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Yala NP, Sri Lanka

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Hi there,

although it´s no african park, I am interested in Yala NP, Sri Lanka.
Any suggestions for accomodation, safari companies? We plan eventually to go in January.

Is it really that good in Leopards?

Thanks for your input.

Thomas

 

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I believe for leopards it is one of the best places in the world. At least the concentration of leopards in Yala is the highest as leopards don't have any big competitors there (like lions or tigers) as well as they don't have any problems with food there. However the park can be overcrowded.

 

During my safari to Sabi Sand I met a guy who owns a camp in Yala, The company name is Leopard trails http://leopardtrails.com/

 

The guy told amazing stories as well as he has great pictures of leopards.

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Posted (edited)

I saw 4 leopards in one day. Two of the sightings were the standard back end hanging out of tree. For the other two sightings the leopards were walking down the middle of the road. We saw one leopard wandering about just before midday so its behaviour that you would be very unlikely to see in Africa. I also had a very good 15 minute sighting of an elephant herd as well as seeing monitor lizards, buffalo, a snake and a few other things.

 

This sighting was quite annoying as the driver started the engine as the leopard was about to cross the road. As soon as it heard the noise it went back into the bushes.

 

Leopard_zps95af40e2.jpg

 

If you go to Mirrissa (a few hours west of Yala) you can see pygmy blue whales

 

Whalefluke_zps230a3ced.jpg

 

An American bloke I shared a vehicle with in Yala said he preferred an NP a few hours north of Yala as there was much fewer vehicles there. The name excapes me at the moment but it would be easy enough to look up.

Edited by Csaba

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My friend Jo does tailor made tours for Sri Lanka. I haven't been myself.

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Yala is one of the best places to see leopards and I would think certainly the best place outside of Africa and the Sri Lankan leopards Panthera pardus kotiya are said to be the largest in the world.

 

However leopard viewing in Yala is much like leopard viewing at Seronera in the Serengeti, or in the Mara Reserve or Lake Nakuru and other tourist hotspots in Kenya, or quite a lot like tiger viewing in India. Yala is a very busy park and aside from sloth bears and elephants, leopards are the one animal that everyone most wants to see, as soon as any of the drivers spot one, they’re on their mobile phone telling all their mates. Everyone then drives at breakneck speed to wherever the cat is, so look out if you’re going the other way, the way some of them drive you’d think they were taking part in a rally not driving through a national park. Be prepared for complete chaos, part of the problem is that most people leave the park to go back to their hotels for lunch which cuts down their time in the park considerably especially in the afternoon, so they have to rush around.

 

Much the best thing to do is take a packed breakfast and lunch and get to the park gate as early as possible to be at the front of the queue and then spend the whole day in the park. If you arrive at a leopard sighting in the morning then if you’re lucky and the leopard is not going anywhere you can stay and enjoy a more peaceful sighting while everyone else is rushing off back to their hotels. Then go and have a relaxed lunch at the picnic site knowing that for the afternoon you’ll have a head start on the people who left the park and again if you’re lucky and the leopard hasn’t moved you should be able to get back to it before everyone else arrives.

 

If you are at all interested in birds then aside from the park itself, there’s great birding around the so called ‘Tissa Tanks’ at the nearby town of Tissamaharama as well as some good waterbirds there’s also a large colony of Indian flying foxes in the trees there. Another great birding spot not far from Yala is Bundala NP with lots more waterbirds but also other wildlife as well like elephants, spotted deer, wild boar, grey langur and toque macaque monkeys.

 

If you want a good chance of seeing a leopard without the crowds then Wilpattu NP is the place to go as I believe it should be a lot less crowded than Yala, I don’t know for certain how you’re chances of success would compare with Yala but I would think they might be almost as good.

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Posted (edited)

I agree with Inyathi's comments about Yala. The elephant and leopard sightings can be very overcrowded. Most of the drivers try to push you towards 3 hour morning visits for some reason. I had one guesthouse owner refuse to give me a price for a full day inside the park on the grounds that it was too expensive. I ended up booking a full day trip, which included lunch inside the park, with the guesthouse across the road.

