We are constantly looking for alternative areas in Yala or special interest things to experience in the jungles outside the national parks and when opportunities arise we will make such tour options available through Aliya Safari.
Special for: Frequent Leopard sightings, the greatest wildlife variety, unique photo opportunities.
The Block 1 Palatupane gate is the main entrance into Yala. This is by far the the most popular area of Yala National Park and it's a common belief that 'this is Yala'... This is the area where leopards are frequently observed and they have an ideal habitat with a landscape full of rocky outcrops, many lakes and because of easy access to waterholes the population of animals is denser here. The large herds of spotted deer are the main prey of leopards. Historically this is the most used safari area of Yala and this part of life for the animals have made them habituated to safari vehicle; a fact that makes sightings much easier because animals are not fleeing as they would in other wild areas where safari vehicles are uncommon.
Special for: Fascinating wild buffaloes, absence of humans, remote open plains.
The most southern and a remote area of Yala located between block 1 and Kumana, along the southeastern coast. The landscape generally is bush type interspersed with large open plains and lagoons. Compared to block 1, the wildlife is much more shy and careful and less easily observed. As a nature experience this part of Yala is very interesting and the few visitors really get to experience the great outdoors without the presence of other safari visitors, it's an area you get for yourself. A tour into block 2 has to make use of two 4WD vehicles, a condition for wildlife department permits because traveling with a back up vehicle is a more safe way to go into this wilderness.
Access from the Galge entrance. This is simply a protected wilderness and hardly any visitors so this is an ideal safari area for those who prefer a private nature experience. Wildlife sightings tend to be less here than in block 1. Animals are not used to the safari traffic.
Special for:Our elephant watching tour in Vandama area, north of the national park itself.
This block of Yala is the forest bordering the Lunugamvehera National Park. Inside the park is a large lake, or rather reservoir. Almost no safari visitors in this part of Yala. There is no developed road network, basically just one road leading from Galge to Lunugamvehera. There is a lack of wildlife information about this area and the level of protection not certain. The whole range of wildlife is found here but probably not in high numbers apart from elephants.
For elephant watching we make a different kind of safari in Vandama outside Yala. This is just north of the park and here there are a lot of elephants in a mixed farming and wilderness area. Sample distance: 1 hours drive from Tissa, towards Buttala.
Special for:wilderness along the east coast. Few safari vehicles. Beautiful nature. Wildlife.
Kumana National Park and Panama-Kudimbigala sanctuary adjoining the park are large wilderness areas located south of and south east of Arugam Bay. Wildlife such as sloth bear, leopard, elephants, wild buffaloes and saltwater crocodiles can be observed in this eastern part of the Yala jungles. Very few visitors apart from Sri Lankan holiday seasons. As we have to drive around Yala, Kumana is quite remote and too far away for one day safari tours, unless staying overnight near Kumana. The best way is to arrange a 3 nights package with stay in Arugam Bay area and do safari from this base. Tailor made tours can be organized with private landrover and accommodation in safari camp in the park or alternatively near Arugam Bay, in your own bungalow with bush and beach views.
BEYOND YALA NATIONAL PARK
More wildlife watching opportunities in Southern Sri Lanka
Bundala is of particular interest as a sanctuary for water birds, around 200 species of birds are counted. Due to its importance as wetland area, Bundala was in 1991 declared a Ramsar site. In 2005 UNESCO declared Bundala a biosphere reserve. Seasonally the greater Flamingo migrates to Bundala and flocks up to 1000 have been recorded. Bundala and surrounding jungles used to attract a lot of elephants but access is today more difficult for elephants due to lack of proper jungle corridors connecting Bundala with other nearby habitats like Hambantota and Yala. On most tours single male elephants will be sighted and there are hundreds of Marsh crocodiles as well das large troupes of Grey Langur monkeys.
Gal Oya is really a wonderful, unique and different wilderness experience in Sri Lanka. More than half of the jungle designated as a national park consists of a huge lake area surrounded by mountains and the best way to explore Gal Oya is on a boat safari with the Department of Wildlife. The boat tour will take about 6-7 hours and you get close to water birds and their nests when the trackers slowly pass by the many bird islands. A highlight is, from the boat, to observe elephants on the islands or even get the rare sight of wild elephants swimming in the lake.
Special for: Elephant watching tours in central interior area of Southern Sri Lanka.
Uda Walawa is probably the best national park in Sri Lanka for watching wild elephants. Frequently big herds, consisting of 20-40 individuals. Uda Walawa National Park provide large areas of grass land. The park itself is only 195 square kilometers but is surrounded by more jungles and slash and burn farming areas so the total ecosystem habitat for elephants is much bigger than the proper park.
Elephants do however face hostile farmers outside the park. Uda Walawa was declared a national park in 1972. Also this sancturary is part of a water catchment plan with the Udawalawa reservoir as the center of the park. This protected area is probably used by more than 500-600 elephants which is too much for the limited area; however many elephants are migrating to northern wilderness areas outside the park, closer to the highland and wet zone, and other elephants are periodically moving east towards Yala and Lunugamvehera.
An interesting elephant conservation work by the wildlife department is the Elephant Transit Home. Since 1995 abandoned baby elephants are taken care of here until they can be released into the wild again. The 'Elephant Transit Home' is located close to the park entrance and is open for visitors.
Lunugamvehera National park
A quite new national park established in 1995 but developed only during the last ten years. The park is surrounding the Lunugamvehera reservoir, receiving water from the Kirindi Oya river. Accommodates a large population of elephants, numbers not known exactly. Elephants are able to migrate between Yala National Park and Uda Walawa via Lunugamvehera. Very few tourists or local visitors.
Lahugala National Park
'The home' of elephants... and they can be seen from the main road crossing this protected area. Lahugala is a favorite area for elephants with large lakes in the middle of a very dry landscape. Elephants are attracted by an additional factor, a certain type of grass (beru) which is special to this area. Unfortunately access into Lahugala is not really developed with any infrastructure and safari is not easy. Might be changed soon so driving is possible and an observation platform is planned by the wildlife department. On the way to Arugam Bay. 1.5 - 2 hours drive from Tree Tops Jungle Lodge.
Special for: Blue Whale watching from the south coast - boat safari tours from Mirissa.
The last few years new data and insight into the behavior of whales have been collected, creating sufficient knowledge to organize really successful whale watching tours. From Yala National Park there is a short driving distance of about 2.5 hours to Mirissa where whale watching tours start from. Generally the season for blue whale watching is from mid December - mid April. Whales can be seen only 6-10 km from the coast. It is a current theory that migrant blue whales seasonally (twice annually) pass by the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Furthermore it is supposed that there is a resident population of Blue Whales near the Sri continental shelf of Sri Lanka. Most whale safaris are successful. The success rate for sightings (minimum 1 sighting on a tour) is 90%.