul and Brown-capped Babbler. The rest of the bird species consist of water birds such as waterfowls and cormorants, raptors namely Crested Serpent-eagle and White-bellied Sea Eagle eagles and forest birds including Orioles and Hornbills.
There are 44 species of mammals in Yala: Sri Lankan elephants, leopards, sloth bears, buffaloes, macaques and civets are among these. The park is also home to a healthy reptile community, with 46 species in total, five of which are endemic as well as various amphibian and butterfly species. In terms of flora, Yala will not disappoint. With a variety of forests, wetlands, sandy beaches and extensive grasslands, one can experience endless plant, tree and floral species. With such a diverse range of fauna and flora, there is something for everyone to enjoy here.
Tourists can experience all that Yala has to offer via guided jeep safaris which can be arranged from the office at the entrance of the park. The best times to visit the park are early morning (5.30am) and late afternoon (3.00pm) as most animals take shelter at midday.