 

It's definitely worth being active inside the park for the full day. I saw a leopard walk down the middle of the road at around 11:30 and had a fantastic elephant sighting just after 13:00.

Edited by Csaba
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It's not just the number of cars,it's the behaviour of the drivers and guides that's the problem.

Also the failure of drivers to advise/control/calm their guests.

Young kids scrabbling over the roofs of vehicles within yards of wild leopards was just one of the sights I found disturbing.

It just seems like a money making circus with little or no respect for the habitat or it's wildlife.

I'm afraid Yala is yet another place where safari has become more akin to disneyland !

A habituated leopard is not a leopard in my book,no matter how wonderful your photographs !

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It's not just the number of cars,it's the behaviour of the drivers and guides that's the problem.

Also the failure of drivers to advise/control/calm their guests.

Young kids scrabbling over the roofs of vehicles within yards of wild leopards was just one of the sights I found disturbing.

It just seems like a money making circus with little or no respect for the habitat or it's wildlife.

I'm afraid Yala is yet another place where safari has become more akin to disneyland !

A habituated leopard is not a leopard in my book,no matter how wonderful your photographs !

 

~ @notpop:

 

Your nuanced explanation of the issues at Yala is exactly what I've wanted to know.

Reading Sri Lanka tourist Web sites raised questions in my mind about the conditions there.

It's very thoughtful of you to so carefully lay this out for us. In doing so, you prevent future frustration.

From what you've explained, it sounds as though there isn't anything in the way of a more positive alternative to the uncontrolled eco-sightseeing tours.

Thank you for this explanation.

Tom K.

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Posted (edited)

Yala is one of the best places to see leopards and I would think certainly the best place outside of Africa and the Sri Lankan leopards Panthera pardus kotiya are said to be the largest in the world.

 

However leopard viewing in Yala is much like leopard viewing at Seronera in the Serengeti, or in the Mara Reserve or Lake Nakuru and other tourist hotspots in Kenya, or quite a lot like tiger viewing in India. Yala is a very busy park and aside from sloth bears and elephants, leopards are the one animal that everyone most wants to see, as soon as any of the drivers spot one, they’re on their mobile phone telling all their mates. Everyone then drives at breakneck speed to wherever the cat is, so look out if you’re going the other way, the way some of them drive you’d think they were taking part in a rally not driving through a national park. Be prepared for complete chaos, part of the problem is that most people leave the park to go back to their hotels for lunch which cuts down their time in the park considerably especially in the afternoon, so they have to rush around.

 

Much the best thing to do is take a packed breakfast and lunch and get to the park gate as early as possible to be at the front of the queue and then spend the whole day in the park. If you arrive at a leopard sighting in the morning then if you’re lucky and the leopard is not going anywhere you can stay and enjoy a more peaceful sighting while everyone else is rushing off back to their hotels. Then go and have a relaxed lunch at the picnic site knowing that for the afternoon you’ll have a head start on the people who left the park and again if you’re lucky and the leopard hasn’t moved you should be able to get back to it before everyone else arrives.

 

If you are at all interested in birds then aside from the park itself, there’s great birding around the so called ‘Tissa Tanks’ at the nearby town of Tissamaharama as well as some good waterbirds there’s also a large colony of Indian flying foxes in the trees there. Another great birding spot not far from Yala is Bundala NP with lots more waterbirds but also other wildlife as well like elephants, spotted deer, wild boar, grey langur and toque macaque monkeys.

 

If you want a good chance of seeing a leopard without the crowds then Wilpattu NP is the place to go as I believe it should be a lot less crowded than Yala, I don’t know for certain how you’re chances of success would compare with Yala but I would think they might be almost as good.

 

~ @inyathi:

 

After reading and enjoying dozens and dozens of Safaritalk member comments about various venues, I must say that your comments about Yala constitute my idea of top quality.

