Yala (Ruhuna) National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park covers an area of 151,778 hectares comprising of five blocks, which includes a strict nature reserve. Currently only Block I, covering 14,100 hectares, is open to the public. It is situated in the dry semi- arid climatic region of Sri Lanka’s South East region which extends from Trincomalee to Hambantota. Topographically the area is a flat and mildly undulating plain that runs to the coast with elevation is 30 metres to the coast while rising in the interior to 100–125 metres. The best time of year to visit is February-July when water tables are Yala is located about 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Colombo. There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala.
Yala contains the remains of a once-thriving human community. A monastic settlement, Situlpahuwa, appears to have housed 12,000 inhabitants. Now restored, it’s an important pilgrimage site. A 1st- century BC vihara (Buddhist complex), Magul Maha Vihara, and a 2nd-century BC chetiya (Buddhist shrine), Akasa Chetiya, point to a well-established community, believed to have been part of the - ancient Ruhunu kingdom.Fauna and Flora
Yala’s varying habitats, which consists of dry monsoon forest, scrub jungle and plains, rocky outcrops, fresh water lakes, rivers and beaches, provides home to many species of animals including Sloth Bear, herds of Asian Elephants, Buffalo, Monkeys, Sambar, Mongoose, Deer, Toque Macaque, Golden Palm Civet, Red Slender Loris, and Fishing Cat, Crocodiles and the endangered Leopard sub-species, Panthera pardus kotiya, which is found only in Sri Lanka. It is home to the greatest variety of Sri Lanka’s wildlife Yala West has one of the world’s densest leopard populations and is renowned as one of the best places in which to see a leopard in the world. The best time to spot Leopards, Asian Elephants and Sloth Bears is February to June or July, when the water levels in the park are low.
The dry season in the park is from May to September. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. Rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Yala has 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka.From October to April during the Northern Hemisphere winters, Yala becomes home to many species of migratory birds and is a hot spot for bird watching. There are over 130 species of birdlife reported in the Yala National Park including the Crested Serpent Eagle and the White Bellied Sea Eagle.
The reptile fauna recorded from the park is 46 and five of them are endemic. Sri Lankan Krait,
Boulenger's Keelback, Sri Lankan Flying Snake, Painted-lip Lizard and Wiegmann's Agama are the
endemic species. The coastal line of the park is visited by the all five globally endangered sea turtles
(Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Hawksbill turtle, and Green turtle) that visit
Sri Lanka. The two breeding crocodile species of Sri Lanka, Mugger crocodile and Saltwater Crocodile
inhabit the park. The Indian Cobra and Russell's viper are among the other reptiles. There are 18
amphibians species that have been recorded from Yala while Bufo atukoralei and Adenomus kelaartii
are endemic to Sri Lanka.
In the water courses of Yala, 21 fresh water fishes are found. The fish population in the perennial reservoirs contains mostly exotic food fish Mozambique tilapia. The Stone Crabs and prawns include the fauna in the lagoons of the park. A variety of butterfly species is found here. The Common bluebottle, Common Lime Butterfly, Crimson Rose, Common Jezebel, and Common Mormon are the common species.
Yala contains the remains of a once-thriving human community. A monastic settlement, Situlpahuwa, appears to have housed 12,000 inhabitants. Now restored, it’s an important pilgrimage site. A 1st- century BC vihara (Buddhist complex), Magul Maha Vihara, and a 2nd-century BC chetiya (Buddhist shrine), Akasa Chetiya, point to a well-established community, believed to have been part of the - ancient Ruhunu kingdom.