Yala has been in my mind for nearly three years as it's not all that distant from my home in Beijing and the prices are reasonable, from my standpoint.

Yet I've had an ongoing uneasiness about Yala, because after poring through various on-line resources, something didn't quite seem right. There was the faint whiff of the circus tent, which left me queasy.

Thus heretofore I've hesitated to book any visit, not wanting to be disappointed by the cacophony of overenthusiastic visitors as yet unfamiliar with the reality that birds and mammals have ears.

Your caveats are well taken and much appreciated. As it happens I'm the lightest of eaters on safari, thus skipping lunch presents no problem.

One wonders if there are seasons or days of the week when the tourist throngs diminish, if only slightly.

In any case, many hearty thanks for this superbly explained vignette of Yala leopard viewing. Thanks also for the tip about nearby bird, flying fox and game viewing.

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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Thomas, I must recommend Kabini in Karnataka for Leopard - Google it ...... You also have a very good chance of Tigers. Most people going there (round the year) have very good sightings. Way less crowded compared to Yala

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I was lucky enough to be able to visit when one was still allowed to camp within the park. I stayed with Noel Rodrigo of Leopard Safaris. Because of Noel's tracking skills and expert knowledge of leopard behavior, we were just about able to avoid the rowdy crowds entirely. We were able to find multiple leopards (like in the photo) over a four night stay with no other vehicles in sight.

 

Yala ranks highly among my favorite wildlife refuges. Wilpattu is also quite nice, and I understand that, although not quite as frequent as in Yala, leopard sightings are on the rise.

 

post-45319-0-56340100-1431401082_thumb.jpg

post-45319-0-88759600-1431401684_thumb.jpg

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post-49393-0-98820400-1431633216_thumb.jpg

 

Maybe the child is leopard bait !

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Thomas, I must recommend Kabini in Karnataka for Leopard - Google it ...... You also have a very good chance of Tigers. Most people going there (round the year) have very good sightings. Way less crowded compared to Yala

 

~ @@madaboutcheetah

 

Very unfortunately, where I live all Google services are no longer available, having being 24/7 blocked for many months.

There is a strictly enforced ongoing ‘crackdown’ against “foreign” influences, thus most major international Web sites are no longer available here.

I feel very fortunate that Safaritalk remains under the radar thus ignored by the authorities here.

What I did was ask friends overseas to find information about Kabini for me, which they did, sending it to me by e-mail.

Thank you for this tip, as I was unfamiliar with Kabini.

Last year I read four fairly lengthy books about India, in order to familiarize myself with its states.

Karnataka was interesting for its culture and traditions. However, somehow Kabini didn't come up.

Therefore your kind recommendation is greatly welcome and highly appreciated.

With Thanks,

Tom K.

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Posted (edited)

Maybe the child is leopard bait !

 

post-49296-0-39414100-1431708279_thumb.jpg

~ @@notpop

 

WHAT ?!?!?!

Every time that I mutter to myself that I've now seen everything, an image like this emerges to rattle my naiveté.

Presuming this is a leopard sighting at Yala NP, it's an arresting image.

The body poses, looks, and overall atmosphere are unsettling.

Your caption caused me to laugh.

What also interested me was the setting, which resembles certain areas I've visited in Kenya.

Thank you for making this image available to us.

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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Only caught up with this discussion now!

 

Agreed with the sentiments raised by others - Yala can be a circus and very frustrating, however, it does offer some of the best leopard sightings with very relaxed leopards. 3 cubs surviving is another interesting occurrance in Yala. The best way to enjoy Yala is to stay inside the park but this is a difficult, if not impossible mission to organize from outside the country without local contacts. If I can't stay inside the park, I wouldn't bother with Yala. Next time, I will give Yala a skip and check out Wilpattu which was the original leopard hotspot in SL and a lot less crowded.

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Only caught up with this discussion now!

 

Agreed with the sentiments raised by others - Yala can be a circus and very frustrating, however, it does offer some of the best leopard sightings with very relaxed leopards. 3 cubs surviving is another interesting occurrance in Yala. The best way to enjoy Yala is to stay inside the park but this is a difficult, if not impossible mission to organize from outside the country without local contacts. If I can't stay inside the park, I wouldn't bother with Yala. Next time, I will give Yala a skip and check out Wilpattu which was the original leopard hotspot in SL and a lot less crowded.

 

~ @@Anthilltiger

 

Thank you for the useful tip.

I hadn't realized that Wilpattu might also yield leopard sightings.

That it's less crowded is a plus. I've avoided Sri Lanka due to reports of hyper-crowding at Yala leopard sightings.

Tom K.

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Hello Everyone,

 

as i joint today from the impression to read travel post of my good wildlife friend Alex. i just come an cross this forum question. so as a Sri lankan Wildlife photographer and Freelance Naturalist its my duty to clarify these question.

 

Yes Yala National Park is the 2nd largest National Park in Sri Lanka (Willpattu National park is Largest) currently Yala NP is divided in 5 zone where only 4 zones are accessible for tourist. such as (Block 1, Block 2, Block 3 and Block 5). as everyone said entire Yala National Park is not highest Leopard density area, Only Block 1 is considered as highest Leopard Density area where were hot tourism spot for tourist.

 

Yala Block 2 & 3 is recently open for tourist visit which is highly suits for off road riders (4x4) and exteeme nature lover, where its very hard to see leopards or other animal. Yala 5 is not very much attractive but it is plan b when Yala Block 1 is closed in dry season in 1st of September to 30th September every year).

 

i do accept it Yala NP is very crowed and you may need to compete with 100 odd vehicles to see a leopards. but the truth is Yala NP is more bio diversified and where you can see lot and lots of birds and mammals every time and it won't disappoint you.

 

if you really need a less crowed safari life and wanted to see leopards the best option is Wilpattu National Park, which located in North west of Sri Lanka (Yala is in Southern part of Sri Lanka). where lesser crowed and its typical forest with lots of trees and lakes so its very hard to find a leopards. but if you seen a leopard, you can spend entire day with leopard without anyone els disturbance.

i have many experience of spending 3 to 6 hours with a leopard as single safari jeep..

 

so its all depend on how many days you spend and how is mother nature bless us to show her kids... but ultimately seeing Leopard and Sloth Bear will make your day fill...

 

Hope my answers are clear, if anyone has any questions, i am free to answer here,

Thanks & Best Regards

Prasanna Ambigaibagan
Freelance Naturalist

post-51053-0-11266000-1476627232_thumb.jpg

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Posted (edited)

There is really not much to add to above post by Prasanna A. Both parks can be enjoyed in almost perfect solitude, away from other jeeps, if so inclined! They are huge places, beautiful, and worth visiting for sure. Even without a leopard sighting!

 

As for the stupid behaviour of the tourons on above photos, unfortunately you can find them everywhere. Good thing is, having a car one can always drive away.

Edited by xelas
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I posted this shot which was taken in Wilpattu on Alex's excellent trip report.

30424920985_939b69b56c_b.jpgLeopard by Dave Williams, on Flickr

Wilpattu, as mentioned by the resident expert Prasanna, is much more difficult viewing as it' has a far greater density of trees. We found the Leopard in an open area and even at the peak viewing time as word got around, we only shared with 4-5 other vehicles.

Yala on the other hand was a total bunfight with dozens of vehicles all trying to out manoeuvre each other for the best position for their clients. It's all very unseemly and in fact when , on our first visit to Yala we headed off to see a Sloth Bear reported sighting I told our driver not to bother getting involved in the melee trying to follow it. We had earlier had the perfect view of Leopard as we were close by when it was reported and we were the second vehicle on the scene.

Eventually it became bored with the attention as the numbers of vehicles increased and wandered off.

 

30425450535_bd3479ef9e_b.jpgLeopard Sri Lanka 2013 by Dave Williams, on Flickr

It's all very well dismissing these sightings as "an habituated Leopard" but for the majority it also offers their best and only chance.

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